Archive for category NFL Late Hits

NFL Late Hits – Week 16

I’m going to try and not make this whole column be about the Colts and Head Coach Jim Caldwell.

It may be hard.

I’ll give this to the Colts’ coach—damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

Well, I guess if you were predisposed to think Peyton Manning—one of the most durable quarterbacks in the game—would end up hurt. Frankly, I wouldn’t think that way.

I can’t put it better than my boy Sigmund Bloom did on Twitter:

You can’t coach afraid of negative outcomes, you focus on the positive outcomes you are pushing towards. Wonder how team feels right now.

Caldwell was preserving Manning, a guy who rarely gets hurt, and may have thrown off the timing of a team who was on a roll. There’s no way he puts the starters in for long this week, is there?

We’re watching momentum disintegrate for the Saints—are we going to see it for the Colts now.

As for the Jets, Mark Sanchez didn’t throw an interception.  Starters may have been sitting, but Sanchez protected the ball. Big deal for him this season considering how he has struggled. Good decisions, solid play-calling, effective ground game.

They still need to win against the Bengals (starters or not) and all those things need to be going if they are going to win.

Interesting side note: The Colts/Jets game inspired this piece of writing on a University of North Carolina website called The 5th Corner where writer AEM uses it as a cautionary tale for the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which is considering a move to a 96 team tournament.

(sidenote-within-a-sidenote: I think expanding to that size is a horrible idea, incredibly unmanageable and frankly giving the College BCS anti-playoff people ammunition they don’t need.) 

See what you did Jim Caldwell?

The Chargers, Cowboys and Patriots seem to be heating up at the right time.  The is standard operating procedure for the Bolts it seems but new ground for Dallas.

Romo has turned the concept he’s a Christmas choke artist on it’s ear the last few weeks. Maybe they aren’t perfect and maybe they won’t make it far into the playoffs, but they seem to be ready for the playoffs at a time when some teams—like the aforementioned Colts and Saints as well as the Vikings—are stumbling.

In the last few years both the Giants and Cardinals have shown us where momentum can take you. One of the fringe teams will heat up and cause some havoc in the playoffs.

Finally, I’ve danced around it enough this month: it’s retarded that Titans running back Chris Johnson isn’t getting more buzz for MVP. Beyond that, it’s criminal. I’m not saying he should be a lock to win it, but not enough writers are even taking note of him beyond ‘wow he’s pretty good’.

Maybe it’s a moot point, given that his team has struggled even when he’s doing well. That his impact on any game is negligible.

This fallacy—or what I consider one—pretty much makes it impossible for almost any position not named ‘Quarterback’, a problem which is already part of the Heisman lack of defensive players.

No one player wins a game every time out (just ask John Elway) but the MVP needs to be a game changer. Chris Johnson is a constant threat to break a long touchdown—a defense cannot afford to ignore him or he will burn them.

Maybe he hasn’t won a lot of games for the Titans. But at any moment, he could.

That should count for something in my opinion.

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NFL Late Hits – Week 14

Due to overwhelming amounts of chaos, illness and Holiday dysfunction, we missed last week.

I know you’re all very angry but I think we can work through this together by blaming Al Davis. It seems to work pretty well for outgoing coaches so, why not?

We’ve got a couple of topics here for this edition of Late Hits so let’s get to it.

Tackling: Lost Art or Ignored Skill-set?

Watching the Giants and Eagles play last night was painful.

Not just for the officiating which was admittedly atrocious – that’s been an on going problem not just attached to this game.giantsIggles

Not for the drops by New York receivers, though they were frequent and contributed to a season-shattering loss for the Giants.

No, the single most painful thing was the horrific tackling efforts made by the players on both teams.

When did tackling become a lost art form? When did players just decide that running into someone and hoping they will fall over is more effective than wrapping a player up?

It’s been suggested to me that I do an in-depth article or series on this subject and I may. For now though I’ll keep it to just a few thoughts.

This reminds me a lot of how I felt about basketball halfway into Michael Jordan’s career. Every Sportcenter highlight of Jordan seemed to be him making one spectacular dunk after another.

Now, anyone who has ever watched more than five minutes of Jordan – or basketball in general – knows there is more to both Jordan and the game than a dunk.

Yet for years, most of the Jordan plays ESPN seemed to show were dunks.

Know what I noticed? Years later a generation of players seemed more intent on getting Sportcenter-worthy dunks than working on fundamentals.

Didn’t destroy the game or anything, but I remember thinking it changed the game for a while.

Flash-forward to the last few seasons of NFL football during which we’ve had in-depth segments on ESPN such as ‘JACKED UP’.

During that time – and you can’t tell me there isn’t a correlation here – players stopped tackling and started looking to clobber opponents.

Sure, sometimes the ball carrier gets blown up and the play ends. Sometimes a fumble occurs.

Often – dare I say more often than not – the ball carrier shifts, the ‘big hit’ glances off him and the player continues to run down the field.

Last night was a debacle when it came to tackling. So many times players just bounced off of the ball carrier instead of trying to wrap the guy up and if not pull him to the ground, at least slow him down for another defensive player to catch up.

