Film Room: Rashad Johnson Saves The Day

Four players analyze the final play of the Eagles game
After John Brown’s 75-yard touchdown reception with 1:21 remaining on Sunday, the Eagles got the ball back needing a touchdown for the win. They drove to the Cardinals’ 16-
yard-line and took three shots to the end zone. The final one was a pass to wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught the ball but was shoved out of bounds by safety Rashad
Johnson as time expired. Johnson, defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Tyrann Mathieu and cornerback Antonio Cromartie broke down the play for Cardinals Film Room.

JOHNSON-1The situation: The Eagles faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Cardinals’ 16 with one second remaining in the fourth quarter, trailing 24-20.
The Cardinals went with man coverage and sent seven after quarterback Nick Foles, so Campbell knew they had to get there in a hurry: “They had so many yards to go, so the biggest thing was to get the ball out of his hands quick so they really couldn’t get their routes to the end zone.”

Cromartie sees a familiar look: “Most of the time they lined up in this formation we knew exactly what we were going to get, but they made a little change-up. Instead of running the double post, they ran the post with a seven route (sending Matthews to the corner).”

Johnson moves up into press coverage to stunt the timing of the routes: “Normally when we’re in zero coverage and they come and give us a bunch look like this, the guy that has the (receiver) on the point has to come and press to clear everything up for these two guys behind. If it was longer than 16 yards I probably would have played off.”

Several Cardinals bust through the line and zero in on Foles. Campbell: “The guy’s open, but he had to drift and throw off his back foot. The way he threw the ball gave us time for recovery. I know Rashad made a heck of a play at the end of the game, but a lot of that was because he had to get rid of the ball quick.”

The play-call put all four defensive backs in one-on-one matchups, and Johnson liked the aggressiveness: “Last play of the game, you play to win. Let’s go get ‘em. That’s what we do. We’re not going to give him enough time to think about what he wants to do. We’re going to force him to make a play under pressure and see if he can get it done.”

Mathieu wasn’t so sure about the decision: “I’m thinking, ‘Why are we in man coverage?’ Initially we were saying, ‘Let’s tell coach Bowles to put six (defenders) in the end zone. You can rush the rest, but let’s protect the end zone.’ But he doesn’t coach like that. He’s going to make us earn our money. There was no getting out of this call.”
Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper runs into Mathieu in the end zone: “I definitely believe it was a deep pick route because he didn’t try to avoid me. He kind of ran straight into me. They needed to get somebody wide open, and we’d pretty much been contesting the balls pretty good that day. Even on the Jerraud (Powers) touchdown (a 54-yard scoring reception by Jeremy Maclin) it went right through his hands. We were defending pretty well and I think they had to create some space on that play.”

Cromartie, who was guarding Cooper, senses trouble as Matthews runs free: “I had no idea (Johnson was in the area), to be honest with you. I was like, ‘Oh, man, we just collided.’”

Johnson makes a crucial adjustment: “Right at the point when I looked back at the quarterback, I saw his shoulders and I saw the angle of the ball was higher than my guy (tight end Zach Ertz). I turned and broke on it. I saw Jordan in the back of the end zone.”
Mathieu thought he might draw an offensive pass interference call, but no flag was thrown: “It’s kind of a bang-bang play. Last play of the game, they don’t want to take anything from either team. I think the refs just let us play.”

Johnson processes his best plan of action: “My initial thought was that I could run, get under it and probably intercept it. But I didn’t want to take any chances. I felt how close I was to the sideline, and I knew if he caught it I could get a good shove on him to where he was all the way out and couldn’t get two feet down.”

Campbell said it was a smart decision by Johnson: “There’s no such thing as a force-out anymore. It used to be, but they changed that rule, so it was one of those things where I was hoping, ‘Force him out. Sweep his legs. Don’t let him get his feet down. Whatever it takes. If you’ve got to grab him and sling him, just push him out.’ That’s what makes Rashad Johnson a great player. He understands the rules of the game and what it takes to win.”

Tomlin not interested in labeling WRs

Right now, the Steelers have six WRs capable of contributing to the team in different ways
Not long after free agency began last March, it was apparent the Steelers would be facing turnover at the wide receiver position. With Emmanuel Sanders leaving for Denver and Jerricho Cotchery getting starter’s money from Carolina, the Steelers’ reality was they would be having to replace two of their top three wide receivers from 2013.

