Tag Archive: Stevan Ridley


NFL Quick Hits: Week 2

This post will have to be more brief than my original one, partially because I missed the majority of the late afternoon games as well as the 49ers-Seahawks game (despite the delay) because of my move. Still, I want to write up my thoughts on the games I was able to see this week, so here there are.

New Message: Missing You. Sender: Tom Brady. Recipients: Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez: The Patriots are 2-0, but barely. They eeked out a win week one against a rookie quarterback and the Buffalo Bills and needed three interceptions from their defense to hang on for a 13-10 win against Geno Smith and the New York Jets this past Thursday. Shane Vereen got hurt after a very productive opening week and Stevan Ridley has started slowly in the first two weeks. On top of that, Danny Amendola was hurt against the Jets, Gronkowski is still out, Hernandez is long gone and so is Wes Welker. Julian Edelman was the only receiver Brady could trust to catch the ball and he targeted him very frequently as a result, though Aaron Dobson had three solid catches for 56 yards and the Patriots’ only touchdown. However, he caught those three passes on a whopping 10 targets from Brady and had at least a couple drops from what I saw watching the game live. Brady let his frustration show throughout the game and it’s easy to understand why. He’s used to sure-handed receivers that are on the same page as him, but it was clear that everyone on the unit outside of Edelman was still working out the kinks with Brady. This was perfectly shown on one 3rd down play in the red zone where Dobson was running a corner route and as he got to the goal line Brady fired a pass expecting him to have read the coverage, recognize the hole in the zone and sit down for an easy touchdown. Instead, Dobson continued running his route and the pass fell incomplete and led to a field goal attempt which left Brady incensed as he came off the field and on the sideline. Hopefully Amendola won’t be out for longer than a couple weeks and Gronkowski should be back either this week or next, so Brady won’t have to put up with this indefinitely. As frustrating as this is for him right now it might pay some dividends later in the season if he gets on the same page with Dobson and rookie undrafted free agent receiver Kenbrell Thompkins early on. Once Amendola and Gronkowski are back (and if they stay healthy) having Dobson, Thompkins and Edelman as reliable complementary options could provide this offense with a significant spark, not to mention if the running game gets going and Vereen returns healthy after he is activated from the injured reserve. The silver lining for the Jets is that Geno Smith flashed some upside in this game despite his three interceptions (though some of the throws he made late in the game were awful and complete head scratchers) and Chris Ivory seems poised to take over as a potential bell cow as he comes back from injury. That would be great for the Jets because they need a running game to help take some of the pressure off of Smith’s shoulders, there’s no way he should be throwing the ball 35 times in poor conditions against Tom Brady and the Patriots in his second career start. As out of synch as the Patriots offense was at times, the Jets defense has been better than a lot of people assumed it would be after losing it’s best player in Darrelle Revis, further proving that Rex Ryan may not be a media darling but he is a very good defensive football coach. We’ll see if that continues, but I don’t expect the Patriots to continue to struggle on offense like this for more than two or three weeks, and hopefully Chris Ivory will stay healthy and help keep Smith from needing to attempt 30+ passes in a game for a while.

It’s A Good Thing the Falcons Played at Home Because They Know Where All the Hospitals Are: Steven Jackson is already hurt and may be out another two to four weeks with a thigh injury. Bradie Ewing is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Kroy Biermann is out for the season with a torn Achilles. Sean Weatherspoon is on IR and is eligible to return week 11 because of a Lisfranc injury. Roddy White is playing through his injury but was clearly limited in week two as he was targeted just three times for three receptions and 21 yards. Julio Jones was on the injury report but thankfully went off for 181 yards and one touchdown against the Rams. The Falcons can survive without Steven Jackson thanks to Jason Snelling (if they ever give him the ball) and Jacquizz Rodgers as a change of pace back, they can survive while Roddy White is largely a decoy if Harry Douglas keeps catching 80% of his targets like he did against the Rams (4/5), they can survive without Ewing at fullback like they did all last season, and they can find a way to replace Biermann’s production as a pass rusher and hopefully his versatility to drop into coverage as well as his terrific motor. However, it’s going to be hard to replace ‘Spoon’s value to the linebacking corp because the Falcons were already thin there and relied on rookie linebacker Joplo Bartu from Texas State to help solidify that unit already. Now they will be scrambling to either add a veteran or will be forced to call up one of the young linebackers who didn’t make the team such as Pat Schiller. The Falcons have been hit hard by injuries already this year, but it’s not time to hit the panic button yet. However, they really need to work on establishing the run game against the Dolphins this upcoming week because running the ball 16 times for 36 yards (2.3 ypc) is embarrassing, particularly when your most effective runner (Jason Snelling) only got 2 carries and managed 19 yards and a touchdown despite the coaching staff almost deliberately trying not to give him the ball. Ryan was brilliant despite the lack of even a semblance of a running game, but expecting him to be that brilliant without a running game consistently is asking for a let down. Feed Snelling and let him take some of the heat off Ryan by getting him in more favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations. I haven’t been able to go back and rewatch the game yet, but Sam Bradford finally seems to have some weapons around him to do some damage with. Chris Givens gives him a deep threat that the Rams have been missing for years, and despite not liking him out of Boise State Austin Pettis has stuck around and remained productive despite lacking any explosiveness what so ever. The Rams, too, need to establish a running game and Daryl Richardson is the man they expect to do it. Still, he only got 10 carries and mustered 35 yards, but I still hope the Rams will give Benny Cunningham a chance to show what he can do. He is my favorite running back on the Rams roster and I really think he and Isiah Pead could do some damage splitting carries. The Rams defense is definitely talented enough to contend, it all comes down to whether Sam Bradford and the offense can take that next step this year now that he has some weapons to throw to.

