Posted on: December 4, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: December 4, 2011 2:52 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Before joining the The NFL Today crew, Bill Cowher was an NFL head coach. He did it for 15 years with the Steelers, from 1992-2006, and he won a Super Bowl after the 2005 season. Cowher was also responsible for using first-round picks on wide receivers Plaxico Burress (2000) and Santonio Holmes (2006).
Both players are now with the Jets, trying to help New York make it to their third straight AFC Championship game. First things first, though: getting to the playoffs. At 6-5 they have some work to do.
Cowher sat down with Burress and Holmes on Sunday.
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Posted on: November 28, 2011 5:35 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
During Sunday's game against the Jets -- a 28-24 loss by Buffalo -- Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson made what he called "a bad decision" when he decided to mock Plaxico Burress for shooting himself in the leg during a touchdown celebration. (See: above.)
Johnson's all but sure to hear from the NFL about his touchdown celebration in the form of a fine, and considering he cost his team 15 yards by falling to the ground, there was a chance that Bills coach Chan Gailey might discipline Johnson as well. But that's not the case as Gailey said on Monday he wouldn't punish the wideout.
"The league handles all of that. I don’t have to worry about all that. The league handles the discipline part of it," Gailey said Monday. "The question you always ask yourself, it’s always the question of if I have benched everybody for every dumb mistake that was made there wouldn’t be any coaches or players out there because we’ve all made dumb mistakes. I try to address it, make sure everybody understands exactly the impact it has on the team and then do you sit there and say are we going to punish the team or are we going to punish the person? Who are you going to punish?
"That’s always the question. These are men. They’ve got to understand exactly what’s at stake and they’ve got to understand actions reap consequences and consequences affect the team."
Gailey also added that Johnson's decision to mock Plaxico's shooting incident "bothered" the coach because he doesn't think other players should "make fun of people."
Plus, making fun of people you work with and play twice a year comes with the bad side effect of creating an awkward personal situation. So it's good to hear that Johnson apologized to Plax.
"I didn’t talk to him on the phone. I just shouted a text message," Johnson said Monday. "He responded and everything’s cool. It’s an unfortunate situation with me being immature like that. I talked to him and he responded and it was cool."
Johnson's celebration, as noted in Monday's Sorting the Sunday Pile, isn't the bigger issue with his game. The fact that he proceeded to drop other balls and potentially cost his team a win is the bigger problem.
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Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 28, 2011 1:38 am
Posted by Will Brinson
Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Make sure and listen to our Week 10 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.
1. Run Like Hell -- Er, Heck
Every week, Tim Tebow takes the field as the Broncos quarterback, and every week everyone sits around and snarks at the Broncos running the ball an obscene number of times. Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory in San Diego featured Tebow toting the rock a ridiculous 22 times.
Just for some historical perspective, Tebow's now the only player in post-merger NFL history to attempt 20 rushes and 10 passes in a single game.
People rip the guy for ruining the quarterback position, or not playing it in a "real" way, but everyone very conveniently ignores three factors. One, he can make throws -- a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Decker in the past two weeks were the difference between 2-0 and 0-2. Two, Tebow simply doesn't turn the ball over. Only 22 quarterbacks since 1970 have finished the year with 250-plus passing attempts, less than five picks and less than five fumbles. Tebow could be No. 23. (Aaron Rodgers could be No. 24.)
And most importantly, the Broncos have a strong running game with Willis McGahee, and an even stronger defense that no one wants to give credit to. If someone else, like a Brad Johnson-type, is quarterbacking this team, the defense gets all the credit. Because it's Tebow, that's the focus.
That's just how it is, and that's fine. After all, Tebow's now beaten every single AFC West rival this season on the road. He is a story. He is the story.
But maybe -- with all due acknowledgement of the silliness involved in "clutchability" -- it shouldn't be all that surprising that Tebow and the Broncos bested Norv Turner and the Chargers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Eking out victories from teams willing to hand over a win thanks to silly mistakes is the modus operandi of the 2011 Broncos, and giving away wins with silly mistakes is what Turner's Bolts teams do best.