Bryant01_vs_Texans_10202014During free agency, the Steelers added Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, and then they spent a fourth-round pick in the draft on Martavis Bryant from Clemson. Those three newcomers would join first-year pro Justin Brown and 2013’s No. 3 pick Markus Wheaton on a unit headed by two-time Pro Bowl selection Antonio Brown.

Through seven games of this regular season, the Steelers for now are finished re-making their unit of wide receivers, but that doesn’t mean everything is settled. For all intents and purposes, Antonio Brown and Wheaton are the starters, even though there has been one game when a specific package the Steelers used to begin one game didn’t include Wheaton.

The No. 3 receiver at the start of the season was Justin Brown, but it’s been Moore the past couple of weeks. Heyward-Bey has seen more playing time recently, and Bryant was active for his first NFL game on Monday night against the Texans.

Coach Mike Tomlin said he likes the way the different members of the unit have been finding ways to contribute, but he isn’t necessarily interested in putting labels on each player’s role.

“I like what transpired in the stadium,” said Tomlin. “Basically when called upon, a lot of different guys delivered. Maybe there’s not a second, third, or fourth (wide receiver) per se, but situationally, or by package, or by concept, we’ll just continue to work that division of labor and continue to put those guys in a position to do what they do best, geared toward having balance within the group. And (we’ll be) leaning on the physical strengths of all the men.”

Antonio Brown currently leads all NFL wide receivers with 50 catches (running back Matt Forte has 52), and Wheaton is second among wide receivers on the team with 24. Justin Brown has 12 catches, Heyward-Bey and Bryant have two apiece.

Bryant’s two catches both came against the Texans, the first of which was a 35-yard touchdown that cut Houston’s lead to 13-10 late in the second quarter. Fans have been itching to see Bryant on the field because he’s 6-foot-4 and the tallest receiver on the team, but Tomlin was matter-of-fact about what the rookie contributed in his first outing.

“I am not going to try to make more out of it than what it is,” said Tomlin about Bryant after the game. “He made a great play, a necessary play. It is a play that he is capable of making. It’s a play that we watch him consistently make on the practice field. He is still working to round out his game like a lot of young guys are, but that was a significant contribution to our efforts.”

The expectation all along has been that Bryant is capable of making contributions to the Steelers’ efforts in the red zone, an area where the team’s offense ranked 31st in the NFL heading into Monday night’s game. Against the Texans, the Steelers converted 2-of-3, but Bryant wasn’t involved in either of those.

Antonio Brown was involved, but as a passer instead of a receiver, when he fired the ball to Moore in the end zone off a reverse.

“The idea (there) was to score,” said Tomlin about the play selection. “Antonio has proven to be a guy who’s capable of delivering plays for us, whether it’s running the ball or throwing the ball. That’s definitely not the first ball he’s thrown since he’s been here. You just want to put the ball in playmakers’ hands, and he is that.”

On another matter, Tomlin addressed his view of the 30-yard catch by Antonio Brown in the fourth quarter that first was ruled a touchdown and then overturned on replay:

“I thought it was an extremely close play, and usually when the play is that close they stay with the call on the field. It’s tough to argue with the call on the field, regardless of what it is. They ruled it a touchdown on the field, so I was of the impression that it was going to remain that. It didn’t. Thankfully we were able to move forward and secure victory.”

TOMLIN’S INJURY UPDATE
“As we talked about last night (after the game), Marcus Gilbert sustained a concussion. He’ll go through the normal protocol, and we’ll see where that takes us over the course of the week. A lot of bumps and bruises in the game, but guys were able to return and so forth. Maybe those guys will be limited at the early portions of the week, but I don’t anticipate anybody missing time because of what happened in the stadium last night, except of course Marcus Gilbert. We have several guys working their way back and they worked in some capacity last week. I would imagine they have a pretty good chance of playing this week – talking about Shamarko Thomas and Ryan Shazier. Both worked in a limited capacity last week, and at the 11th hour we decided to use some other people. We’ll give those guys a chance and see where they are this week, but we expect both guys to be extremely close and potentially be available to us.”

Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown carry load in Steelers’ win

In a whirlwind three-minute stretch just before halftime, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned a 13-0 deficit into an 11-point lead and held onto to beat the Houston Texans, 30-23, on Monday night. Our takeways:

0ap30000004146181. The Texans were in complete control when Ben Roethlisberger dropped a 35-yard bomb into rookie Martavis Bryant’s hands in the back of the end zone with 1:36 left in the second quarter. After Arian Foster lost a fumble at the 3-yard line, Antonio Brown hit Lance Moore on a trick play for a touchdown. Just seconds later, defensive end Brett Keisel tipped a pass and intercepted it, leading to a two-yard touchdown reception for Le’Veon Bell. The Texans’ offense ran one play for each of the Steelers’ trio of touchdowns in that 73-second span. It took the Patriots 21 fewer seconds to score 21 points against the Jets in the infamous “butt fumble” game of 2012.

