Around the League – Week 5

by Tommy Lawlor  –

* I watched some tape of the Browns this week.  This one LB caught my eye.  It was #58, Marcus Benard.  He had 3.5 sacks last year in 6 games.  He’s got 3.5 sacks this year in only 4 games.  Benard has good size at 6’2, 256.  He’s quick off the ball and looks like a natural pass rusher.  Rob Ryan’s defense has some potential, but the 3-4 needs a LB who can consistently pressure the QB to really succeed.  Benard has the potential to be that guy.  He’s off to a good start so far in 2010.

* Rookie DT Corey Peters is playing well for ATL.  He started last week and caught my eye a few times.  Peters was good at Kentucky, but wildly inconsistent.  He absolutely has the potential to be a good NFL player.  Peters was quick off the ball on some plays.  He showed excellent awareness on a couple of plays.  He’s not filling up the stat sheet, but looks like a good player.

LB Sean Weatherspoon has played pretty well for the Falcons as well.  He had a chance for an INT in the Browns game, but just couldn’t hold onto the ball.  He does have a sack and 25 solo tackles on the year.  The Falcons have some good pieces in place on defense.    

* Sticking with rookies in the NFC South, WR Mike Williams is playing well for Tampa.  He had 7 catches for 99 yards and a TD in the Bucs win over Cincinnati.  Williams is 19-238-3 for the year.  The Bucs are getting a lot of credit for finding a receiver of his ability in the middle of the draft.  Mike didn’t slide because he lacked talent.  He had serious character issues.  Things are going great right now for he and the Bucs, but the question is whether you can count on him.  Tampa Bay has taken other chances in recent drafts.  Safety Tanard Jackson is a talented player, but is currently serving a 1-year suspension under the substance abuse policy.  CB Aqib Talib has had several off-field incidents.  All 3 guys can clearly play.  You just have to be careful about adding too many guys with too many issues.  Stability and consistency are important traits of championship teams.

* Aaron Rodgers made an incredibly dumb decision in the loss to Washington.  Late in the game he was trying to drive the Packers into FG range.  The team had one timeout.  There was a play early in the drive where he took off and ran to the right.  Rodgers got upfield for a few yards.  He had a choice to make on whether to go hard for the sideline or keep working upfield.  With only 1 timeout and limited space, there really was no choice.  5 yards isn’t worth the timeout.  Rodgers did go upfield and get the extra couple of yards.  The Packers did have to burn the timeout.  They completed a pass a couple of plays later that put them in FG range.  Unfortunately they weren’t able to do anything after that because of the clock and lack of a timeout.  PK Mason Crosby missed the kick (hit the upright), but it was Rodgers bonehead decision that really hurt the team on the final drive.

* I’ve been high on Atlanta QB Matt Ryan since I watched him play early in his rookie year of 2008.  He blew me away.  Rookies just don’t play like that.  I’ve watched his last couple of games and something doesn’t look right.  He’s not playing poorly or anything to that extent.  I just don’t see him playing at the level I expected.  He was sacked 36 times in his first 30 games.  This year he’s gone down 10 times in 5 games.  You can’t just blame the blocking.  He seems to be holding the ball longer than he should.  Cleveland had some zone blitzes that really seemed to confuse him.  His pass yards per attempt is just 6.6, which is a pedestrian number for any QB, let alone someone of Matt’s ability.  As a rookie that number was 7.9, a good figure.  WR Michael Jenkins hasn’t played this year.  He has now been cleared to play after recovering from a shoulder injury.  His return could be the thing that gets the passing game going and opens up the offense a little bit more.  10 offensive TDs in 5 games isn’t enough for a team with this kind of firepower.

* Safety Michael Griffin played lights out back in 2008 and the Titans defense was outstanding.  He doesn’t seem like the same player anymore.  That year he took his share of chances, but tended to make them pay off.  He had 7 INTs and 11 PDs.  In the 21 games since then he’s got 3 INTs and 11 PDs.  Against Dallas he took a chance on a pass to Miles Austin.  Griffin went for the ball.  He didn’t get it and Austin turned that catch into a long TD.  The Titans gave up 511 yards to Dallas.  A couple weeks back they gave up 471 yards to the Giants.  They’ve allowed more than 300 yards passing in 3 straight games.  This isn’t the kind of defense that Jeff Fisher was looking for, to put it mildly.  Griffin needs to make plays or be smart and limit big plays by the opposition.  Neither is happening right now.

* The Niners fell to 0-5 with the loss on Sunday night, but there was one good thing.  QB Alex Smith came alive.  He was 25-39-309.  He had 3 TDs and 2 INTs.  Michael Crabtree and Vern Davis both had over 100 yards.  Both caught TD passes.  That’s the best I’ve seen the SF passing offense in a while.  If they can get the group to build off that showing, there still might be a glimmer of hope for the season.  The defense has underachieved this year and that continued in the loss.  I was especially disappointed with NT Aubrayo Franklin.  He was a complete non-factor.

* Not much is going right for the Buffalo Bills on defense, but I have been impressed with NT/DT Kyle Williams.  He is the kind of high motor, effort player that you love in the trenches.  He’s not ideal for the 3-4 defense, but he plays his butt off and makes the best of a bad situation.  Williams is quick off the ball.  He can be disruptive.  He’s got 18 solo tackles, a sack, and a TFL on the year.

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