San Diego's now last (!) in the AFC West and the only bright spot to this season, outside of Ryan Mathews emerging as a viable feature back if he can stay healthy, is the likelihood of Turner being shipped out of town following this season. You can like or dislike Turner all you want, and he's turned Philip Rivers into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but this Chargers team needs some fresh blood.
Denver's one game back of the playoffs thanks to holding a tiebreaker over the Jets, and they've got the tiebreaker over the Bengals too. A game-managing quarterback plus a running game plus a stout defense has had success in the NFL before.
So if you're still hating on Tebow, just quit and enjoy the ride.
2. Bear Down, Again
Ignore for a second the fact that Bears starting quarterback Caleb Hanie doesn't even know how to properly spike the ball at the end of the game. And ignore that he finished 18 of 36 with three interceptions on the day in Chicago's 25-20 loss to Oakland Sunday.
Because the Bears are still going to make the playoffs. Or, at least, they can.
As noted last week, Chicago's still got a very Chicago formula for making it to the postseason, with Devin Hester on special teams (kudos to Hue Jackson and Shane Lechler for avoiding him Sunday) and a defense that sacked Carson Palmer four times Sunday and limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown.
That type of play will go a long way against opponents like the Seahawks, Vikings, Chiefs and Broncos, all of whom are on Chicago's schedule the rest of the way in. And a quick look at our 2011 NFL Playoff Race Tracker reveals that only two worthy teams in the NFC will actually be shut out of the postseason (the Lions and the Giants are currently odd men out).
I'm not a huge fan of moral victories, especially when an actual loss reveals just how poorly your backup quarterback can play. And don't get me wrong -- Hanie has plenty of flaws and won't make things easy for Chicago the rest of the way. But if you're the Bears, you have to believe Sunday's showing means a playoff berth is still possible.
3. T.J. Yates: An All-Time Great
The case of T.J. Yates is a weird one. Thanks to a (likely) season-ending injury to Matt Leinart, Yates appears to be the de facto starter in Houston and, as Pete Prisco pointed out in his grades column, next in line to suffer a nasty injury as a result of the football gods really not wanting the Texans to smell success.
But you know what makes Yates' case even weirder? He's probably the most successful NFL quarterback in North Carolina Tar Heel history, despite being a rookie, having never started a game and despite having accumulated his career passing numbers -- 8/15 for 70 yards and no touchdowns -- on Sunday in backup duty.
That's because the only other option for "top NFL quarterback in UNC football history" is Scott Stankavage, who played in four games over two NFL seasons with the Broncos (three in 1984) and the Dolphins (one in 1987) and managed to complete 32 percent of his 25 attempted passes for 66 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. (In fairness, Yates is also one of only two UNC quarterbacks drafted since the merger, which is insane.)
His entire career wasn't as successful as Yates' Sunday afternoon in Week 12.
4. "Fire Who?"
The fans want it, as evidenced by the Eagles crowd raining "Fire Andy" chants on the field amid New England's 38-20 shellacking of Philly.
"The way we played, I can understand," Reid said afterward.
It's never easy to sympathize with any supporter of Philly sports, mainly because they're too vitriolic in their reaction. (There's a reason the battery-throwing, Santa Claus-booing stereotype exists.) And it's real easy to laugh at the Eagles plight, especially after they "won the offseason" with a ton of free-agent moves and name-brand signings.
But suggesting that the Eagles should dump Reid is silly, especially when there's a smarter path to success.
1) Fire Juan Castillo. This is coming anyway, you gotta think, and it's not that unreasonable. 2) Re-work the defensive scheme. Hire someone who can take the incredibly talented defensive group Philly has and actually utilize them properly. 3) Dump DeSean Jackson. He's ridiculously talented, but Jackson's got the look of a guy who's wrecking this locker room with contract and attitude problems. (Or maybe, as Clark Judge wrote Sunday, he's a symptom of a larger problem. Either way, he's not helping and he's not happy.) 4) Draft/trade/sign linebackers, safeties and offensive linemen in the offseason and actually address weaknesses.