2. Active for the first time this season, Bryant ate into Markus Wheaton’s production and snaps at wide receiver. Roethlisberger took three “shot” plays down the field to Bryant, and the fourth-round size-speed prospect also replaced Wheaton in the red zone. The Steelers are unsettled behind All-Pro-caliber, go-to receiver Brown, with Bryant, Wheaton, Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey all seeing targets. They need at least one of those receivers to step up as a reliable third option in the aerial attack. Bell and Brown are shouldering too much of the load.

3. Bell joined DeMarco Murray as the only running backs with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this season. Third in rushing with 599 yards, Bell is also in the discussion with Matt Forte, Andre Ellington and Darren Sproles as the best receiving back in the game. The Steelers have no qualms about lining him up out wide or in the slot for a matchup advantage.

4. The majority of Arian Foster’s 102 rushing yards came in the first quarter, with Steelers linebackers continually whiffing on tackles. With the exception of a late-game receiving touchdown, he was shut down thereafter. Recapturing early-career form this season, Foster is second only to Murray with 615 rushing yards despite missing a game with a hamstring injury.

5. Just four seasons into his career, J.J. Watt broke DeMeco Ryans’ franchise record for most recovered fumbles (nine). He dominated the first 25 minutes of the game, with a sack, the fumble recovery and a pair of quarterback hits before the Steelers found a way to contain him in the second half.

6. Antonio Brown had a 16-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown reversed on replay. From our vantage point, there was no conclusive evidence that it was not a catch. Brown extended to 23 his NFL-record consecutive games with at least five catches and 50 yards.

7. The Steelers desperately need young linebackers Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones back from injuries. Fitzpatrick had too much time to throw with no pass rush out of Dick LeBeau’s defense.

8. Mike Tomlin opted for the failed hard-count trick followed by a delay-of-game penalty and a punt at the Texans’ 41-yard line on 4th-and-inches early in the third quarter. Stop doing this, football coaches. The odds of the defense stopping your offense on the doorstep of field-goal range are much lower than the odds of the other team regaining those 20 to 35 yards of field position in short order.

9. As underwhelming as the Steelers have been over the past month, only five AFC teams have a better record.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 7 game, and breaks down Peyton Manning’s record-breaking night. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

Chuck Pagano On Defense: “That Monster Is Starting To Rear Its Head A Little Bit”

Intro: The entire Colts defense went home with game balls on Sunday thanks to the first shutout the team has had since 2008. What did Chuck Pagano think of one of the most impressive defensive performances in Colts history?

temp2014_1019_CIN_2306--nfl_mezz_1280_1024INDIANAPOLIS – Over 500 games will be played in the NFL this season and if history is any indicator, less than 10 of those contests will end with one team having a goose egg on the scoreboard.

Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium wasn’t supposed to be one of those games.

Not with two of the NFL’s best offenses facing off in a matchup that had January type hype around an October afternoon game.

But this isn’t your typical Colts defense.

This is a unit that has taken some time to build under Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano, but now is beginning to look like the monster those two had in mind back in 2012.

“We’re just starting to get a glimpse of what we envisioned when we got together a couple years ago,” Pagano, fresh off of giving the entire defense a game ball, said after the Colts fifth straight victory.

“Looks like that monster is starting to rear its head a little bit. We just have to stay humble, keep working and get better.”
Ask around the Colts locker room and veteran defenders couldn’t recall the last time they were even part of a shutout.

The “no fly zone” controllers of Vontae Davis and Greg Toler with 121 games of NFL experience? “No idea.”

How about 11-year veteran Mike Adams? “Maybe Pop Warner.”

And you Cory Redding, a man with 167 games of NFL experience? “Maybe back in Detroit (2003-2007).” No not even there, Cory.

But this is what Redding had in mind when he sat down with Pagano during the 2012 offseason.

The new head coach wanted the defensive mantra the two were a part of in Baltimore to be a staple of Colts teams.

“It’s something Chuck dreamed about when he first got here,” Redding, who recorded his third sack of the season, said after the shutout. “This is the kind of defense we are used to playing, in this system. These guys, they all bought in from day one, what a way to go out there and put a statement in the AFC.”

