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South downs punchless North

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 29, 2011 – 7:10 pm

MOBILE, Ala. - Washington quarterback Jake Locker rebounded from a dismal first half and led the North to a touchdown (Maryland running back Da’ Rel Scott’s one-yard run) that cut the South’s lead to 17-10 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

But that was it as the South ended up winning the Under Armour Senior Bowl, 24-10, on a disappointing night the North’s vaunted passing attack and offensive line didn’t show. The final score came with about three minutes left when Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, the South’s last healthy QB and te game’s MVP, threw a 24-yard bullet down the seam to TCU wide receiver Jeremy Kerley beating Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged.         

But it was Scott who was the hero of the North’s only drive. Under pressure, Locker unloaded a dump pass to the 5-10, 205-pounder over the middle and he rolled for 34 yards. Locker then tried to get the ball into the end zone to Boise State wide receiver Austin Pettis from the 22 and he got his hands on it before USC cornerback Shareece Wright was called for pass interference to set up the TD

Locker flashed his athleticism when he bolted out of the pocket for what looked to be a big gain, but the ball squirted out of his hands when he tried to make a move on Mississippi State defensive lineman Pernell McPhee and he needed a fumble recovery by tackle Jason Pinkston to keep the one TD drive  alive .

Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher made more noise than the big boys from Boise State and San Diego’s Vincent Brown with hi productive third quarter of four catches for 53 yards. The North’s Outstanding Player had to go defense and it was North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney.


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Kerrigan, Miller flashing

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 29, 2011 – 6:27 pm

MOBILE, Ala. - A gut call after the first half of Saturday’s Senior Bowl: The two best defensive players on the field were Purdue end Ryan Kerrigan for the North and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller for the South.

Miller had two tackles, one for a loss, and Kerrigan proved to be unblockable for Arkansas right tackle DeMarcus Love on back-to-back snaps. He spun through Love as well as the back chipping to help on a sack of TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.  On the next play Kerrigan ran past Love on the outside and got blatantly gabbed for a holding call.


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South sacks North

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 29, 2011 – 6:03 pm

Mobile, Ala. -  The North’s corps of left tackles was supposed to be its strong suit in Saturday’s Senior Bowl. But moments after Colorado’s Nate Solder gave up a sack to Texas defensive end Sam Acho, Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo let Arizona defensive end Books Reed speed rush by him for a sack of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stansi.

An injury in practice forced another left tackle out of the game when Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi couldn’t go. Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander stuck with putting a center with his own quarterback to prevent botched snaps. Carimi’s teammate, John Moffett, a guard who hasn’t played center in three years, was paired with Locker while Stansi got Toledo’s Kevin Kowalski.

Kowalski suffered a false start following a holding call, giving Stansi a first-and-25, which turned into a second-and-25 and the North’s only big play of a half the South built a 17-0 lead . Stansi scrambled and on the run hit Lance Kendricks and the Wisconsin tight end picked up the first down when he made a South defender miss a the sticks for a 27-yard gain.

It was a brutal first half for the North quarterbacks, a trio that supposed to carry the day. Stansi was just three of six for 31 yards and when Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick came in late in the first half, he ended up just taking one snap because he threw an interception. The 6-4 Kaepernick is a top-shelf athlete trying to show the scouts he can also be accurate.

It didn’t happen on that pass. He ran up in the pocket, stopped and threw a high ball that Nebraska tight end Mike McNeil could have had but tipped in the air to Mississippi State linebacker K.J. Wright.


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Locker struggles early

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 29, 2011 – 5:18 pm

MOBILE, Ala. - Washington quarterback Jake Locker was supposed to answer all the big questions here in Saturday’s Senior Bowl and all he did was generate more questions in the North’s first two horrid series  of the game that were there and please get out here at Ladd Peebles Stadium as the South rose again with a 17-0 lead with 4:05 left in the first half.  

On the first series on second-and long, Locker missed Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks over the middle and on the second series on third-and-long he threw over the middle to Boise State wide receiver Titus Young on a ball Young could have had but couldn’t haul down. Locker gave way to Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi after completing one of three passes for two yards.

The third-and-long got set up by an eye-opening play on second down when Texas defensive end Sam Acho sacked Locker and forced a fumble. Acho beat Colorado left tackle Nate Solder with an inside move the 6-9 Solder isn’t supposed to give up as a potential top ten pick.


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New Cincy Chilly?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 21, 2011 – 8:12 pm

It’s unclear if Marvin Lewis has or plans to offer Brad Childress the Bengals offensive coordinator job, but he figures to be pursued by another team in the AFC North.