This isn't an "easy" solution, of course. But this Eagles team has too much talent and Andy Reid's got too much success in Philly to simply blow everything up because the Dream Team experiment went awry in the first season.
He's also inherently tied to Philly's franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. One more bad year from both guys and it might be worth discussing a change, but just because Philly fans are naturally angry doesn't mean Eagles management should have a naturally knee-jerk reaction to 2011.
5. Why So Serious?
There's no reason to sit here and get in an uproar over Stevie Johnson's touchdown celebration against the Jets, in which he mocked Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes by pretending to shoot himself in the leg and then crash a plane. (Besides, Bob Costas' "get off my lawn" Sunday night halftime rant took care of that.)
I like the move, because it's a big-time slap in the face to the Jets, the Bills need some swagger, and as long as you back up your trash-talk, do what you want.
The problem with Johnson's TD is that as soon as he pulled off a celebration mocking a pair of wideouts on the other team, his game went in the toilet. (Stop me if this sounds familiar.)
Look, I think Johnson's an awesome talent and a great dude and if I'm in charge of meting out discipline, someone who landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Sunday is washing Johnson's white t-shirt collection, just because his celebrations are hysterical.
But if you're going to publicly mock a colleague for literally shooting himself in the foot, you can't turn around and spend the rest of the game figuratively doing the same thing to yourself and your team, which is precisely what Johnson did when he egged on a would-be game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter:
That's exactly why I refuse to get all amped up about whether what he did was right or wrong. Johnson will almost certainly be fined by the NFL. Johnson will -- as Mike Freeman's already noted -- be subject to league-wide and public scorn. And, most importantly, his team lost because after his premature celebration, the Jets wideouts were substantially better than Johnson was.
There's no chance that any other football journalist or fan or couch-bound pundit knows as much about managing a football team as Mike Shanahan. The man has two Super Bowl wins. Enough said.
But why on Earth did it take so long to get Roy Helu touches?
The Redskins rookie running back rumbled for 108 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries and caught seven passes for 54 yards in Washington's surprise 23-17 comeback victory in Seattle Sunday.
This would be shocking, but Helu already set the franchise record for receptions in a game three weeks ago, and averaged five yards per carry more than Ryan Torain two weeks ago, so giving him the rock seemed obvious to everyone ... except Shanahan.
Seattle's rush defense is one of the best in the NFL (3.5 yards per carry allowed going in and coming out of the loss), so it's not like Helu was carving up the Panthers or Colts here.
The obvious reward for his impressive game on the ground and remaining Rex Grossman's most reliable target is a much-deserved, one-carry afternoon next week against the Jets. Don't say I didn't warn you, fantasy owners.
The Colts became the first NFL team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, just minutes before the Rams were booted as well, thanks to their 27-19 loss to Carolina in Indy Sunday.
Everyone knew they were already eliminated, of course, and everyone knows they'll land the top-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but the big question is, can the 2008 Detroit Lions keep their bottles of Andre on ice for the time being?
Probably not -- Indy looks like a pretty good lock to finish the season at 0-16, based on their remaining schedule.
First up in Week 13 is New England (in Foxboro) and there's no reason to spend time wondering if Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will get trapped against a one-time arch-rival in a free "kick 'em while they're down" game. They won't. At Baltimore in Week 14 should be a lock for a double-digit blowout too. The Ravens have stumbled against bad teams, but not at home, and no one's had a defense as bad as Indy.
Tennessee (Week 15) and Houston (Week 16) at home shouldn't present challenges for Indy when it comes to losing either, considering that both teams appear to have capable rushing attacks. Even if Chris Johnson still looks like he's wading through a giant jar of jelly when he hits the hole, he's been effective against bad rushing defenses this year.