“It’s a new era, man. It’s a new era.”

That era was on full display on Sunday against a Bengals offense that came into Week Seven, second in the NFL in averaging 6.34 yards per play.

The Colts held them to 2.5 yards per play on Sunday, just eight first downs and put together another outstanding performance on third-down in allowing just a single conversion in 13 attempts.

Indianapolis got to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton three times in 38 pass attempts, after he had been sacked just twice in 151 attempts this season.

Giovnai Bernard, the electric Bengals running back, was held to 16 total yards on nine touches.

Only one of the Bengals 14 drives lasted more than 1:46 and Cincinnati didn’t cross midfield until the fourth quarter.
The Indianapolis defense has now allowed just four third-down conversions in 41 attempts over the last four weeks.

“We’ve got good players out there who are staying healthy, knock on wood. You got some corners that can play, cover and take guys away. The safety play has been good. They’re playing good at all three levels,” the defensive-minded Pagano said after the 27-0 win.

“We can play better. I know we can, and we will. They’re bound and determined to be. We’ve always envisioned us to be a top-five, if not a top defense in the league. We’ve just got to keep working.”

As Andrew Luck began his postgame presser on Sunday afternoon, many media members cleared out and headed to the open locker room.

It was no disrespect to Luck, who threw for his franchise-best fifth straight 300-yard game on Sunday, but defenders were waiting in that locker room and they were the stars of the afternoon.

“I’ve always thought it’s the greatest team game in the world because you rely on different phases of the game,” Luck said after the win.

“I’m just like a fan watching the game. I may as well be a fan when our defense is out there. I’m not sure what the calls are and everything, but they do a heck of a job and they certainly gave us a great lift today. Glad they got that shutout.”

Cleveland Browns lineup changes and injury report

Who is playing, and who is not against the Jaguars
Cleveland Browns lineup changes and injury report

576_pettine_steelersOn Friday, the Cleveland Browns officially placed Alex Mack on the injured reserve list. The Pro Bowl center had successful surgery in North Carolina and is expected to make a full recovery in time for the beginning of the 2015 season. Offensive lineman Ryan Seymour has been added to the active roster in Mack’s place.
John Greco will get the start at center, meaning Paul McQuistan gets the nod at right guard. Vinston Painter is now the next man up off the bench in case of other injuries. Painter can play guard and tackle.
Tashaun Gipson (thigh bruise) is listed as questionable but he told reporters in the locker room he expects to play. As we noted yesterday, if Gipson is unable to go, both Jordan Poyer and Jim Leonhard would share the free safety spot.
Ahtyba Rubin is also listed as questionable. The beefy 330-pounder missed last week’s game against the Steelers but Ishmaa’ily Kitchen filled in admirably (six tackles). The Browns still feel peachy about their depth on the defensive line.
Rookie cornerback K’Waun Williams (concussion) and defensive lineman Billy Winn have been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Williams has been playing at an extremely high level the past two weeks but was knocked to the turf by accident from teammate Tashaun Gipson in the third quarter last week. This is the second straight game Winn has missed.
For the Jaguars, starting running back Toby Gerhart has been ruled out with a foot injury. He may only have 48 carries for 148 yards rushing on the season, but Gerhart’s a workhorse and was the starter for Jacksonville.

Justin Gilbert has a strong week of practice

Because of the Williams injury we specified earlier in the story, Justin Gilbert is going to see some significant playing time against the Jaguars. In nickel situations, Gilbert will line up as the outside cornerback while Buster Skrine will line up on the inside.
All indications are that Gilbert has been bringing the heat in practice, and coach Mike Pettine is optimistic his raised awareness will transfer on the field.
“He’s had a good week. We’ll see. It’s got to show up,” said Pettine. “When you practice well, you hope that it carries over. You want guys to get in those habits of practicing well and having it pay off on game day. He’s got a good bounce in his step, and it looks like he’s ready to go.”
“There’s been a couple of plays I could’ve made on the ball, where I didn’t get my hand around, or I didn’t finish on the play,” said Gilbert, critiquing his season so far. “I’m getting better. I just have to show it.”