Would the Browns, coached by a familiar face in Pat Shurmur, be a more comfortable fit for Childress in Cleveland even though Shurmur would be calling the plays? Childress, no doubt, would be calling the plays here, something he’s only done one year in his 12 NFL seasons. While the terrain looks to be uncertain in Cincinnati after a brutal season, Shurmur is working on multiple years and a fresh start in Cleveland. He worked (and worked out) with Childress for seven seasons in the Philadelphia offense.

But wouldn’t Childress, a guy that has run the quarterback gamut from Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre to Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson, prefer to coach Carson Palmer rather than Colt McCoy?

Maybe.

But Lewis is facing a dilemma, too.  How much of the offense does he want to blow up with the possibility of a curtailed preseason looming with the lockout?

It certainly doesn’t seem to bother some teams. Houston and St. Louis, clubs that barely missed the playoffs, are starting over on defense and offense, respectively. Seattle, which even won a playoff game, hired a new offensive coordinator. The Browns not only have a new head coach, but are expected to change from a 3-4 to a 4-3 with the hire of Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator.

But one reason to keep things fairly similar in Cincinnati is the youth of the receivers: Jordan Shipley, Jerome Simpson and tight end Jermaine Gresham. And it appears that Simpson is just getting settled with the system, so how far do the Bengals step back if there’s a big change?

Yet it almost sounds like Lewis is talking more about approach than actual scheme. In his Thursday interview, it sounded like he doesn’t want 100 plays when 20 done the correct way will do.

Tough call for Lewis. But it sure sounds like he wants to make a change, doesn’t it?

The cons against Childress are his one year of playcalling and that Favre allegedly didn’t respect his football knowledge.

The pros are that he’s gotten a lot out of a lot of different quarterbacks and has a great pedigree in Andy Reid. I mean, the man went 10-6 in 2008 and the Vikes finished 12th in the NFL in scoring with Gus Frerotte making 11 starts and Jackson five.

And, he stood up to Randy Moss, which has to appeal to an offense looking to rid itself of diva receivers. Childress cut Moss last season after he cursed out the caterers feeding the Vikes a Friday lunch. That’s a point that Lewis won’t miss because during the season he rotates a couple of local caterers after Friday’s short morning practice, and is always mindful of how his players treat visitors.


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More blitz, less glitz please

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 17, 2011 – 4:35 pm

It’s going to be hard writing this without sounding like an old guy that mows the lawn in black socks and shorts, but here it goes with a few thoughts off this past weekend.

WHEN ARE THE OSCARS?

The NFL playoffs and the Golden Globes were both this weekend and who could tell the difference?

Celebrity gossip. Outrageous quotes. Comedy routines from the podium. The famous interviewing the famous. Red-carpet glitz and endorsement riches. Hollywood has always been closing in on pro sports ever since the days of Babe Ruth, but with the Jets playing the Steelers in Sunday’s AFC title game the NFL is now officially Hollyball.

How else can you classify a game between Rex Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger? We don’t need another week of back-page guffaws to realize that these two guys haven’t exactly worn the cloak of celebrity with grace. Between Ryan’s WWF pronouncements and Roethlisberger’s public boorishness, it’s hard to see where Lindsey Lohan ends and a league that once gave you icons like Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Gale Sayers and so on, begins.

And do we care that much if Jay Cutler is likeable? Remember when they judged quarterbacks on resiliency instead of likeability?

THE NIELSENS SCHMIELSENS?

Sure, you can put a lot of the onus on Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco for the way this thing has careened into Hollywood, although for a long time The Ocho was just plain unscripted fun and a breath of fresh air before he went Madison Avenue a few years ago. But let’s not get into a semester syllabus about the root causes of it all.

It’s more interesting to see where the co-stars of the T.Ocho Show are going to end up after a weekend of AFC playoff games it was damn hard to find a wide receiver that could consistently get separation. All the tea leaves point to Owens and The Ocho not coming back to the Bengals and with Baltimore and New England desperate on the outside at receiver, it’s going to be interesting to see how much the highly-regarded Bill Belichick and Ozzie Newsome think of them.

 COACHING CONTROVERSY…IN BALTIMORE

A struggle for points. The quarterback struggling. The fans calling for the heads of assistant coaches.

This is what’s coming out of Baltimore, where they haven’t had a potent passing game, it seems, since Unitas. At the very least, since Bert Jones. And you could hear the roar of disapproval when Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is coming back.

When Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was rehired two weeks ago, he made no such pronouncements about anyone on his staff and it appears that he is still evaluating. The only announcement the Bengals usually make on their coaches is when the staff is finalized. With the current staff leaving to coach the Under Armour Senior Bowl Sunday, that announcement may still be a few weeks in the making.