That leaves at Jacksonville in Week 17, and which isn't even their best chance at being favored (read: getting more than a 50 percent chance of winning from Vegas). That will be Tennessee, but the Titans will still be favored by at least three points in Indy, like the Panthers were.
And none of the remaining teams on the schedule have a defense nearly as bad as the Panthers, which means there's a 60-plus percent chance Indy goes winless this year. At least.
8. Rookie of the Year Race
Fortunately, we get to honor a Defensive and Offensive Rookie of the Year in the NFL. Because otherwise, we might have a big old heated argument about who the most deserving rookie in 2011 is. Last week, I threw my [substantial only in the literal sense] weight behind Andy Dalton leaping past Cam Newton for the top rookie, but now I'm not so sure.
That's not because Cam went bananas in a win on Sunday so much as it was Dalton only beating the Browns because he's got another rookie -- wideout A.J. Green -- on his team, who might secretly be the best option for the award on the Bengals roster.
Cincy remained in playoff contention -- they're currently the No. 6 seed -- thanks to Green making big catches to set up scores all day.
On the defensive end of things, Von Miller continued to state his case for ROY honors with 10 total tackles and another sack. And what about Patrick Peterson, who returned a fourth punt return for a TD on the year? Dude's defensive improvement is underrated so far this year, especially in a tough situation, and it'll be interesting to see how his game-changing impact on special teams will rate for voters -- three of his teeters have, literally, been game-winning scores.
9. A Quarterback League
Watching the Chiefs stifle the Steelers for much of the Sunday night game -- eventually won by Pittsburgh 13-9 -- was picture proof of how important having a good quarterback really is. Matt Cassel might have struggled against the Steelers defense, but Tyler Palko was absolutely miserable, going 18/28 for 167 yards and three picks.
The same can be said for Jacksonville, who knocked Matt Leinart out against Houston, but couldn't muster any sort of offense because no one would respect Blaine Gabbert, much less McCown.
Teams that don't have a good quarterback can still win by playing smart and running the hell out of the ball, but the Jaguars and Chiefs are great proof as to just how quickly a team can fade out relevancy as a result of lacking substantial skill under center.
The Jacksonville and Kansas City defenses have put their respective offenses in decent position to win games over the past couple of weeks, but an inability to move the ball resulted in a pair of losses for each squad. (Romeo Crennel's defensive scheming against Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger was particularly impressive, and even more depressing when you think about how badly it was wasted.)
Which is precisely why it's impossible to be too bullish about the playoff chances for teams like the Texans and the 49ers.
10. And the Oscar Goes To ...
Jerome Simpson for the flop of the NFL season. And maybe NFL history? It's hard to even call this a "storyline," because it's not. There's no epidemic of flopping hitting the NFL and Christian Ronaldo isn't going to be defecting any time soon.
But Simpson's flop, which you can watch here, is just too amazing to ignore.
Oh yes, and the Bengals snuck one out against the Browns, holding onto their sixth seed in the playoffs. They've got the look of a team that isn't quite ready to quit trying out this possible pipe dream of a postseason run, but if they play like they did against the Browns when they get the Steelers, Texans and Ravens over the next three weeks, it's hard to imagine them sneaking in with three 6-5 teams (Titans, Jets, Broncos) hanging out on the fringe.
And that flop wouldn't be nearly as pretty as Simpson's.
Muffed PuntsLeftovers from Sunday's Action ...
... Percy Harvin's 104-yard kick return that didn't produce a touchdown on Sunday was the longest non-scoring play in NFL history.
... Peterson is also the only player in NFL history with four punt return touchdowns of 80-plus yards or more in a season.
... And the Rams-Cardinals game was the first in NFL history to feature an 80-plus yard punt-return TD from each team.
... Cam Newton is just the fourth post-merger quarterback to rush for 10 touchdowns in a season, joining Steve Grogan, Kordell Stewart and Daunte Culpepper on that list.
... Chris Long recorded his 10th sack of the season, meaning he and dad Howie are just the second father-son combo to record double-digit sacks in a season in their career, along with Clay Matthews and his dad, Clay Matthews.