John Hughes ready for his expanded role

When Tuesday’s depth chart was released, John Hughes had a little smile on his face. With injuries to Phil Taylor and Armonty Bryant, the third-year pro from Cincinnati is now listed as the Browns starting left defensive end.
“I just love getting out there and playing,” said Hughes. “When I can contribute to the team, and help win, that’s really all I want.”
Hughes did contribute in a big way against the Steelers. His deflection on a third quarter Ben Roethlisberger pass ended up in the outstretched arms of Buster Skrine, and it was the final nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh.
Hughes says this game against Jacksonville is much tougher than you would think. Under rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jaguars offense is still trying to find their identity, which means nothing is really off the table.
Johnny Manziel patiently waiting his turn and learning a ton

Manziel had his customary Friday meeting with the media in the locker room. At the quarterback position, it’s virtually impossible in the NFL for players to share snaps. For other positions, there’s ways to get rookies in periodically. Manziel doesn’t mind watching and learning, and he knows better than anyone: Brian Hoyer is one play away from an injury at any time.
“For me, my approach is I need to be ready,” said Manziel. “I’m continuing to get better every day. My strategy, my mindset really hasn’t changed much throughout this year – stay on top of my stuff and make sure I’m ready, because you never really know. It’s a whacky league. You never know when you could be thrust in there.”
The next two weeks the Browns are slated to face rookie quarterbacks Bortles and Derek Carr of the Raiders. Manziel was asked if it’s painful to watch members of the 2014 draft class start while he watches from the sidelines.
“I’m happy for those guys,” said Manziel. “There obviously getting a chance to come in early and contribute to their teams and that’s the situation there in. That could’ve been my situation here; so far that’s not the case. I know coach Pettine is always talking about the “next-man-up” and we’ve had a lot of that going on in other positions. That counts for my position, as well.”
Manziel said he’s been soaking in how Brian Hoyer goes through his daily routine and how he works his tail off in practice.
“He’s playing very, very well and he does everything the right way,” Manziel said. “For me getting a chance to sit back and watch this – for however long it may be – I think it’s beneficial for me.”

Cowboys’ dangerous run game will test Giants’ defense

The Cowboys lead the NFL in rushing with 160.3 yards per game
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – One week ago, the Giants’ run defense was ranked 10th in the NFL and the players responsible were justifiably proud of their success in bottling up opposing running backs.
Tony RomoBut with one poor performance, the Giants are now ranked 18th in the league in run defense. Last Sunday in Philadelphia, they surrendered 203 yards on the ground in their 27-0 loss to the Eagles. LeSean McCoy became the first opposing back to crack the 100-yard barrier against the Giants this season and he did so resoundingly, with 149 yards. Before facing Philadelphia, the Giants’ had allowed 99.0 rushing yards a game. That average jumped to 116.3 after the trip to Philly.

>> 7 TAKEAWAYS FROM GIANTS MEDIA HOUR

Those players who so recently were pleased with their play are now angry and annoyed. And they are determined to again be the stingy unit they were before last week.

They picked a tough week to follow through on their vow. The Giants’ Week 7 opponent in AT&T Stadium is the Dallas Cowboys, who lead the NFL in rushing with 160.3 yards a game. DeMarco Murray’s 785 yards are 243 more than the league’s No. 2 rusher, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell. Murray has rushed for more than 100 yards in all six games this season. He has 54 more rushing attempts than anyone else and his six rushing touchdowns also lead the NFL.

But while it seems this is a bad time for the Giants to try stopping the league’s top rushing attack, the players are eager to accept the challenge.

“If you want to be the best, you have to do it against the best,” defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. “They’re clearly the best running team in the NFL now. If we want to be the best defense and the best run defense, we have to be able to step up to the plate against a good running team.”

“You always look forward to going up against the best,” linebacker Jameel McClain said. “More importantly, I look forward to us putting something better on film than what we put on last week. We get an opportunity to go up against the best, and that’s an opportunity that we all need to take that chance to prove what we can do.”

>> READ COWBOYS SCOUTING REPORT

The Giants have an impressive recent record against the league’s best running backs. In 2013, they faced each of the league’s top eight rushers – two of them twice – and only one of them ran for more than 100 yards (San Diego’s Ryan Mathews with 103 yards). One of those backs was McCoy. Although he led the NFL with 1,607 yards, in two games against the Giants, he managed just 48 and 46 yards, respectively, while averaging 2.8 yards a carry. Last Sunday, he exceeded that total on the Eagles’ second possession and finished the game with a 6.8-yard average.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was asked today whether that was due to McCoy’s skill or the defense not playing well enough.

“I think it was his greatness, and I think it was a little bit of both,” Fewell said. “Some of the things we didn’t do. We didn’t fit some of the runs properly. We didn’t leverage the ball. We didn’t apply some principles that we went into the game saying we were going to apply. Then he made some good runs.”