Aaron Rodgers Is Still A Robot: I watched almost the entirety of the Packers-Redskins game and it honestly scared me watching Rodgers play quarterback. He had 335 yards passing at HALFTIME and finished with 480 yards, tying the passing record set by Packers legend Matt Flynn. He also threw four touchdowns while completing an insane 34 of his 42 passing attempts. His “QBR” of 80.9 is proof that ESPN’s rating system for quarterbacks is a complete joke because Rodgers was nothing short of masterful against the Redskins. On top of that the Packers also got 132 yards and a touchdown out of James Starks who was forced into action after Eddie Lacy was knocked out of the game with a concussion. RGIII on the other hand had a tougher day and started much slower than Rodgers did (though Rodgers was under pressure frequently during the first couple series). He still managed to finish the game with 320 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 26/40 passing, but only ran the ball four times for a total of one yard. The Redskins are clearly trying to limit the contact that RGIII is taking, but it’s hurting the offense’s effectiveness early on in games if you ask me. The ‘Skins are 0-2 now and RGIII and that offense will have to get things going earlier if they are going to turn things around. We’ll see when the Shanahans are comfortable turning him loose on his surgically repaired knee.

Rivers Gets Redemption, Steals Victory From Vick, Eagles: Philip Rivers bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Texans the week before by winning on a last second field goal against the Eagles this past week. Rivers completed 36/47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns, all of which went to his new favorite target Eddie Royal who now has five touchdowns in just two games. Who saw that coming? Not me. I wasn’t happy to see Malcolm Floyd sustain a neck injury when he got sandwiched by two Eagles defenders over the middle, but his injury gave Keenan Allen a chance to get on the field and he caught two of his three targets for 34 yards including a BEAUTIFUL route on a deep in for his first NFL reception. Allen was my #1 ranked wide receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft class so I am excited that he might be getting more playing time even if it is because Floyd went down with an unfortunate injury. Rivers’ performance also overshadowed a terrific game from Mike Vick who threw for a career best 428 yards on 23 of 36 passing and two touchdowns. He also added six rushes for 23 yards and another score on the ground. LeSean McCoy only got 11 carries for 53 yards but he and DeSean Jackson were lethal in the passing game as McCoy totaled 114 yards on just five receptions and Jackson reeled in nine passes good for 193 yards and a touchdown. Chip Kelly’s offense is certainly fun to watch, but I am not surprised that the Eagles’ defense is struggling to stop opposing offenses from gaining a lot of yards and putting up a lot of points. They’re giving up 30 points per game through the first two weeks and that isn’t going to cut it in a division with the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys all capable of putting up a lot of points on any given Sunday.

Texans “Nuke” Titans: For years Texans fans and NFL Draft analysts alike have been waiting and wondering when the Texans would get a legitimate wide receiver to play opposite Andre Johnson and 2013 was finally the year as the Texans added DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was my #4 ranked wide receiver in an absolutely loaded class but I am a huge fan of his and was not surprised to see him help the Texans rally despite losing Andre Johnson to a possible concussion in the 4th quarter. He finished the game with seven receptions for for 117 yards and the game winning touchdown in overtime in just his second game during his rookie season. It’s clear “Nuk” Hopkins is living up to the hype so far, and it’s great to see such a talented player blossom under the tutelage of a longtime NFL star in Andre Johnson.