The Baltimore situation is telling, isn’t it? They won 12 games and life still isn’t good. There is never pure happiness in 31 NFL cities. The assistants know that when they sign up, but it still doesn’t make the criticism easier to take.

TACKLING ADVERSITY

When you talk about the Steelers’ resiliency Saturday in overcoming two first-half turnovers against Baltimore, you also have to include how they responded when they lost both offensive tackles at various points in the second half. Not one, but both, and while it looked ugly most of the time in letting Roethlisberger get sacked six times, it was good enough.

The Steelers and Ravens were two of the five Final 8 teams that had more games lost to injured starters than the Bengals. According to Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News, the Bengals lost 39 games while the Steelers missed 51 and the Ravens 45. Green Bay had the most of the 8 with 91 and the Pats were second with 62.


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Harris contract voided

Posted by bengalsweb on January 11, 2011 – 12:39 pm

Harris

Safety Cary Harris, signed to the Bengals offseason roster on Jan. 3, has become a free agent. Harris’s contract was voided by the NFL for procedural reasons, and the Bengals are not pursuing a re-signing at this time. A second-year NFL player, Harris was signed to the Bengals practice squad for the last three games of 2010.


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Next five items on list

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 5, 2011 – 7:58 pm

Our next five issues facing the Bengals after Tuesday’s re-signing of head coach Marvin Lewis:

1. FIGURE OUT THE COACHING STAFF: Even though the Bengals are the favorite to coach the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl that begins its practices Jan. 23, they don’t have to make changes to the coaching staff by then. With Lewis hinting at changes, he may need time to see some dominos fall in the next few weeks, so lightning probably isn’t going to strike within days on that front. Given that it’s all-star-game-playbook-101 stuff in Mobile, the thinking is you wouldn’t need a full staff to function.

But there has been enough thunder in the form of a low rumble in the Bengals locker room to make you think they are taking a close look at the offense after quarterback Carson Palmer threw a franchise-record 586 passes in 2010.

Certainly running back Cedric Benson has made it clear all season he’s not coming back if that philosophy does. On Monday he declared of the running attack in the last three games, “We found ourselves doing the things that made us successful a year ago. It’s clear obviously that’s the identity of this team and it’s important that this team grows in that fashion. We were able to find some success here and I think we can find a lot more.”

And Benson isn’t the only player talking up the running game like that. The Bengals said they are going to look at everything, from scheme to personnel to coaching, and it starts this week when Lewis meets with his coaches.

It’s a bit ironic that offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski’s name is drawing public heat. When Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau hired Bratkowski in 2001, he interviewed him at the Senior Bowl when he was working the game as the Steelers receivers coach.

2. TV SCHEDULE CHANGE?:  The Bengals are sending out mixed signals on wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, so are they are going to cancel his decade-long reality TV now and go with the Sesame Street young receivers?

There is a school of thought out there that believes the Bengals already exercised the team option on The Ocho and he’s under contract for ’11. That would mean there would be no timetable for a decision and if anybody is looking to get him they may have to trade for him. Plus, the Bengals are going to make sure all their ducks are healthy, lined up, and ready to go if he’s not coming back. So that may linger awhile.

3. JOHNATHAN JOSEPH DERBY: One starting cornerback, Johnathan Joseph, is a free agent. The third corner, Adam Jones, is coming off a herniated neck disk. (The brace comes off in two weeks.) The fourth corner, Morgan Trent, went to injured reserve with a recurring knee problem.

So what do you want to take with that fourth pick? If you said “Corner,” that might not be a bad way to go. Don’t say “wide receiver.” Not that high. Ten years ago the Bengals had the fourth pick in the draft and needed a wide receiver just as badly. They still went D-end (Justin Smith) and ended up getting their all-time receiver in the second round at No. 36 in The Ocho.

Look at the NFL’s top four receiving yardage leaders this season The champ, Brandon Lloyd, is a fourth-rounder. Runner-up Roddy White went late first round (27th). No. 3 Reggie Wayne also went late first (30th) and cleanup hitter Greg Jennings went in the second round.

The Bengals need one. But not at No. 4.

Corner or another pass rusher. Two spots you can truly never have enough.

4. THE ANDRE  FACTOR: No one knows how Andre Smith’s foot is going to be after its second surgery and no one knows what kind of shape he’ll be in. But they do know that third-year player Anthony Collins played well at right tackle once they got him in the lineup in December at the end of the year. Hey, if you’re a tackle and your club doesn’t allow a sack on 45 passes against Baltimore, you must be pretty good.