Murray has faced the Giants four times and totaled 328 rushing yards, but has yet to score. In the team’s two meetings last season he twice ran for 86 yards, the first time on 20 carries, the second on 14.

>> READ LATEST GIANTS VS. COWBOYS INJURY REPORT

This year, he is running behind a much-improved offensive line that includes three former first-round draft choices (left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and rookie right guard Zack Martin). Smith yesterday became the first offensive lineman in 10 years to receive an Offensive Player of the Week Award.

“Murray is a power back,” linebacker Jon Beason said. “He has speed. He is elusive. He runs hard. He plays every down. He is the complete package. Their offensive line has done a great job if you look at what they have done collectively. (They) have opened up some big holes and are playing together. They are playing very, very physical, so we have to match that on Sunday.”

“Murray is playing extremely well,” Fewell said. “His vision is improved, in my opinion, from years past. Obviously, the offensive line is a good offensive line, three number ones along the offensive line. The way they are complementing each other is going to be a challenge for us. The way we have approached it and the way we have practiced the last day or two days, I feel like we can bounce back and do a good job in the run game.”

So do his players, who are confident their performance in Philadelphia was an aberration. But that will be true only if they adhere to the principles Fewell referred to and attack Dallas’ running game as they have so many others in the last two seasons.

“If you’ve got a good running back, you have to tackle, you’ve got to pursue, you’ve got to hustle to the ball and you’ve got to wrap them up,” defensive lineman Robert Ayers said. “(McCoy and Murray) are both good players. They all present good challenges. Any running back in the NFL can kill you if you’re not hustling or playing lazy or not getting off blocks. You just have to get off blocks, go make plays, do our job, be in the right place and execute our game plan. We feel like we can handle anybody. But if we don’t, any running back can kill you.”

In a big divisional road game on Sunday, the Giants’ defense can’t let that happen.

Jake Locker Practices but Limited by Thumb

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans quarterback Jake Locker has been in and out of the lineup with injuries costing him 10 of Tennessee’s last 14 quarters, including two of the last three games. He’s back practicing and hopes his sore right thumb allows him to start Sunday in Washington.

He said Wednesday it’s not ideal.

“You got to make the best of the situations that you’re put in,” Locker said.

Locker was limited Wednesday officially, though he said he was able to do everything coaches and trainers wanted him to, from throwing during individual drills to working in team drills. He spent last week trying to get the swelling down and now is working to get the strength fully back.

Locker was playing well before hurting his thumb in the second quarter of a 29-28 loss Oct. 5 to Cleveland, throwing for a touchdown and running for another. But Locker has missed 16 of a possible 38 starts.

This season, Locker missed a loss at Indianapolis with an injured right wrist, so backup Charlie Whitehurst has started two of the past three games. Locker said the quarterback shuffle in and out of the lineup is not ideal for an offense.

“That’s why you hope to have a guy that’s going to be in there for 16 games of the season,” Locker said. “It’s just kind of the situation we’re in right now.”

Browns Titans FootballThe Titans (2-4) visit Washington (1-5) on Sunday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said it’s too early to say if Locker will start Sunday barring any setback.

“It really depends on how he responds after today,” Whisenhunt said.

Washington coach Jay Gruden is going through a similar situation with his quarterbacks. Robert Griffin III was limited Wednesday with the ankle he hurt Sept. 14. The Redskins have lost four straight with Kirk Cousins starting.

Gruden, who was in Cincinnati when the Bengals thought about drafting Locker in 2011 before taking Andy Dalton, said Wednesday on a conference call with Tennessee reporters that injuries are an issue with both Locker and Griffin. He called it an unfortunate situation with both tough quarterbacks.

“You wouldn’t think that they’d be injury-prone, but both of them have unfortunately sustained them,” Gruden said. “That’s an issue. You’ve got to be able to stay healthy at that position at all costs. Hopefully moving forward for Robert and Jake, they’re going to get healthy and stay healthy for a long time.”

Coaches can teach quarterbacks how to slide and protect themselves as much as possible. But Gruden noted Griffin wasn’t touched when he got hurt and that Locker banged his thumb on a helmet.

“You can’t over-coach the fact that, ‘Hey, don’t get hurt,’” Gruden said. “That’s football. People are going to get hurt every game. It’s just a matter of when you have the opportunity to get down and get out of harm’s way, you’ve got to do that.”