... The Bengals overcame a 10-point halftime deficit for the third time this season, tied for the most in NFL history, along with the 2011 Lions.
Worth 1,000 Words
GIF O' THE WEEKThere might be a better option, but watching Tim Tebow hit his X button two seconds too early and then get laid out is pretty entrancing.
Hot Seat Tracker
Chasing Andrew LuckThe Colts have all but locked up the Luck sweepstakes, and with the remaining schedules, we might as well take the numbers off the board. Congratulations for ruining a mini-feature in this column by Week 12, Curtis Painter. You jerk.
MVP WatchSpeaking of jerks, "tanks for nuthin'" Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has one more holiday game left -- a Christmas showdown with the Bears. And the Packers could still lose a game and maybe come back towards the Patriots (if Tom Brady stays hot?), but he's all but sewn up this award pretty early in the season.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Reid, Blaine Gabbert, Buffalo Bills, Caleb Hanie, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Eric Decker, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jay Cutler, Jerome Simpson, Jim Caldwell, John Fox, KKansas City Chiefs, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart, Michael Vick, Mike Shanahan, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Norv Turner, Oakland Raiders, Patrick Peterson, Philadelphia Eagles, Plaxico Burress, Roy Helu, Ryan Torain, San Diego Chargers, Santonio Holmes, Sorting the Sunday Pile, Stevie Johnson, T.J. Yates, Tim Tebow, Von Miller, Washington Redskins, Will Brinson
Posted on: November 7, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 5:33 pm
Posted by Ryan Wilson
It's all about perspective. Looking through the prism of fantasy football, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is probably one of the NFL's most popular players. In real life, where there are no points for total passing yards, Vick is the league's least liked player, at least according to the latest public surveys from Neilson and E-Poll Market Research, which tracks the public's perception of athletes and celebrities.
Details via Forbes.com:
Vick has clearly made some public reparations over the past two years with his strong play on the field and gentlemanly behavior off of it. But these things have a way of taking time....Turns out, the public has little patience for law-breakers (or perceived law-breakers), in general. Plaxico Burress and Ben Roethlisberger were among the top vote-getters. Also unpopular: whiners and quitters; Vince Young, Carson Palmer and Jay Cutler were disliked for reasons having solely to do with football.
Young because of his rocky relationship with then-Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, Palmer for retiring until the Bengals traded him to the Raiders, and Cutler for the injury he suffered during last season's NFC Championship game. (Apparently, Cutler didn't appear injured enough for some folks.) “There was a feeling Cutler quit on his team,” Master says, “He took a lot of abuse.”
Yes, yes he did.
Other names to make the list: Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco, Tony Romo, and Jeremy Shockey.
Sorta surprising that nobody from the Ravens made the list, though the irony of Palmer being the Raiders' most disliked player more than makes up for it.
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Posted on: October 14, 2011 4:24 pm
Posted by Josh Katzowitz
With the Jets reeling at 2-3, with an offense that can’t seem to get on track, with a defense that appears to have been overrated, it’s a good thing we can always count on receiver Santonio Holmes to simmer everybody down and keep his team on an even keel.
Oh wait, Holmes has done the exact opposite of that for at least the second time in three weeks. And now he's gotten into trouble with at least one of his teammates.
After calling out quarterback Mark Sanchez following the team’s Week 4 loss to the Ravens -- and then apparently going to Rex Ryan with Plaxico Burress and the recently-departed Derrick Mason to complain about offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer -- Holmes came out firing Thursday on his team’s offensive line.
"I may be criticized again for saying it, but it starts up front," Holmes said, via ESPN New York. "The big guys know it. If they give Mark enough time to sit in the pocket and complete passes, I think everything changes."
He’s right about the offensive line failing to protect Sanchez, especially in that Ravens contest when Baltimore’s defense did whatever it wanted in rushing the quarterback and rattling Sanchez. That led to, as ESPN New York points out, a stripped-down Jets offense that went more conservative in last week’s loss to the Patriots in which Sanchez didn’t attempt a pass longer than 22 yards.