Good enough that they may be looking to move Smith to guard, where they have concerns. Bobbie Williams turns 35 early next season, Nate Livings is a gutty and smart but limited mauler who struggled at times, and Evan Mathis is a free agent.

One of the things that came up in the Tuesday news conference is that Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown want to make a bigger effort to get younger players on the field sooner if they are worthy, a la Jerome Simpson and Bernard Scott. Smith may fit in that category. He better be one of your top five lineman as a top 10 draft pick, and if you’re already getting solid play from your tackles, a 350-pound guard athletic enough to be a tackle would interesting.

5. FISHER-PRICE POCKET SCHEDULE: Get the copyright from linebacker Brandon Johnson and start pumping out some Fisher-Price billboards on the side of 471, 275, 75, 71, not to mention, 96 and 97.  The last two numbers are the numbers of Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Dunlap led AFC rookies in sacks and Atkins was second among AFC rookie defensive tackles. The “Fisher-Price Package” is Johnson’s name for the young defensive players that include right end Michael Johnson and linebacker Rey Maualuga, heading into their third seasons.

But throw in tight end Jermaine Gresham and slot receiver Jordan Shipley, who tied for the AFC rookie receptions lead, and running back Bernard Scott, heading into his third season, and you could have a nice playground shot of the kids sprawled around the equipment.

Call it something like “No Kidding Around in 2011,” or something like that.

Just a rough sketch. Get your people with my people and let them have at it.


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Free agent look

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on January 2, 2011 – 9:58 am

A count of 11 starters, sometime starters and regulars are set to become free agents after Sunday’s game. That is, when the collective bargaining agreement gets settled.

NOTE: We apologize. We mistakenly had right guard Bobbie Williams and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker on the list. They are under contract for 2011. A brief look:

CB Johnathan Joseph, turns 27 on April 16; 57 starts since 2006:  Has formed one of the top cornerback tandems the past two years with Leon Hall. No question about his athleticism, but only two of his five seasons have been injury free. He’s looking at somewhere between $8 to $10 million. Will they pay that to a guy who has missed 13 games with Hall, who has never missed a game, up next year?

RB Cedric Benson, turned 28 on Dec. 28; 38 starts since 2008:  Has gained more yards in his first 40 Bengals games than Corey Dillon and Rudi Johnson. His durability, toughness and passion are unquestioned. He’s missed just two games because of injury and the Bengals are 11-1 when he carries at least 24 times. Concerns are his seven fumbles this season and that he has just two runs this year of at least 22 yards.

TE Reggie Kelly, turns 34 on Feb. 22; 99 starts since 2003: Another great-leader type and locker-room rock. The concerns are his age and the lingering impact of his torn Achilles. The torch appears to have been passed to Jermaine Gresham.

MLB Dhani Jones, turns 33 on Feb. 22; 56 starts since 2007: About to win his third straight team tackling title. Coaches have relied heavily on his experience and smarts to be a coach on the field that makes calls and gets guys in the right spots.  There are the age concerns and his trouble in pass coverage this season. Rey Maualuga has been groomed, but is he ready?    

WR Terrell Owens, turned 37 on Dec. 7; 11 starts in 2010: Could have been named the club MVP after leading the team with 72 catches and nine touchdowns. But it looks and sounds like they’re going younger and less dramatic at receiver.

S Roy Williams, turns 31 on Aug. 14; 14 starts since 2009:  After being hurt most of last season, he’s been reliable and active this season, but they may have to look to get younger at a safety spot in which they came up with just two forced fumbles this year.

S Chinedum Ndukwe, turns 26 on March 4; 31 starts since 2007:  Physical presence who took some heat this year when the Bengals gave up a spate of big plays. Regular special teams contributor. He’s young, knows the scheme and seemed to have won over Mike Zimmer until the big plays.

WLB Brandon Johnson, turns 29 on April 5; 15 starts since 2008: Incumbent special teams captain who was their most productive backer in ’09 and continues to add spice to the third-down package with versatile skills in coverage.

DL Jon Fanene, turns 29 on March 19; 15 starts since 2005: Only played two games this year because of a hamstring problem just as he seemed to be coming into his own. Had a career-high six sacks last season both at tackle and end. His versatility makes him a valuable guy on third down and coming off the bench.

RB Brian Leonard, turns 27 Feb. 3; one start since 2009: Solid third-down guy who has made a slew of big plays since coming over in May, 2009 trade. Reliable and steady, he turned out to be a steal in their first player-for-player deal in 19 years.

G Evan Mathis, turns 29 March 16; seven starts since 2008: Rotated much of last season at left guard and it’s been a surprise he hasn’t played more this year, when he hasn’t had a start. Seen as reliable and smart and during his career has played or practiced at all the line spots.


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