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Tag:DeMarcus Ware
Posted on: September 23, 2010 3:45 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 3:48 pm
 

Week 3 Key Matchup: Texans O vs. DeMarcus Ware

Posted by Andy Benoit

As Week 3 inter-conference matchups go, they don’t get much bigger than Sunday’s Cowboys @ Texans showdown (insert everything’s big in Texas joke here) At least, not from the Cowboys’ side of things. Win and they’re right in thick of the NFC East. Lose and they’re 0-3, facing a week of intense Wade Phillips hot seat chatter.

Offensively, the Cowboys have to get the wheels turning in their ground game (139 yards on 42 carries so far doesn’t cut it). Their passing game is too talented to contain if Tony Romo has the benefit of play-action.

But the key to beating Houston is generating big plays defensively. The Texans have a prolific offense…sort of. It’s an offense that has ranked in the top five in yards each of the past two seasons, but it’s also an offense that ranked 10th in scoring last season and 17th in scoring in 2008. In other words, they don’t always capitalize on their firepower. A big reason is, as history shows, this team can be forced into making mistakes.
D. Ware (US Presswire)
The best way to force offensive mistakes is to generate pressure on the quarterback. It doesn’t have to be sacks – just pressure. (For what it’s worth, the Jets understand this concept better than any team in football.)

Karma seems to be on Dallas’s side this week. On Tuesday, Texans left tackle Duane Brown was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Thus, fifth-year tackle Rashad Butler will get his first career start Sunday.

The Cowboys are salivating at the thought of DeMarcus Ware facing Butler one-on-one. No team creates favorable pass-rushing matchups for its top star as effectively as the Cowboys do for Ware. They always try to align him on the open side of the offensive formation (i.e. away from the tight end). You may notice that Ware often gets in his stance at the very last second before the snap. This is to prevent teams from motioning a tight end to his side.

This formula works well because a.) Ware is a beast to block one-on-one and b.) Dallas’ other outside linebacker, Anthony Spencer, is one of the best high-traffic players in the game. That is to say, Spencer sheds blocks and maneuvers through bodies with great aplomb. His skill set is ideal for combating offensive tackles and tight ends simultaneously.

Of course, the offense ultimately holds the power when it comes to matchups on the outside edges of the line of scrimmage. If the Texans want to prevent a Ware-Butler one-on-one situation, they can. They can always keep a running back in to chip. They can always put a tight end in motion to shadow Ware (the tight end would be a de facto sixth offensive lineman in this case).

The problem, however, is this goes against the mantra of Gary Kubiak’s offense. Houston relies on its tight ends, particularly budding star Owen Daniels, as extra receivers in the passing game. Sure, Kevin Walter can fill the inside receiving void if Daniels stays in to block (in which case Jacoby Jones would play the outside). But if the Texans are willing to sacrifice the threat of Daniels in the passing game, they might as well go with the bigger, more physical Joel Dreessen as their tight end. But if they do that, they’re banking on Dreessen having a bang-up game as a blocking tight end. Dreessen is decent in this capacity but not spectacular.

Another solution could be to spread the Cowboys out and go with a quick-striking passing attack. This would keep the tight ends involved through the air and minimize the burden on Rashad Butler (instead of blocking Ware for three seconds on a play, Butler would only have to block him for one or two). Also, this could test the questionable depth of Dallas’ secondary. Plus, it would make it nearly impossible for the Cowboys to double-team Andre Johnson, as the safety over the top would be too far away from the action to be relevant.

Given the impact that the pas-rush will have in this game – remember, Dallas’ offensive line is struggling and will have to face Mario Williams – the winning team will probably be the one that can build a big enough lead to dictate tempo.

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Posted on: September 16, 2010 9:33 am
 

Hot Routes 9.16.10: Video killed the NFL star

Got a link for the Hot Routes ? Follow us on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL) or drop it in the comments.
  • We've been discussing how "locker room spies" are beneficial to their new team (although Eric Winston told me he doesn't think Kyle Shanahan will make that big of a difference) and the Giants have the best one of all in Jim Sorgi, who was Peyton Manning's backup for quite a while. (Of course they also have, you know, his brother Eli Manning, but he doesn't know the Colts offense.) Sorgi, however, doesn't think it'll matter. Because it's Peyton.
  • One of Brian Bassett's readers noticed that Kris Jenkins had a tough time making it up the stairs at Cortland. Provided this account is true, well, it kind of makes it seem like he shouldn't have even been on the field for Week 1. Or we should have seen another injury coming.
Posted on: August 23, 2010 1:56 pm
 

Trent Williams might need some help

T. Williams struggled against Baltimore's pass rush Saturday (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Trent Williams will face numerous pass-rushing specialists this year – some of the best defensive ends and linebackers in the game. Sure, he’s a rookie LT, but he also was the fourth pick taken in the NFL Draft and the Redskins are expecting him to keep QB Donovan McNabb’s blind side safe.

That’s why Saturday night’s game against the Ravens was so disheartening.

Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs – who’s more of an all-around LB rather than a monster pass-rusher – owned Williams, who gave up a sack and numerous pressures to Suggs in the Ravens win. As the Washington Post points out, that means the Redskins might need to give Williams more help, especially when he has to face the likes of DeMarcus Ware, Mario Williams, Trent Cole and Dwight Freeney this season.

Jason Reid writes:

On Suggs's sack of McNabb in the second quarter, Williams was beaten so badly off the ball that he never had a chance to set up and get into his technique. For that matter, McNabb didn't have a chance, either. And the big play illustrated why premier rush ends/outside linebackers are valued more in the NFL than any position except quarterback and lock-down corners.

