Tag:Vince Wilfork
Posted on: October 14, 2010 11:35 am
Edited on: October 14, 2010 12:27 pm
 

Key Matchup Week 6: Ravens O vs. Patriots D

Posted by Andy Benoit

Thanks to the Randy Moss and Deion Branch trades, we’ve read plenty of analysis lately about the Patriots offense. (Quick two cents here: what does Branch give the Pats that Wes Welker and Julian Edelman do not? Also, now that the Pats are ostensibly back to their dink-and-dunk offense, doesn’t the loss of Kevin Faulk look even more significant?)

But what about the other side of the ball? Do the Patriots have a good enough defense to win without an explosive offense? The football gods were kind enough to provide New England with a Week 6 opponent that should provide an immediate bottom line answer to that question: Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Or maybe we should say Ray Rice and the Ravens. Or Anquan Boldin and the Ravens. Or Derrick Mason and the Ravens. Take your pick – that offense is loaded.
R. Rice (US Presswire)
We all remember what happened last time the Ravens visited Foxboro: Ray Rice’s 83-yard touchdown on the game’s opening play proved to be a harbinger of one of the most thorough beatdowns in wild-card history. The Ravens rushed 234 yards on 52 attempts in that 33-14 route.

Let’s start there: can Baltimore dominate New England on the ground again this Sunday? Ray Rice is fully healthy after battling a sore knee in late September. Rice’s compact running style and innate feel for pressing a hole and setting up blocks evokes memories of Emmitt Smith. Like Emmitt, Rice can make lateral cuts without halting his downhill momentum or sacrificing his strength (this latter trait is what separates Rice from an explosive-but-situational player like, say, a Jamaal Charles).

The Patriots have outstanding athletes at inside linebacker. Jerod Mayo, at his best, is as good as any player in the league (ever seen the way he slips and sheds blocks?). And rookie Brandon Spikes, though not fast in terms of 40 time, closes on tackles with tremendous speed. That said, it’s a tall order for any player to match up with Rice.

What’s more, Rice has the benefit of an outstanding supporting cast. The Ravens refer to the classic power run game more than any team in the NFL. They’ll use an overloaded line with versatile Marshal Yanda lined up next to Michael Oher, making tight end Todd Heap the offensive tackle on the weak side of the formation. This is a tactic teams use when they know they’re flat-out stronger than an opponent. Rice is capable of moving a pile, though the Ravens have even better options in Willis McGahee, who has shown far more burst than his numbers indicate, and Le’Ron McClain, who you could argue is the AFC’s version of Brandon Jacobs (the Brandon Jacobs of a few years ago, that is).

The Patriots would have welcomed a power run approach back when they had Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and outside linebackers who could actually set the edge against the run. The secret key to New England’s success in the 3-4 has been having ends that can win the power battles in the trenches. Just how important are the ends in Bill Belichick’s scheme? Important enough for coaches to frequently move the best nose tackle in football, Vince Wilfork, outside this season.

Wilfork’s de facto position change reveals just how desperate the Patriots are at defensive end. The starter opposite Wilfork is Ron Brace, a second-year player who was inactive for most of 2009. The other option is Gerard Warren, a journeyman veteran who has spent his entire career as a 4-3 defensive tackle.

With four games in the books, the Patriots rank 20th against the run. The Ravens rank 14th in rush offense, but there isn’t a soul out there who believes they’ll be outside the top 10 come season’s end.

The difference between this Ravens offense and the one that demolished the Patriots back in January is that this Ravens offense can consistently throw. The additions of Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and rookie tight end Ed Dickson have accelerated the already-steady development of Joe Flacco.

The Ravens, in a good way, are still trying to figure out roles for all their receivers. The Patriots, in a bad way, are still trying to figure out roles for all their defensive backs. New England’s No. 2 cornerback slot has been a revolving door. Undrafted second-year player Kyle Arrington has been the most recent guinea pig there. Before him, it was Darius Butler. Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley have also been considered before. The No. 1 corner job is held by Devin McCourty, a first-round rookie who has had natural ups and downs thus far.

The Patriot corners have all struggled in press coverage. And, thanks to surprisingly inconsistent safety play – because of freelancing, Brandon Meriweather has gone from Pro Bowler to nickel defender – the entire secondary has been vulnerable in Cover 3, one of the Belichick’s favorite zones.

The conventional thinking would be that New England needs to pressure Flacco. But when your outside linebackers are Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham (who captured a starting job because Tully Banta-Cain is a major liability as a playside run defender), the only way you pressure a quarterback is by blitzing.