Holmes wasn’t criticizing the gameplan against the Patriots, because it was obvious playing ball-control against Tom Brady gave the Jets the best chance of winning. Still, he wants more passes thrown down the field.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Holmes said. "If you were in my shoes, what would you think?"
Whether he’s right or wrong, Holmes missed the point of an offensive players-only meeting that was called the first time Holmes spoke out against his team. In that meeting, it was agreed that the team would keep all criticisms in-house. That message apparently did not stay in Holmes' mind.
It certainly disappointed right guard Brandon Moore.
"I've never had a teammate do that that I can recall," Moore said, via the Newark Star Ledger. "It's not really being a captain, a leader. It fragments. It’s not productive. ... Obviously, he’s got the green light to do that from somebody up top, the people that run the team or whatever. He’s got the 'C' on his chest, and he can do that."
You’ll notice that Mason, another receiver that could be an outspoken critic, is no longer around. Holmes probably won’t be sanctioned, but at some point, you’d think that Holmes’ constant bad-mouthing eventually will become a problem for him.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 10:37 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:05 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
UPDATE (2:30 p.m. ET): The Jets issued a statement specifically denying the "mutiny" report mentioned below. This only gets spicier if the Jets can't beat the Patriots Sunday.
"The New York Jets deny a report this morning that wide receivers Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason have gone to Head Coach Rex Ryan individually in the past few weeks to question offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system," the Jets said in a statement.
Things aren't going the way you'd expect them to for the New York Jets -- two-straight losses, and the team's been unable to move the ball or rush the passer. So, it's probably really exciting for Jets fans that there's a semi-mutiny taking place with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Reportedly anyway -- Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News cited sources on Sunday that said all three of Santonio Holmes, Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress "have individually gone to Rex Ryan in the past few weeks to question" Schottenheimer's system.
This is a bit odd, because the Jets have thrown the ball 62 percent of the time to start the season, a rarity for a Rex Ryan-run team. And they're not necessarily in the bottom of any statistical passing categories, ranking somewhere in the middle for passing attempts, passing yards and yards per game.
Whatever, counting stats might not matter here. As Mehta notes, the combines statistics of the three-best wideouts for the Jets (above, natch) add up to 35 catches for 432 yards, which is less than the 40 catches and 616 yards that the Patriots Wes Welker has recorded this season by himself.
Then there's the matter of third-down conversion and success early in drives -- the rushing "attack" is anemic this season, and the Jets are converting just 34.5 percent of their third downs.
"Underwhelming," a source told Mehta.
The Jets will need to be more than just "underwhelming" on offense Sunday if they expect to compete against their arch-rival Patriots.
New England leads the league in total offense (second in points, first in yards per game for what it's worth) and are apparently getting some free chalkboard material from New York cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who foolishly feels the need to taunt reigning MVP Tom Brady.
Good news for the Jets offense, though: Nick Mangold will start this week after missing just two games with a high ankle sprain, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.
That's huge for Mark Sanchez and Co., who struggled mightily with Mangold out last week against the Ravens. With Vince Wilfork prepared to wreck havoc on the defensive line, Mangold returning to the lineup is crucial.
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Posted on: September 30, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 3:45 pm
Posted by Will Brinson
A few years ago, Tiki Barber and Plaxico Burress were teammates. This summer, they found themselves together in the rare "left the game, got older and returned as free agents after being released by their old team for obvious reasons" category of players.
As we all know, Plax got signed (by the Jets) and Tiki landed just one tryout (with the Dolphins). The lack of interest in Tiki cemented what seemed obvious: he's too old to play running back in the NFL. As it turns out, though, his buddy Plax disagrees.
"It's crazy," Burress said to the New York Post about Barber not getting run with a team. "He's better than half the backs in the league."
OK, that's just wrong. Like, factually incorrect -- there are 90 running backs that have one or more carries this season. Guys who are listed lower than 45 (half!) include Steven Jackson, Darren Sproles and Arian Foster.