NOTES: Titans DT Jurrell Casey was named the AFC defensive player of the week Wednesday for the first time in his career after having two sacks and a tackle for loss. He’s the first tackle from this franchise to earn the honor since Ray Childress in 1993. … CB Coty Sensabaugh (right knee) and S George Wilson (calf) were limited. RB Shonn Greene (hamstring), DE Ropati Pitoitua (finger) and TE Taylor Thompson (right knee) did not practice. Casey was given the day off.

Wayne State students offer health lessons at Meet Up and Eat Up

WSU students provide health education to DPS students every Tuesday at Meet Up & Eat Up with the Lions and Ford at Detroit’s Eastern Market.
The public health and medical students at Wayne State University are learning to become future doctors and researchers every day of the week, except for Tuesday mornings.

tempIMG_0976--nfl_mezz_1280_1024As part of the federally-funded Bridges to Equity program, designed to implement educational programming and engage medical and public health students with community-based projects, WSU students provide health education to DPS students every Tuesday at Meet Up & Eat Up with the Lions and Ford at Detroit’s Eastern Market.

“Our students are very excited to share the things they are learning in graduate school with young people,” said WSU School of Medicine MPH Practicum Director Dana Rice. “They are learning how to communicate to a younger audience, and ultimately they are giving back to the next generation of Detroiters. I honestly think they gain as much from their participation as the kids do.”
The WSU Food Medicine organization and Public Health Student Organization, both focused on promoting better health, engage students in activities such as Eat the Rainbow, which introduces the concept of eating fruits and vegetables of every color in the rainbow, and My Plate, where students create a healthy meal with cut outs that represent different food groups. WSU’s Sight Savers student organization dedicated to promoting eye health, uses a 3D eye model to demonstrate how healthy eating is beneficial for your eyes. Students also have the opportunity to view preserved human organs, such as a brain and heart, brought by WSU’s Raising Our Communities Knowledge (R.O.C.K) student organization, which is devoted to supporting community education.

At Meet Up & Eat Up with the Lions and Ford students engage in other learning opportunities to enhance their market experience. Students participate in Play 60 recess led by Playworks Detroit and use their Double Up Food Bucks provided by Fair Food Network to shop the market and learn about the importance of nutrition with the assistance of current and former Lions players and mascot Roary. Afterward, Lions Executive Chef Joe Nader presents a healthy snack demonstration and interacts with students by discussing their market purchases.

In partnership with WSU, Meet Up & Eat Up with the Lions and Ford has educated thousands of DPS students about the importance of nutrition. Along with United Way for Southeastern Michigan and other partners, they plan to continue addressing the issues of food insecurity and healthy eating in the local community.

 

Browns moving forward without Alex Mack and Armonty Bryant

Pettine: “We lost warriors, but there’s no sympathy from other teams.”
armonty_576Up until the second quarter of Sunday’s win against the Steelers, the Browns had not had an offensive snap without Pro Bowl center Alex Mack since he was selected as the 21st overall pick in the 2009 Draft.

Regarded by many as the best player at his position, the athletic and clever Mack has been the anchor of the offensive line.

Mack was carted off the field with a fractured fibula that will require surgery. Nobody is taking the loss harder than Mack’s best friend, left tackle Joe Thomas, who openly told reporters after the game he was fighting emotions.

“We have played every snap together for six years and you are finally getting the best of Pittsburgh, he deserved to be out there with us,” said Thomas. “It was hard to go on because we have gone through hell together and this was finally the payoff and he didn’t get to be out there with us.

“It’s such a brotherhood, and it got a little emotional out there after he went down. We know how much he means to this team and as one of the leaders of the offense, guys pull a lot of energy from him. He is such a great example. It’s so difficult to lose such a tremendous player like that.”

“Like Coach Pettine told us in the meeting room today, you don’t replace Alex Mack,” said quarterback Brian Hoyer. [He’s] a guy who’s never missed a snap in his NFL career, a Pro Bowl center. You don’t just replace that guy.”

During his Monday press conference coach Mike Pettine said Mack is likely done for the year but that a roster move would not be made until later in the week. Pettine was proud of the way Mack’s teammates surrounded him and gave him well-wishes before the injured center went in for further medical tests.

“It’s big,” said Pettine. “We lost two warriors in him and Armonty, but we’ll check the mail. There’s not going to be any sympathy cards from around the league.”