A blitz would quickly define the read for Flacco and allow him to fall back on his arm strength. The Patriots may be better off taking their chances with rushing three and dropping eight. This would force Flacco to think and make decisions. The Patriots also want Flacco to have to make throws down the middle of the field, where he occasionally tends to misread coverages.

Of course, all this is based on the assumption that the Patriots can force the Ravens into third-down-and-long situations. And everything we know about the run matchup in this game suggests that third-and-long won’t happen often.

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Posted on: September 8, 2010 12:00 am
 

Ochocinco starts Twitter war

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It started with a simple question from the Twitter page of Chad Ochocinco.

“Can someone please give me each Patriot player that has twitter account please, its about that time for this years s--- talking to go down”

And what followed was a pretty good exchange with one of the men, cornerback Darius Butler, who will be charged with containing Ochocinco when the Bengals travel to New England on Sunday.

Ochocinco wrote: @dariusbutler28 are you gonna have safety help the entire game?

Responded Butler: @OGOchoCinco lol. Thats gon b ya excuse when they ask u what happened week 1 against a 2nd yr guy n a rook?

And then, a few minutes later: @OGOchoCinco my bad i took so long. I was lookin thru this film to see the last time some put a safety over top of 85

Responded Ochocinco: @DariusButler28 well you must be watching highschool film because there's a safety on every damn play leaning my way, im watching film to

Responded Butler: @OGOchoCinco which game u on? I jus got off the last two games u had last season. I don't even think they had a safety on the field most the game.

Responded Ochocinco: @DariusButler28 if you look on you profile picture on your background, its a damn safety behind you in the picture so i know its comin :(

Ochocinco also went after Patriots rookie CB Devin McCourty and NT Vince Wilfork

To McCourty: @dmccourty32 hi, my name is Esteban ( S-tay-vannnn ) that's the how to pronounce it, gonna talk s--- to you in espanol during the game ok”

To Wilfork: @wilfork75 taking a large number of patriot/ochocinco fans to eat saturday, you want to come?

Tragically, neither of them responded as of press time.

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Posted on: July 15, 2010 10:49 am
 

Vince Wilfork needs your help

Patriots DT Vince Wilfork’s Super Bowl ring has been stolen. And he wants you to help him find it.

OK, it’s not necessarily true that Wilfork’s ring is gone, but think of this as a big scavenger hunt (as long as you don’t drive a 1976 Pinto, like the getaway car used by the alleged perpetrator who happened to be wearing a Jets helmet).

From the Patriots, who released this news this morning:

Starting today, the search is on across New England, and it’s powered by SCVNGR – the location-based iPhone and Android app about going places, doing fun challenges and earning points all while unlocking badges and sharing your activity with your friends. Patriots fans can play special Patriots challenges at hundreds of spots across New England in the special “Help Vince” trek on SCVNGR. Along the way, special Patriots badges are awarded and prizes given daily and weekly, as well as the Ultimate-Grand-Finale-Finito-ZOMG-W
e-Found-Vince’s-Ring prize: a private lunch with a Patriots player!


In order to play, you’d need to download the SCVNGR app for the iPhone or Android. Select the “help Vince” trek and then begin the game.

In case you need video evidence, here’s the Youtube video .


--Josh Katzowitz

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



Posted on: July 8, 2010 12:34 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2010 12:45 pm
 

Position rankings: defensive tackles

K. Williams (US Presswire)Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on defensive tackles.

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Haloti Ngata, Ravens

4. Vince Wilfork, Patriots

3. Jay Ratliff, Cowboys

2. Albert Haynesworth, Redskins

1. Kevin Williams, Vikings

As expected, this position is brimming with talent, and unlike some other (unnamed) positions, where it was pretty tough to find five really quality stars, this list had to be edited and reworked a few times because there were so many deserving linemen. I’m sure there are five other tackles out there who could be placed on a top-five list and have them be just as deserving. Well, maybe nearly as deserving.

Kevin Williams most likely will play this season after avoiding a potential suspension because of a positive drug test issue. If he’s on the field, he’s one of the best interior DL in the NFL (as his four-straight Pro Bowls will attest). I thought long and hard about putting Haynesworth above Williams, but as good as he’s been as a DT, he might not be as effective as a nose tackle. Plus, he was just a little below elite last season, and the fact is that he’s played a 16-game schedule exactly one time – during his rookie season in 2002.