Bengals, Bernard Burst Past Steelers: This wasn’t as fun of a game as I was hoping it would be largely in part because the Steelers offense is in a very bad way right now. Outside of Antonio Brown and occasionally Emmanuel Sanders there are no playmakers (Markus Wheaton has barely gotten any snaps the first two weeks) and Heath Miller was out for this game as well. Big Ben will be happy once Le’Veon Bell and Miller return because Bell should help perk up the running game even though Maurkice Pouncey will be out the entire season. Ray Lewis seemed to think that this was a devastating blow to the Steelers, and contrary to what I have read from some media members I tend to side with Ray. It’s easy to overlook how critical a center is to the offensive line sometimes, but players like Pouncey (even if he hasn’t been at his best for the last year or so) don’t come around too often. Add to that the departure of Mike Wallace and Miller’s injury and it’s not hard to see why the Steelers are struggling out of the gate this year. The defense is still strong, but they struggled to match up with the quickness of Giovani Bernard out of the backfield as well as the athleticism of Jermaine Greshman and Tyler Eifert. The Bengals continue to look like a very good team at pretty much every position except quarterback where I still have my reservations about Andy Dalton despite the fact that he is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Bengals have done well to surround him with weapons to get the most out of him that they can, but I think he plateaued after his rookie season and I don’t think he will ever take the next step from being a solid quarterback to being a good or great one. He settled down in this game and helped steer the Bengals to victory, but he was missing some throws he has to make to Eifert and AJ Green, two players with massive catch radii, that he has to make if he wants to lead the Bengals to the playoffs consistently, much less on a deep playoff run. The Bengals don’t seem to be totally convinced that Dalton is “the guy” yet either or they probably would have signed him to a contract extension, so it will be interesting to see how the season plays out, if Dalton takes the next step, and what the Bengals elect to do with him prior to him becoming a free agent.

Well, it was slightly more brief than last week. Hopefully you all enjoyed my thoughts, let me know what you think and if you agree or disagree with anything I’ve written here.

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Cotton Bowl Notes:

Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU- Jefferson had a pretty good game overall. I’m still not very impressed with him as a passer, but he had some nice throws in this game. He has good arm strength and he has good zip on his throws, but his accuracy tends to be very inconsistent. That showed at times in this game, but overall I would say he played pretty well as a passer. He still made some bad decisions throwing, but they only passed about 20 times (or called 20 pass plays, I haven’t seen the stat sheet yet) so every bad decision he makes is more significant because of the limited chances he had to make a bad throw. He did have a few nice, NFL throws though. Usually they were to Terrance Toliver, one of my favorite underrated prospects in the draft this year. Jefferson also showcased his mobility and though I knew he could pick up yards with his legs very effectively he looked really fast tonight, like in the 4.5-4.6 range. His play is usually the deciding factor in whether LSU wins or loses and his good play against Texas A&M was the main catalyst in their victory in my opinion. He did have a few bad throws though, one of which became a highlight reel interception for #5 in Texas A&M’s secondary, but there is still hope for him to develop into at least a solid passer as a senior. Will that happen? I wouldn’t bet $20 on it, but there is definitely room for progression and he looked better in this game than in the previous games I had seen of him this season.

Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU- Ridley really impressed me in this game. He looked very fast relative to his 4.55 listed 40 time, he looked explosive in and out of his cuts, he was decisive as a runner and ran hard and finished his runs which I like.  He seems to have solid vision, though I don’t think he necessarily has the speed to get the edge. He looks much better running between the tackles than he does on toss plays. A couple times on stretch plays I thought he had a cut-back lane to get North and South faster for a solid gain but instead he ran patiently behind his blockers or tried to bounce it further and got tackled for no gain or a loss. If he had cut it back then I might have thought more of his vision, but he had some nice lanes to run through in this game. I’d like to see him more involved in the passing game next year, and in blitz pick-up, but those are both things that can be developed more at the next level. Especially the pass blocking aspect. I think Ridley can be a productive NFL runner, but at this point he is probably a 4th round pick or so because he doesn’t have elite speed, he isn’t very involved in their passing game as a receiver or as a blocker, and I think he only has solid vision. There are plenty of examples of rookies or young running backs getting drafted in the middle of the draft, late in the draft or not even at all coming in and having quality careers or at least a couple big seasons. I think Ridley is a guy that people could sleep on as a draft prospect but then have that kind of a season or career because he strikes me as a quality runner.

Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU- Toliver is a guy that every time I watch I just come away impressed. Every single time. He is a skinny receiver but he is tall and is a long strider so he has deceptive deep speed but he has reliable hands and catches the ball well away from his frame which makes him Jefferson’s favorite target. In this game he definitely impressed me because when I stopped watching with about 4 minutes left in the game after Texas A&M threw the game clinching interception Toliver had 5 catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns even though LSU only threw the ball 15 or so times. And like he always seems to whenever I watch him he showed up regularly on 3rd down with those catches. I swear the majority of his catches are either touchdowns or 3rd down conversions. You can just sense they are going to throw him the ball in those situations when they really need a play and he comes through many more times than not. I think Toliver is a really underrated receiver and I’m really high on him. I’d love to see him on the Falcons, but he probably isn’t a significant upgrade over Jenkins and he isn’t a speed demon who can help stretch the field to take some pressure off of Roddy. But I hope he has a good offseason and that he doesn’t go to a Falcons division rival because I really like him as a prospect. He is going to be at the East/West Shrine game so hopefully he has a good week there. If I had to guess I would say he will.

Spencer Ware, RB, LSU- I had never seen Ware play before but he really impressed me as a runner and as a receiver. I don’t know what his measurements are yet but he ran effectively and also caught the ball pretty effectively for a running back. He has a lot of speed and even though he appears to be relatively undersized he runs really hard. On the first play that I saw him touch the ball he broke a run out, shrugged off one tackle, stiff armed another would-be tackler away from him and ran through another tackle before finally being taken down along the sideline after a huge run. I watched that play and just said “Wow…” it was that impressive of a run. He kept showing up as the game continued too, so I will definitely be doing my due diligence on him. But watch out for him because he had a really good game.

Tyrann Mathieu, FS, LSU- Mathieu was absolutely everywhere in this game. I could not believe my eyes and ears when I heard he was a TRUE freshman and saw the graphic pop up listing that he was a true freshman who was listed at only 5’9”. It blew my mind. First of all, he does look small but he runs really well and clearly has a lot of speed, both in long and short distances. He has great burst and acceleration and he looked like a seasoned veteran out there at times. He made some truly incredible plays. My two favorites occurred in each half. The one in the first half involved him blitzing off the edge against the RT. He shot off the line and the RT was in position to slow him down a bit even though he obviously had enough speed to get the edge, but Mathieu dipped his shoulder and got the edge like he was a seasoned defensive end executing a speed rush. That shoulder dip in addition to his size led him to fly right around/under the tackle’s shoulder after which he absolutely lit up Tannehill for a sack and a forced fumble. It was an absolutely terrific play. He showed up a number of other times with tackles, etc. but he saved his best play for last when he was in coverage and Texas A&M was attempting a late comeback down two touchdowns. Tannehill dropped back to pass and threw to his receiver underneath but Mathieu saw it coming. He closed on it, dove and fully extended to make a fantastic catch with his hands right in front of the intended receiver for the game clinching interception. I could barely believe my eyes, it was one of the best interceptions I have seen all year without a doubt. All I have to say is if you don’t know who this kid is you will soon. He may not be big, but he plays big and makes huge plays and he’s only a TRUE freshman. I can’t wait to see how he develops over the next two years. Watch out for him, he’s going to be a really good one.

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU- I was not particularly impressed with Peterson in this game. I didn’t see him a lot, but when I did it was because Jeff Fuller was catching a pass against him on a curl route on the sideline. Again, I didn’t pay specific attention to him in this game but almost every time I saw him Fuller was catching a pass in front of him, a number of them for first downs. So as a result I did not get a very good impression of him in this game.

