|12.03.10 at 7:33 am ET|
ESPN NFL analyst and former quarterback Ron Jaworski checked in with the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning and talked about Monday’s showdown between the Patriots and Jets. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
Jaworski said the Patriots defense should be OK Monday, as the Jets are a more conservative, run-oriented offense. However, New England’s defensive issues are an obvious concern in the long run.
“When you watch this defense giving up close to 400 yards, it’s not typical of a New England Patriots defense,” Jaworski said. “As I say, this is a defense continuing to be tinkered with by Bill [Belichick] and his entire defense staff. I’m looking at tape this week and I see just all kinds of rotations. It is somewhat amazing what I see as far as personnel packages and who is on the field. I don’t think they have found themselves yet. So, I think yes, it will be a problem as you move into the playoffs, where you’re going to see some juggernaut offenses. I know they make turnovers at opportune times, they make plays at opportune times. But I don’t think in this league you can give up 400 yards on the average in games and be a playoff and Super Bowl contender.”
On the other side of the ball, Jaworski said he could see the Patriots offense developing as far back as the draft, when New England selected a couple of tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski who now are contributing. “Bill knows what he’s doing,” Jaworski said. “I would say he’s always got a vision of where his team is going to be down the road. And you could see the evolution of this football team, what was going on. They had fast, speedy tight ends, as well as guys that could block. So, you could see where this team was going.
“I thought that the acquisition of Deion Branch was really a stroke of brilliance, to bring him back,” Jaworski continued. “This is now a possession style of offense. Yeah, you’re going to get some plays down the field with [Brandon] Tate, and he’ll stretch the field. But Tom [Brady] is so good at spreading the field sideline to sideline. Sometimes we think of the spacing of offenses, and people think of the vertical game all the time. But where the Patriots are so good is sideline to sideline and finding the voids between people rather than over the top of people.”
Jaworski spent some time handing out compliments to Brady, especially for his mental toughness. “What I notice about Tom is nothing ruffles him,” Jaworski said. “There’s been a lot of player changes on that offense this year, and nothing seems to bother him. He’s like Father Time and just keeps moving along very smoothly.” Jaworski added that he rates Drew Brees as the third-best quarterback in the NFL, behind Brady and Peyton Manning.
Jaworski said he’s happy that Jon Gruden will remain with the network after rumors that the University of Miami was pursuing him for its coaching vacancy. However, Jaworski said he expects Gruden will eventually return to the sideline. “I think somewhere down the road, Jon will get involved in coaching, because he’s that good,” Jaworski said. “Working with Jon for three or four days every week now for the last couple of years, I realize now what an amazing talent he is as a coach, and way beyond that, what a motivator he is, what a hard-worker he is, how he prepares. … Jon is a teacher, and he loves that part of the game.”
|12.02.10 at 10:22 pm ET|
Week 13 ‘ a bringer of many different scenarios for the fantasy kin. Some owners are sitting pretty up on a pedestal with a clinched playoff berth, and perhaps even a bye, in their back pockets. Others, sharing a similar fate to Life Alert’s poor Ms. Fletcher, have fallen and they simply cannot get up.
But for others still, the remainder of their seasons hangs in the balance of Week 13. With the majority of postseason action starting up next week, it’s either win or go home for many owners. Given the stress of such a high-pressured environment, managers lacking cojones often stick with a “what’s gotten me here so far” approach, even in the face of difficult matchups, only to succumb to a seventh-place finish.
Don’t let this happen to you. Play the matchup card and reap the benefits. For some owners, like those with Michael Vick facing Houston, or Adrian Peterson (if he plays, and it sounds like he will) against Buffalo, this is easy. But for others, benching a rock in your lineup for a lesser name can be a tough pill to swallow.
Now, I’m not suggesting you bench the elite performers ‘ they generally find a way to produce regardless of who they’re lined up against. But if you’re not sure on a player and have another option on the bench or waivers, it might be time to roll the dice. And even if you’ve clinched or have no shot, revel in the feeling of knocking out an opposing foe. Below are some guys I believe could be that wild card to lead your team to the most glorious time of the year: fantasy playoffs.
After spending the majority of his college and pro football career riding the pine, Cassel finally received a full-time job with the Chiefs last season. Though his first year with the Chiefs was forgettable, Cassel’s second year couldn’t be better. Now that he’s fully adapted to the nuances of Charlie Weis‘ creative offense, Cassel has been arguably the hottest signal caller in the league. In his past seven games, the former USC backup has thrown for an insane 18:1 touchdown to interception ratio in his last seven contests, good for a 112.2 quarterback ranking ‘ the best in the league over that span. Cassel’s ensuing fantasy production was equally impressive, as his 24.5 points per game trail only Vick.
|12.02.10 at 6:42 pm ET|
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – With apologies to the great Chris Price (and anyone who hates the Artist Formerly Known as Nicole Polizzi) here are the four things you need to know about the Jets after Thursday’s practice:
1. Santonio Holmes isn’t worried about Devin McCourty. The Jets receiver was asked about the Patriots secondary, a group that has obviously has had its ups and downs in 2010 – opposing quarterbacks have completed nearly 68 percent of their passes against the Patriots this season.