(After a Baltimore fumble), on Washington's first play, Suggs raced past Williams and brought down McNabb for a five-yard loss. The Redskins attempted two deep passes that fell incomplete, punted and did nothing on offense for the remainder of the blowout loss.

Late in the first quarter, with Washington facing third and 1, Suggs drove Williams into the backfield and brought down running back Larry Johnson for a three-yard loss. Williams also was called for a false start.

Of course, it was only a preseason game. Suggs has won many individual battles throughout his career against some of the game's most experienced and talented left tackles. And the Redskins had other major pass-protection issues against Baltimore, especially in blitz pick-ups.


But still, not a great start for a tackle who’s very athletic but was also known as a devastating run blocker and just a pretty good pass protector while in college.

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Posted on: July 2, 2010 12:00 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2010 12:53 pm
 

Positional rankings: 3-4 outside linebackers

Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, this time taking a look at the top five outside linebackers (who play in a 3-4 scheme) in the NFL.

Andy Benoit's top five

  J. Harrison (92) and L. Woodley (56) celebrate (Getty) 5. Elvis Dumervil, Broncos

4. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers

3. Terrell Suggs, Ravens

2. James Harrison, Steelers

1. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys


Sacks have put a bright spotlight on the 3-4 outside linebacker position. Everyone on this list can rush the passer. What differentiates stars and superstars is versatility.

Dumervil, the NFL sack leader in ’09, is too small to be a force against the run, but his frenetic energy often makes up the difference. By the end of this season, Woodley might claim the No. 1 ranking. The fourth-year pro is beastly in traffic – he has some of the thickest thighs and biceps you’ll EVER see – and fluid enough to defend the flats in coverage.

Suggs is on the list not because he’s a handful as a pass-rusher, but because he’s the best playside run-defender in the NFL. James Harrison scares people – even those who are watching at home. He’s very smart, too. Ware had a somewhat quiet season in ’09, but that was due to a fluky slow start as much as anything. He’s still the best all-around 3-4 front seven playmaker in the game.

Josh Katzowitz's top five

5. Manny Lawson, 49ers

4. Elvis Dumervil, Broncos

3. DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys

2. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers

1. James Harrison, Steelers


  Oh, to be a quarterback facing the Steelers when James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are healthy and gunning for your throat. Oh, to be a running back who must rush into the teeth of the Steelers defense. Oh, to have to fear for your career. Consider the two have combined 51 sacks during the past two seasons, and it’s easy to see why Pittsburgh was ranked No. 1 in the AFC vs. the run last year while finishing with an AFC-high 47 sacks. How do you rank them? I say Harrison is No. 1 because he’s been doing it longer, and because so much of an opponent’s attention is focused on stopping him, Woodley can get away with blitzing. But I agree – Woodley might eventually be the best of the entire bunch.

Ware had an amazing 2008, recording 20 sacks, 84 tackles and six forced fumbles. Fighting through an injury, he wasn’t nearly as good last season, but he rebounded a bit in the second half. Although he had a huge year last season, you wonder if Dumervil can replicate his success. Lawson doesn’t record many sacks, but he’s good in coverage and he tackles consistently.

The one issue I have with Andy’s list is Terrell Suggs. I wonder if he lives off his reputation more than anything else. He came into last season nearly 20 pounds overweight, and it blunted his explosiveness. He lost playing time, and he completed his worst season since his 2003 rookie season. Not good since he signed a contract before the beginning of the season that made him the highest-paid linebacker in history. Unfortunately for Baltimore, he didn’t play like it.

Andy’s Rebuttal

A lot of Suggs’ brilliance doesn’t show up in the stat book. I have some reservations about Dumervil, but not enough to overshadow all the memories I have of him attacking offensive tackles with perfect leverage last season.

But whatever, let’s get to the shocking part of your list: MANNY LAWSON?! If this were Bottom 5, maybe. Lawson is very fluid in coverage. I’ll give you that. But he’s not physical in traffic, and he’s a modest pass-rushing threat at best. If Ahmad Brooks had even a slightly-below-average football IQ, he’d be starting ahead of Lawson in San Francisco.

Josh’s final word

Ha, I thought you might like my addition of Lawson. But bottom five? Man, that’s harsh. That’s like me sarcastically writing about how Suggs is so brilliant. Oh wait, you were serious about that? Fact is, Lawson’s the best OLB at dropping into coverage of anybody on our list, he plays the run very well, and he does, in fact, get to the opposing quarterback. Even without great technique, he was credited with hitting the quarterback 11 times last year; he just doesn’t record many sacks. And considering last year was his first season in the 3-4, he’s only going to get better (it should be noted he had four sacks in the final seven games of the year). Yeah, Lawson isn’t the sexiest OLB out there, but he’s more than solid.

Andy, not knowing when to quit

Josh, Lawson is indeed fantastic at dropping into coverage. I’m surprised he didn’t make your top five cornerbacks list.

Josh’s final, final word

In lieu of making any more arguments about this position, let me point you in the direction of what a wise man said last March. "I wasn't happy about the way I played last season, it was a disappointing year. My focus in the offseason is to make sure that never happens again. … No one was more disappointed about my season than me.” Who said that? Oh right, those were the brilliant words of Suggs. In effect, Suggs thinks your list is pretty weak.

(Other positions: Safety | Cornerback )

--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

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