Tiki Barber is, quite clearly, not better than any of them.
The real problem is that Burress probably remembers Barber as the guy he played with back in New York, and not the guy who's been out of football for a few years and is now 36, an unacceptable age for a starting running back in the NFL.
Additionally, Burress doesn't seem to be taking into account the fact that Tiki is a) looking for money, so he'll be relatively expensive and b) a huge danger to be a locker-room distraction.
Oh yeah -- also on that list above? Larry Johnson. Who because the Dolphins signed him not once, but twice -- instead of bringing Barber in -- serves as perfect proof that Tiki's time is done in the NFL.
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Posted on: September 28, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:49 am
Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit
Ever since Rex Ryan left Baltimore to become New York’s head coach, we’ve viewed these two teams as mirror images of one another – and understandably so. Both have young quarterbacks. Both have running backs entering their primes who are backed up by a sage veteran. Both feature an aggressive and deceptive 3-4 defensive scheme. And both talk abundant trash even though their respective rivals – the Patriots and Steelers – have all the rings.
Let’s take a closer look at these teams’ similarities.
1. Young quarterbacks
Something that stood out in Week 3 was how the Ravens and Jets heavily utilized play-action early on, but for different reasons.
The Ravens referred to it to allow time for downfield routes to unfold. They wanted to take advantage of a depleted Rams secondary that was starting undrafted second-year nobody Darian Stewart at safety and disintegrating Al Harris at nickel corner outside. (They succeeded, by the way).
The Jets referred to play action because they wanted to prolong the time that Raiders’ defensive backs had to hold up in man coverage. They also wanted to coax the Raider linebackers into running out of position. (They succeeded, but only in the first half.)
Same offensive tactic, but with vastly different inspirations. The Ravens were trying to showcase their young quarterback, while the Jets were trying to simply make life easier for theirs (nothing wrong with that). This makes sense. Flacco has been around a year longer than Sanchez and is clearly a year ahead of him development-wise. He has a stronger arm and, as of late, more refined tools. He has really improved his pocket movement, becoming more consistent in resetting his feet before he throws.
The Jets are working with Sanchez in this realm. Entering this season, the USC star had a habit of bringing the ball down while eluding rushers in the pocket. This compelled him to reset both his feet AND throwing mechanics, which is too slow of a motion for the NFL.
For what it’s worth, don’t expect such a heavy dose of play-action in this game. Both defenses have savvy linebackers and are too likely to blitz. Instead, the key will be which young quarterback does the best job at diagnosing coverages and pass-rushing attacks prior to the snap.
2. The running backs
Let’s get one thing clear: Ray Rice is a better football player than Shonn Greene. It’s not even close. If Rice were a Friday night, Greene would be, at best, a Wednesday afternoon. Rice runs with superb balance and strength, and his lateral agility is second to none (especially when he gets to the second level). What’s more, he’s a demon in the passing game, both as a receiver and blocker.
Greene, on the other hand, has been somewhat disappointing. He sits out most passing downs and has 1,440 yards rushing…in 32 career games. One issue is Greene’s more of a momentum runner than explosive runner. He excels on sweeps because those runs naturally allow him to hit the line of scrimmage going downhill. But sweeps don’t work against elite outside linebackers (like, say, Terrell Suggs).
Between the tackles, Greene’s vision and timing are very average. That’s why the Jets made LaDainian Tomlinson a prominent part of their offense last season. Tomlinson is off to a fantastic start as a receiving back this season (12 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown), but that’s in part because he knows how to outwit pass defending linebackers. On film, it’s clear L.T. has lost a lot of his speed and quickness. If the Jets are to go anywhere in 2011, they’ll have to ride Greene.
Same goes for the Ravens and Rice. Rice’s production is not a problem, though the Ravens were wise to bring in a supporting No. 2 back like Ricky Williams.