Am I saying this is all the fault of sports highlight shows? No, of course not. Coaches from Pop Warner to the NFL are supposed to teaching and reinforcing proper tackling technique.

Yet consider that many of these players have grown up in the age of Sportcenter and it’s ilk. They’ve learned that from a defensive standpoint it’s the spectacular big hits which gain you air time as much as anything else.

For the guys in the trenches and the fellas in the secondary who might not be quite as able to generate a dynamic interception, it’s a way to stand out.

I think there is a connection here. Maybe my reader was right – maybe this is worthy of a longer article.

Post-game shows are already talking about shifting the focus away from the giant killer hits, in part because they are becoming more cognizant of the damage caused by the blows, especially in regards to concussions.

It will be interesting to see how things change in this increasingly cautious climate.

Until then I merely propose this to anyone who reads this and plays football at any level -WRAP THEM UP.

Chris Johnson, Heading Towards Elite?

At some point, Chris Johnson shifted from very good running back to phenomenal running back.

It’s been happening for weeks. Doesn’t matter if Kerry Collins or Vince Young is behind center (though Young seemed to improve things even more), Johnson aka ‘Coach’s Dream’ just puts up numbers.

There are backs who are very good backs behind a solid offensive line. Guys who, with blocking, can break some long runs and look fantastic. Or who, with a scary pass game, find themselves not facing eight men in a box on every play.

Some backs don’t need that. Well, perhaps ‘don’t need it’ is too strong. More like they can overcome not having it.

LaDainian Tomlinson did in his earlier Charger days. Barry Sanders did it pretty much his whole career with the Lions.

Chris-Johnson[1]Now, it’s still early to call him ‘Hall of Fame’, and the Titans offensive line can play better than either of the above did but the Titans Johnson is a guy who transcends his situation which is admittedly better now than it was a few weeks ago.

Still, I don’t think anyone calls the Titans pass game ‘threatening’.

Johnson has tremendous speed but he’s more than just a fast set of legs. He knows when to use that speed and has incredible vision, allowing him to find the holes he needs to bust lose.

On top of that, Johnson is a demon when he cuts. He makes folks just flat out embarrass themselves when they try to reign him in. Sometimes he just blows by them – sometimes he blows through them.

Johnson is on pace to break Marshall Faulk’s record of 2,429 total yards and he is looking like a great bet to top 2,000 yards on the ground.

I think you add Johnson to the MVP debate, though his team has struggled so much this year that the argument for him is hard to make.NFL AFC Divisional Playoff Game

Many voters will point to the fact that while his numbers are great, before Vince Young came back into the picture, the Titans weren’t winning.

So how important could Johnson be?

I say this: if it was LenDale White and the now departed Chris Henry in the backfield, I don’t know that they are having the success they’ve had the latter half of this season.

Screens, Clips and Chop Blocks

Carolina Panthers were apparently saying Pats wideout Randy Moss was dogging it during the game yesterday. To respond to this I will refer to Pats coach Bill Belichick who said that for a team who lost again, they sure do have a lot to say.

Moss doesn’t seem to be happy and getting sent home for tardiness would be the sort of thing to exacerbate that so it wouldn’t shock me.

I just don’t know the Panthers need to be talking about it. They have bigger fish to fry.

The AFC playoff race is a big fat mess. Isn’t December awesome?

Maybe December isn’t awesome for the Cowboys though. Romo and his minions once again slip and slide through the month and while they can still see the playoffs, that picture is only visible via the Hubble scope.

What is the problem with the Cowboys? At least some of it is play-calling and yesterday they fell in part because they lost DeMarcus Ware.

But what does it say about a team that year after year folds late? In baseball, you’d start looking at the top of an organizations coaching/GM staff (and the team would be called the New York Mets).

I think you might need to here as well. Garrett, Phillips – it might be time for a change.

I’ve heard some muttering about Bucs coach Raheem Morris maybe losing his job. I’ll admit I’m far from his biggest fan or supporter. I’ll also admit that 1-12 is awful.

But the Bucs blew their team up and made some late changes to coaching staff (maybe at Morris’ behest). It takes a while to rebuild.

Give the man a few years here folks.

I’ll end with some Heisman thoughts.

I really wanted Ndamukong Suh to win the Heisman in part because it’s about time we started paying more attention to the defensive side of the ball for this trophy.

r[1]I can’t quibble with Alabama running back Mark Ingram’s selection – he’s a tremendous running back and it’s the Crimson Tides’ first Heisman. I might have yelled myself horse if it was McCoy or Tebow, but at least with McCoy it might have been half hearted.

We know the award is mostly going to go to the sexier offensive positions. Even when Charles Woodson won it, it was on the strength of his kick return abilities as much as (if not in spite of) his defensive capabilities.

I hope voters start giving more thought to the guys in the trenches. I hope they look past the records at the best player rather than the best player on a large university team which is in the National Championship alot which echoes some remarks I have heard from voters.

Not all of them, but some.

And I hope the Heisman organization finds a way to make the voters wait until at least the Conference Championships are done. I don’t know if it would have mattered, but knowing that votes were cast before Suh’s performance against McCoy rubs me the wrong way.