“If I could really speak my mind I would,” said Holmes, just before he began really speaking his mind. “But off the strength of me being a professional I’ll just say that I don’t worry about those guys. We have to worry about what we do here; I don’t care who they line up on the other side of the ball. It’s our job to get the job done.”
OK. Holmes was then asked more specifically about Devin McCourty, and if he felt a rookie could possibly shut him down.
“Negative,” said Holmes, who did not play in Week 2 because “negative” was not the result of his drug test, which led to a four-game suspension. “That was proven in the Super Bowl two years ago when they had a rookie follow me around the whole game. I wouldn’t do it if I was them.”
Holmes was Super Bowl XLIII MVP, catching nine passes for 131 yards and the game-winning TD for the Steelers. It was indeed a rookie cornerback – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - who covered Holmes for most of the contest.
While Holmes wouldn’t kick any praise McCourty’s way, Braylon Edwards - who declined comment on his pal LeBron James returning to Cleveland – sees a corner who has made huge improvements in his first season.
“So far what I’ve seen on film is that he’s a lot better than he was in Week 2,” Edwards said. “There are some things that he did during Week 2 that were rookie mistakes, typical things for a rookie. But lately he’s been more patient, he’s been strong at the line of scrimmage and he’s shown more confidence. He has played a lot better, made the interceptions we saw the past few weeks. He’s played a lot better, I just see a better player. I better bring my A-game.”
|12.02.10 at 6:15 pm ET|
The Patriots have claimed running back Thomas Clayton on waivers for a second go-round in New England, according to ESPN. Clayton, who was with the Patriots in the preseason and for the first two months of the 2010 season before he was cut, is a 5-foot-11, 225-pounder who was drafted by San Francisco in the sixth round of the 2007 draft out of Kansas State. He’s played for the 49ers, Patriots and Browns, and had zero rushing yards in two games with Cleveland this season before he was waived by the Browns on Wednesday.
|12.02.10 at 5:29 pm ET|
But does Ryan really mean it? Or is all of this just another one of his elaborate schemes designed to trick the Patriots quarterback. In Week 2, Brady was 20-of-36 for 248 yards, getting strip-sacked once by Jason Taylor and picked off twice in the 28-14 Jets win.
If it’s a trick, you can bet that Brady is more than savvy enough to see through the smokescreen and figure it out.
But Ryan certainly seemed like he was throwing all caution to the wind when openly proclaiming that if you don’t blitz Brady and blitz him a lot, then you’ve lost before playing a down in the game. Ryan was asked if balancing the blitz with dropped coverage is one way to handle Brady after his brother – Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan – had so much success on Nov. 7.
“Yeah, if that sounds good to you, then go with it,” Ryan joked. “But as for us, we just play our style of football. Brady’s a guy where if you just run standard coverages, then he’ll just kill you. He can write up what he wants. If he wants 21 out of 22, 24 or 25 completions or whatever he had in the playoff game against Jacksonville once ‘ that was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Wow. A direct shot across the bow at Jack Del Rio and his approach last December when Brady went 23-of-26 for 267 yards. Del Rio’s team also allowed Brady to pick them apart in Jan. 2008 when he was even better at 26-of-28 for 262 yards in an AFC Divisional playoff.
“We’re not going to let him just sit back there and go through pass skelly,” Ryan said. “We’re going to pressure him, mix our coverages, change our coverages, change our blitzes. Sometimes we’re going to go all out blitz, sometimes simulated pressure, sometimes three-man rush, sometimes four-man rush, multiple coverages. That’s how you play Brady. You can’t just let him sit back and know what you’re in.”
Brady’s reply? The Jets will blitz. But who knows when and how much?
“Well, they’ve always done that,” Brady said. “I don’t think that’s anything that we don’t expect. When you look at their blitz percentages, they blitz about half the time. On third down, they blitz about three quarters of the time. They’re blitzing a lot and that’s really a trademark of the defense: to try and find different ways to get after the quarterback.”
Rob Ryan’s Browns got to Brady just once but Brady threw for just 224 yards that day, as Brady struggled to find his passing rhythm.
“That runs in the family,” Brady said. “Rex said the same thing and I know, talking to Coach Belichick, [Rex's] dad was the same way. If you could hit the quarterback, who cares about the coverage? But, with this team, they cover you well, too. They hit the quarterback and they cover. I think that’s what makes them so unique.”
|12.02.10 at 5:01 pm ET|
|12.02.10 at 4:53 pm ET|
The Patriots worked out linebacker Alex Hall, defensive back Chevis Jackson and defensive end Eric Moore Thursday, according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network. The 25-year-old Hall is a 6-foot-5, 250-pounder out of St. Augustine who spent the last two years with Cleveland, finishing the 2008 season with 26 tackles. Jackson, 24, is a 5-foot-11, 193-pound cornerback who went to LSU and has played for both Atlanta and Jacksonville. His best season was 2008 when he had a pair of interceptions for the Falcons. And Moore is a 29-year-old out of Florida State who is 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds, who has played for the Giants, Saints and Rams.
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