On Sunday, the offensive line, under makeshift circumstances, somehow didn’t miss a beat. John Greco slithered over from right guard to center – his first time ever snapping the ball in an NFL game. On the very first play, the Steelers sent a blitz right up the middle, but Greco recognized the chaos, made the right call and picked up the oncoming blockers.

Paul McQuistan, who stepped in for Greco, also played like a starting-caliber right guard. The Browns felt comfortable sending Ben Tate and Isaiah Crowell right behind the former Seattle Seahawk. Cleveland finished the day with 158 yards rushing on 36 carries.

The Browns are still evaluating short and long term options at the center position. John Greco solidified himself as a candidate for the position. But backup center Nick McDonald, who was nicknamed “The Butcher” for his violent play, is coming off the reserve/non-football injured reserve list. McDonald can also play guard.

“We’re a mile away from making that decision,” clarified Pettine.
Although he doesn’t have the Pro Bowl pedigree of Mack, the loss of Armonty Bryant is also being felt strongly in the hallways of Berea. The versatile 24-year-old defensive lineman was really coming into his own this season and his void as a pass rusher will be challenging to fill.

Bryant is set to undergo surgery to repair knee ligaments and will miss the rest of the season.

“It’s tough for him to be out,” said Desmond Bryant of his fellow defensive lineman. “Any time you get an injury like that, you send prayers out for him. It’s going to be a long recovery, but I think he will do well.

“As far us, we had a couple guys step up this week and that’s what it’s going to be for next week. Somebody is going to have to come in and fill his shoes as best as possible.”

The Browns could use Billy Winn back, but Pettine doesn’t want to rush it – especially with a quad injury. Those have potential to flare up if they are not properly rested.

“It’s the cliché, but it is truly next man up,” said Pettine. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, and I’m confident in the guys that we’ll end up either promoting or bringing somebody in. I’m confident that we’ll put a functional group out there.”

Pass Rush Overpowers Bucs, Leads Dominant Defense

Baltimore matched its season total in one game on Sunday with five sacks.
12_PressureOnGlennon_newsThe Ravens said all along that their pass rush was good.

They were getting pressure. The stats just hadn’t come yet.

On Sunday, the stats came in a big way.

Baltimore had five sacks in its first five games this season. The Ravens matched that total Sunday in Tampa Bay, sacking quarterback Mike Glennon five times and hitting him a bruising 15 times.

“Last week we got a lot of hits, but not necessarily sacks,” linebacker Daryl Smith said. “We talked about making them all sacks this week and we were able to do it.”

Smith was one of five different Ravens defenders to get in on the sack party. He, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee each had one. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil had 1.5 and nose tackle Brandon Williams had 0.5.

The Ravens were ranked as the NFL’s best pass-rushing team by Pro Football Focus (PFF) heading into the game, but were tied for 26th in the league in sacks. They needed just a fraction of a second more, or to be just a hair faster, to get the sacks.

Smith said the difference this week was slightly improved coverage on the back end that allowed the pass rush just enough time to actually get to the quarterback. Second-year Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon held the ball much longer than the Colts’ Andrew Luck a week prior, and he paid for it.

Suggs said the hot Florida weather, which was over 90 degrees at kickoff, and a good natural grass field, also helped Baltimore’s pass rush.

“It’s very rare that we get an opportunity like this,” Suggs said. “Everybody thought it was going to be hot and hinder us, but it kind of got us going. If we could play in heat like that all the time we could probably have a pass rush like that all the time.”

Suggs had just a half sack heading into the game. He had just 1.5 sacks over his previous 13 games, dating back to last season. While Suggs has been strong this season, and rated by PFF as one of the best at his position, the lack of stats was raising concerns.

After getting his half sack against Carolina in Week 3, Suggs said he felt like he hadn’t quite broken out of his slump because he had to share it with Dumervil. After Sunday’s game, he said he felt a little different. Suggs had a team-leading five quarterback hits.

“I feel like I should have had more,” Suggs said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and we’ll just take it and start from there.”

The Ravens particularly got a lot of pressure up the middle, including on delayed blitzes. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley had three quarterback hits. They attacked Bucs center Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees also brought a lot of heat off the edges, blitzing cornerback Lardarius Webb and safeties. Terrence Brooks and Brynden Trawick each logged a hit.

“You know Suggs, man, going against the better tackle [Anthony Collins] helped me to go against the weaker guys. Give him his credit,” Dumervil said with a laugh as Suggs stood nearby.

“We’ve got a bunch of good rushers, Haloti, Pernell inside, and obviously playing opposite Terrell, it gives you an opportunity.”