But maybe that’s just me.

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NFL Late Hits

I think I may go a little ‘meta’ today and comment on the commentators at least for the start of this weeks’ Late Hits column.

It all starts with Peter King’s usual Monday Morning QB article at Generally speaking, I like King and I like the MMQB. It’s long, incredibly verbose and my interest waivers from page to page and paragraph to paragraph but by and large I enjoy reading it.

Part if the reason I enjoy it is because I disagree with King pretty much every week on something. So it makes me think and that’s good.

Today, I thought I found my bone to pick with King within the following statement about Minnesota:

Unless you’re partial to Michael Oher, Percy Harvin’s just about locked up the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He had eight touches for 146 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Bears.
RT @franco3x: @SI_PeterKing If there were no Percy Harvin, would Austin Collie be OROY? … No. It’d be MIchael Oher.
Now, I like Oher. I think he does an outstanding job and have been impressed watching him work this year.the_blind_side[1]
I have to wonder, though, if Peter King would be beating the weeds for him as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year if he didn’t have a movie and book based on his life out there.
Before you fire off a nasty email proclaiming me a hater, let’s look at this a minute.
Mull that one over a second. The voters for the AP award have NEVER voted an Offensive Lineman that award. Ever.
Fine you say. First time for everything, right?
Sure, until you consider that Ryan Clady had aryan_clady_feature[1] better season in 2008 than Oher is having now (Clady did not let up a sack at all until this year).
What? How could we not have heard about this? Well, for the simple fact that for an Olineman to be good at his job, you need to never hear his name.
Were there folks who knew about Clady? Sure, even outside of Denver (he plays for the Broncos – you knew that right?).
However, people – fans – are drawn to flash. Running Backs, Wide Receivers, Quarterbacks – these are the things that get the headlines.
It’s a lot harder to get noticed when your whole job is to not be noticed. So Clady, by virtue of doing his job well, didn’t get much pub.
Sure, I talked about him last year. More importantly (and louder and with a wider audience) guys like Jamie Dukes brought him up frequently on NFL Total Access.
The simple fact is that the majority of folks didn’t even know who he was – and even those who did in the press weren’t paying close attention.
The award went to Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. Not to take anything away from a fine season by Ryan – or Baltimore’s Joe Flacco or Tennessee’s Chris Johnson.
But that’s how it always goes. Clady had an outstanding rookie year and almost nobody noticed.
Back to Oher: he’s is clearly an exceptional athlete and a very good tackle. ravens05[1]Should he be in the discussion? I don’t see why not. Of the rookies on offense, aside from the aforementioned Percy Harvin, who really has excelled?
Let’s be honest here for a minute – if the man didn’t have a movie out right now based on a book about his life how many of you would know who he was? Including some Ravens fans?
Does that automatically invalidate a bid for OROY? Of course not, in fact it’s good he has the press if just to continue making people aware of the guys in the trenches.
The onlinemen should get more credit and when deserving, should get more recognition when it comes to things like thes awards.
I’m just a bit incredulous that King would be talking about Oher if his story wasn’t making $100 million at the box office.
Again, doesn’t mean he isn’t deserving of the press or the talk. More power to him.
But as Frank Schwab of the Colorado Springs Gazette said when I was talking to him about Clady, you’d need to have an exceptionally sub-par year across the board for a lineman to win that award no matter how good the guy was.
Having a book about you wouldn’t hurt getting you noticed either.
Can’t wait for next week – maybe I’ll get another column out of it.
A few more quick hits:
Chris Johnson, Vince Young and now Kenny Britt? Is there finally a worthy offensive nucleus in Tennessee? Not quite ready to say ‘yes’ but suddenly the Titans look very dangerous.
I was at the Jets/Panthers game this weekend with my son. Man, what a grumpy bunch of fans around us. Play calling, defense, quarterback play – everything was wrong for these guys. On a day the Jets won no less.
More from Jets/Panthers: Darelle Revis is just incredible to watch. Forget the picks – though they were great – but he is just incredible to watch in coverage. Steve Smith didn’t have a chance. Delhomme or not, that battle was lopsided all day.
I know Adrian Peterson has a fumbling problem. He’s coughed it up what, five times this season? I still don’t know I take him out on the one yard line. And then throw the ball.
I said it on Twitter last night, but I don’t get the Dennis Dixon hate. I don’t know if people just write him off because he came out of Oregon or haven’t seen him play but the kid has talent. Glad he got to show some of it last night.
Shawn Zobel of said it last night and reiterated it this morning in his Monday Morning Roundup but don’t be surprised if someone (Shawn suggests Carolina) takes a shot with Dixon and trades for him.
Which locker room probably looks more like the set of M*A*S*H, Atlanta or Philadelphia? Ryan and Turner down vs Jackson, Westbrook and Celek.  Where’s Alan Alda when you need him?
Philly has a better chance of surviving than Atlanta if Ryan is down for long. Chris Redman looked fine but I’m not sure I trust him for a length of time.
That’s it for today. Enjoy more leftovers and the Superman vs Batman-like struggle between New Orleans and New England.
Two teams enter, one team leaves

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