3. The receivers
Derrick Mason is the X-factor. He was Baltimore’s possession target last year and is now filling that role from the slot in New York. The crafty 15-year veteran is one of the few players in the league who does not need to get separation in order to be open.
Plaxico Burress is another one of those players. He’s been, for the most part, his same old self this season (which is remarkable when you really think about it). His matchup Sunday night against Carry Williams will be worth watching. If you asked God to make a cornerback specifically for defending Burress, you might get Williams. He’s only 6’1”, 185, but long and upright, he plays much bigger than that. He has an intriguing combination of physicality and change-of-direction ability, and if asked to play man coverage, he won’t be shy about using trail position technique (which will compel Burress to use his “speed” more than his strength).
It will be interesting to see what the Jets do with Darrelle Revis. The likely assignment will be Anquan Boldin, though last week, rookie Torrey Smith turned in a jaw-dropping three-touchdown first quarter that had the Rams redirecting their safety help concepts. Smith gets faster at the end of his routes, which is something all great deep threats do. Antonio Cromartie has the speed to run with him, so expect the Jets to trust that matchup. But expect the Ravens to readily go after it.
The weak link of both cornerbacking groups happens to be an ex-Boise State Bronco: Chris Carr for the Ravens and Kyle Wilson for the Jets. If it comes down to these ancillary matchups, the Jets have the overall advantage. Mason, their No. 3, is as reliable as they come. For the Ravens, newcomer Lee Evans (who now figures to be the No. 3 receiver) has not established any sort of a rhythm with Flacco.
4. The defensive lines
The Jets have a unique run-stopping approach with their three-man defensive line. Instead of asking their downlinemen to occupy blockers and fill two gaps, the Jets ask them to focus on physically manhandling the guy in front of them. The idea is this creates congestion through penetration and also defines the inside linebackers’ path to the ball (David Harris and Bart Scott are tasked with reading the defensive linemen’s action and attacking in the opposite direction that it’s drifting. More on that in the next section.)
The Jets are the only 3-4 team in the NFL that plays the run this way.
This unique approach is why general manager Mike Tannenbaum drafted a fist-fighter like Muhammad Wilkerson in the first round. Tannenbaum would probably give his right eye for a chance to have a guy like Haloti Ngata. The Ravens 335-pound defensive end/nose tackle is the most destructive front line force in the NFL today.
Ngata has the power of a tug boat and mobility of a clipper. Truly, he moves like a linebacker. Expect him to spend most of his time at defensive end this season, as last year’s second-round pick, Terrence Cody, has looked great at nose tackle.
5. The inside linebackers
These are the entertainers – the guys NBC cameras will fixate on Sunday night. The sagacious Ray Lewis and loquacious Bart Scott. Both back up their personas. Lewis no longer has elite sideline-to-sideline speed, but he compensates with instincts, ferocity and fundamentals.
He was a demon attacking Rams lead-blockers last week. The Ravens’ defensive style will always allow Lewis to be productive, as so much of their run approach is predicated on his teammates occupying blockers.
Scott, who is as aggressive downhill as any linebacker in the league, has both an easier and tougher job than Lewis. It’s easier in that he has a stellar running mate in David Harris. It’s tougher in that, as mentioned earlier, he must read the defensive linemen’s battles in front of him and pursue the ball accordingly.
The reason other 3-4 defenses don’t take this type of approach is it requires great intelligence and pursuit skills from both inside linebackers. Most defenses don’t have an inside combination like Scott and Harris.
So who will win? Check our expert picks for all Week 4 games.
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Tags: Al Harris, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Cromartie, Baltimore Ravens, Bart Scott, Bart Scott, Carry Williams, Chris Carr, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Derrick Mason, Film Room, Film Room, Haloti Ngata, Joe Flacco, Kyle Wilson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Lee Evans, Mark Sanchez, Mike Tannenbaum, Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets, Plaxico Burress, Ravens vs. Jets, Ravens vs. Jets Preview, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Rex Ryan, Ricky Williams, Shonne Greene, St. Louis Rams, Terrell Suggs, Torrey Smith