Ratliff has accumulated 13.5 sacks in the past two years – the guy certainly knows how to rush a passer. And now that he’s had surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbows – which didn’t allow him to bench press the past two years – he could easily move to the top of this list. Wilfork is the anchor of the Patriots 3-4 defense, and now, he’s being paid like one after signing a five-year, $40 million contract with $25 million guaranteed. Ngata is huge and nimble and quick and athletic. He demands double-teams.

Andy Benoit's top five

5. Haloti Ngata, Baltimore Ravens

4. Jay Ratliff, Dallas Cowboys

3. Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots

2. Albert Haynesworth, Washington Redskins

1. Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings

I swear I made this list before I saw yours. You nailed Ngata: nimble and quick. To me, Ratliff is the amazing member of this list. He’s a former seventh-round pick who, at a diminutive 303 pounds, has become the most dominant nose tackle in the NFC. He’s expanded the criteria for how we evaluate nose tackles. Rather than commanding double-teams with sheer size, he commands them with energy and quickness off the snap.

Wilfork doesn’t get enough credit for his lateral agility.

I seriously doubt Haynesworth will be on this much longer. He’s going to roll over in Washington this season. It’s too bad that so much natural talent went to such a bad guy (and I don’t use the term “bad guy” lightly).

I hate to get in the habit of doing top eight, but since we’re in agreement again, here’s what I have: 6. Shaun Rogers (assuming he bounces back from leg injury), 7. Darnell Dockett (the most tenacious D-lineman in the game), 8. Kris Jenkins (Ratliff-like quickness off the snap, Wilfork-like size; only problem has been injuries).

Josh’s rebuttal

I probably would have put Dockett on my top five – though I’m not sure who I would have left off – but I was saving him for the defensive ends list. I saw Rogers play live a few times last year; he didn’t do much to impress me. He’s just really, really big. He’s a quality run-stopper, but when he’s out of shape, he’s not a top-10 guy. My top eight would go: 6. Kris Jenkins (I was close to putting him in the top five – he has really good athleticism), 7. Pat Williams (he’s not as good as he once was, but he’s still a powerful force), 8. Jonathan Babineaux (he’s athletic and plays well as a pass rusher and run-stopper). Babineaux faced a felony animal cruelty charge a few years ago, so that’s a bit weird. But still, we’re talking about a really good undersized DT.

You know, this isn’t quite as much fun when we agree. I miss us making fun of each other. O Manny Lawson, Manny Lawson, wherefore art thou Manny Lawson?

Andy’s final word

I think Babineaux is underrated, but not to the degree that he makes the top eight. His 2007 animal cruelty charges flew under the radar because – and what are the odds of this – another Falcons player had bigger animal abuse charges around that time. (You might remember reading something about it.)

Babineaux’s charges were later dismissed after it was determined that the pit bull killed – which belonged to a girlfriend who later became his wife – had a history of unprovoked attacks. In short, it sounds like Babineaux did nothing wrong. But you can form your own opinion; read the report here.


Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter  | Kicker | 4-3 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Inside Linebacker)


--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

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


 

Posted on: June 15, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 9:23 pm
 

Sigh: Sports writers foiled again

When you’ve got a controversy brewing on the team you cover and if the recipient of that controversy isn’t around – or isn’t talking – the next step as a beat reporter is to ask the opinions of his colleagues.

For instance, “So and so isn’t here, but what do you think about his a) desire to not play for your team this season; b) positive drug test; or c) run-in at the local strip club?” More often than not, you’ll get answers, and even if they’re the generic “We support our teammate and we don’t know much more than what’s in the police report” statements, that’s enough to write what we in the business call “a folo.”

The Boston Herald tried to do that today in regards to Patriots Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins and his desire not to sign his restricted free agent tender. But, as the title of the Herald's blog post says, “Ho, hum, nothing to see here.”

Obviously, New England coach Bill Belichick decided not to give his opinion on the matter, but we had two other beautiful side-steps of the issue. One player, guard Stephen Neal, said he didn’t know much about the situation, because he doesn’t have cable TV or the Internet. Read that part again. No cable TV, no Internet, no comment. Another, NT Vince Wilfork, seemed to grow agitated at the repeated attempts of questioners.

“What don’t you understand?” Wilfork said. “I’m not going to touch that. If you’re going to sit here and talk about that all day, I’m outta here. I’m not going to touch that.”

Even stranger? Just about every football writer knows that if you need good, solid, smart, thoughtful quotes from players who rarely say no to an interview request, you go to the offensive line. It's a double shot to the stomach when the guards, tackles and centers blow off your questions.

Mankins touched on the issue briefly Monday when he told ESPN Boston that there was “no way” he would sign his tender offer of $3.26 million.

--Josh Katzowitz

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



 
 
 
 
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