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M- I have to start this paragraph off by saying that I like Tannehill infinitely more as a prospect than I liked Jerrod Johnson. Did he have his struggles in this game? Sure. But you have to remember that this is his 6th game as a starter. Johnson was making dumber decisions than he was and he was a senior with much more starting experience, hence the change. It speaks volumes about Tannehill that he was able to take over and finish the season with five wins and only one loss in his six games as a starter, including victories against Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas. I may have to watch those games just to see him play after seeing this. Texas A&M does run a pro style offense though so that will help him as a prospect and he throws a nice ball. He has good zip on his throws and I think he has a NFL arm from that aspect. He had pretty good ball placement overall, but this is just based off of watching him live so obviously I will have to go back over the game and check that out. He also has vastly better footwork on his drops and when he passes the ball than Johnson which was as refreshing as anything to see. He looked like a pro-style QB when he dropped back, it was great to see. He had some bad decisions in this game but both of his interceptions were pretty rare plays. The first one occurred on a pretty big miscommunication with #7 who ran a curl when Tannehill threw a fade or something and the corner just kept running and got a free interception. The second interception came when Texas A&M had become completely one dimensional and Tannehill threw the ball a bit behind his receiver and Mathieu capitalized on it by making a fantastic interception. As far as two interception games go those are pretty good ways to end up with turnovers from a decision making aspect. Overall I was impressed with Tannehill though. He still has developing to do and I really look forward to watching him play next year, but he has solid size, good arm strength, pretty good accuracy based off of what I saw in this game, good footwork, pretty impressive mobility and a little pocket poise. I couldn’t believe that a guy who hadn’t started all season or ever at Texas A&M could step in and lead that five game winning streak to finish the season the way they did, but I do now. He has NFL talent in my opinion, and clearly he has some pretty impressive intangibles if he was able to step in and immediately make his team better like he did. Clearly I liked what I saw, even though he may have struggled a bit statistically and his team lost, but I am very much looking forward to seeing him play and develop as a QB next year. Keep an eye on him obviously.

Cyrus Gray, RB, Texas A&M- I thought he looked good against a very good LSU defense. I am not very familiar with him or his offensive line, but he had a 100 yard rushing game even though they trailed for most of the game after the 1st quarter. He looked pretty quick, like he had solid size and pretty good leg drive as well. I didn’t pay close attention to him because I was trying to learn everything I could about Tannehill since I had never seen him play before, but overall Gray impressed me. I look forward to watching him play with Tannehill again next year, and with Fuller leaving he should be one of the key cogs in their offense.

Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M- Fuller had a pretty good game, though it wasn’t one of his best. I didn’t see how well he blocked in the running game which is something I will have to evaluate, but he caught a number of passes against Patrick Peterson which kind of surprised me. I think Peterson might have been saying he was pushing off a bit, which also wouldn’t surprise me, but I was definitely taken aback by the amount of separation Fuller was creating against someone so athletically gifted as Peterson. He had a solid game though and caught a number of first downs on curls, etc. I didn’t pay too close attention to see how well he caught the ball with his hands though, so that will be something I look into more closely when I re-watch this game and others that he played in. He has good size, probably slower than 4.5 speed if I had to estimate, and I’m not sure how much quickness/burst he has to get in and out of his breaks as a route runner, but he had a very productive year and is really effective in the red zone.

Uzoma Nwachukwu, WR, Texas A&M- Nwachukwu has an awesome name and he had a pretty solid game too. He caught a touchdown on a half-back pass and had a few other nice catches. Again, I don’t recall how well he caught the ball with his hands or whether he let it get into his pads, which is one of the easiest way to guarantee dropping passes in the NFL. He looked like he had 4.48-4.5 speed though and since he is only a junior I imagine he will be back next year looking to replace Fuller as the go-to guy on offense. I look forward to seeing how well he adjusts to that role because he had a pretty good year as the complementary guy. It is a whole different mindset being the #1 target though, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that. Tannehill should make it easier on him than Johnson did on Fuller at times.

Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M- Von Miller is a polarizing guy in my opinion. Some people love him because of his speed and quickness off the edge and because of his great production as a pass rusher. Others can’t stand him as a prospect because they think he is too small to hold up against the run, among other things. I haven’t watched enough of him to come to a conclusion on him yet but my initial impression is that I like him as a prospect. I don’t think he will be a 10-15 sack guy like he has been in college, but I think he has the potential to be a quality pass rusher in the NFL. He has impressive speed off the edge and a couple times he showed really nice quickness and burst to beat his man inside when he opened his hips too early. That was something I had never seen him do before, but that may just have been because I haven’t seen him play very much. I think he will end up going in the first round, but I thought he had a solid game based off of how much I saw him.

Coryell Judie, CB, Texas A&M- I didn’t see him much in this game, but he warrants mention for his sick one handed interception that he made in the first half off of Jordan Jefferson. It will be on Sportscenter, it was a great catch. Other than that I didn’t see much of him.

 

Sorry about the lateness of this post. I thought they might be worth looking through, especially since Ridley has decided to leave early for the draft. He could be a steal for someone in the mid-rounds…

Thanks for reading!

–Tom