Loose Slag from The Still Mill (Nov. 29th, '01)
Some loose slag from the Stiller-Titans game�.
- As I alluded to in the Hart Hat article, the Stiller O-line, for the 2nd week in a row, had a very shabby day. Gandy was probably the only man not guilty of an egregious boner. Otherwise, every other man slopped and slathered. Faneca was the guilty culprit on the only sack of the game. He was also abused earlier, on the game's first drive, but Stew got the pass off just in time. Rookie Keydrick Vincent showed good guts and spirit, but he was outclassed and manhandled most of the day, regardless of any coachspeak you might hear in the papers. Vincenet, in fact, was the culprit who missed his block on Fu's 3rd & 2 carry in the 1st half, which forced an unsuccessful FG. And on the long lob to Ward that was a bit underthrown and lost in the sun, Vincent was thoroughly abused, which caused considerable disruption on Stew as he was preparing to release the ball.
- Speaking of Vincent, and his fellow youngsters Nkwenti and Okobi�.Rich Tylski should probably forego any plans to purchase real estate in the Pittsburgh area, unless he plans on using it as a rental property. Vincent has very good potential, and Nkwenti and Okobo may have promise, too. With that, there's not much sense in keeping around your worst starting offensive linemen in this day of the salary cap. And guard is a much easier spot in the line to replace. It's plausible that Vincent and Okobi could fight it out for the starting chores next summer.
- Speaking of blocking -- the guy who missed a critical block on Bettis' snuffed quick-toss sweep in the first series of the game, was none other than Hines Ward�
- Speaking of Hines, ever since my mid-season grade report belittled his paltry YPC numbers, Ward has been a downfield terror. Ward finished the first half of the season with a puny 6.9 YPC against Cleveland in Game #8, and he was averaging 9.7 YPC in the first 8 games and scored 2 TDs. Since then, he's had 2 very strong games, in which he's averaged 13.2 YPC and scored one TD. Furthermore, while watching the tape, I can see that Ward is playing with such supreme confidence right now, it's practically oozing from him as he runs his patterns. I'm certainly not on the "Hines Pro Bowl bandwagon" just yet, but these last 2 games have convinced me that Ward is a starting caliber NFL receiver�
- Allow me to further explain my thoughts on the loss of Mark Bruener, for those who had trouble getting the picture I was trying to present. 1.) Bruener's blocking will be missed, but not by much. Geason is a very tough, physical blocker, as it Cushing. Tuman is a pansie, but given that at least half of Bettis' runs will be on plays to the other side of Tuman, or far enough away from Tuman to make little difference, or where Tuman is on the bench, this is not an oh-my-gawd. 2.) More importantly, Bruener's loss can be the impetus to get away from the crammed in formations; get away from using the slowest TE in the NFL; and more toward spread formations and 3 & 4 WR sets. There's no rule that says you cannot run in a 4-WR, 1 back set. And there's no rule that says you cannot run the ball in a 3WR, 2-back formation set. With the way the Stiller passing game is starting to click, these sets allow the Stillers superb balance and the ability to strike on ground or in the air. On 1st & 10, if we go to a 4WR set and 1 RB, the defense cannot -- repeat, cannot -- put "8 men in the box". It's impossible. Someone has got to cover Bobby Shaw and Troy Edwards, both of whom are more than capable of beating nearly any LB and most nickel backs. If there's a FS plus 4 defenders on those 4 WRs, this means you're running the ball against a max of 6 defenders at the LOS. 3.) As we've seen the past 2 weeks, opposing defenses are ganging up to stop the run. Neither Mark Bruener nor King Kong is going to make much difference in the ground game against 8 and 9 man fronts. But if this passing game continues to shine, teams are going to have to back a couple men away from the line, in which case the running game will again churn out good yardage. Because Bruener did nothing for the passing game, his loss can easily be made up for by the 3 & 4 WRs sets I've noted above. Bottom line: This offense will flourish, or sag, based on the play of Stewart, the WRs, and the line, as well as Mularkey -- not the loss of Mark Bruener. And Bruener's injury doesn't mean more pass plays, it simply means more plays with better receivers on the field, regardless of whether it's a run or a pass.
- Some folks have pointed to the Stiller offense allowing the clock to run down to 2:00 this past week, in the late drive in the 2Q. My take: I can easily tolerate and accept most NFL offenses doing this. However, when you have an juvenile offense incapable of calling and running 2 plays in succession -- without a huddle or timeout -- and you have a plunge-and-curl offense that detests taking stabs into the EZ, then I want every possible second on the clock that I can get. The same crowd also stated that, had we not done this, the Titans have an easy score at the end of the half. The stark reality is that, after that TD, Kris Brown kicked a pitiful squib kick that was caught by Drew Bennett at his own 41-yard line, and he ran ahead to his 48. That's a shitty job of kicking by Brown; in fact, we'd have been better off kicking the ball out of bounds. Brown's pitiful squib kick -- which was far too low and right at a Titan -- was the culprit for this field position.
- A Stiller fan brought this up -- 2nd half, 2nd down and about 2 inches for a first. And Mularkey calls for a QB sneak. PATHETIC. Stewart has shown enough adult-like behavior and acceptable play, that he should have been allowed to take a stab downfield on 2nd & inches. Some will say "but the defense will be expecting it". So what? Take the deep stab with the 6'-5" Burress, or a 20-yard deep slant to Ward or Shaw. If the pass is incomplete, then sneak it on 3rd down.
- Speaking of the coaching staff, isn't it about time that Amos Zereoue gets some more work, and Bettis gets some more rest? Amoz has done everything asked of him, and more, and has given this offense a significant boost with his speed and quickness. And Bettis need not get all banged up heading into the playoffs. I'm not saying to give Bettis only 9 carries per game, but a modicum of reduction in his workload could make him a whole lot fresher come playoff time.
- Speaking of the coaching staff�. on the early TD bomb to Dyson, the Stillers rushed 3 men, with a 4th, Bell, coming on a delayed blitz. If you love soft defenses, call up 1-800 CHARMIN�.
- Despite Mularkey's numerous flaws and mistakes, I do give the guy credit for finally getting this passing game to get the ball downfield. It was just last season, where this team went through several games where the longest ball thrown in the entire game was about 19 yards downfield.
- Some clarification on my thoughts on Lee Flowers: I love the guy's desire to hit, and his intensity. That said, there can be no denial that Flowers is not only the weakest cover-man in our starting secondary, but also the weakest cover-man amongst our top 6 DBs (including Townsend and Logan). Logan was a starting safety in Jax, and after a slow start, has really come on and has shown good hitting and coverage skills.
- Deshea Townsend was absolutely robbed of an INT near the end of that game. It was ruled an INT, and combined with the NFL's fairly new rule about "possession and the ground", this fully appeared to be a legit pick. And, at worst, case, there was "inconclusive evidence" to over-turn the ruling on the field. Yet the ruling on the field was overturned. The replay decisions continue to baffle me�
- Allow me to retract my criticism of Stewart on the long pass to Burress, which was short but hauled in by Plex for 35 yards. What happened on this play, was that Jerame Tuman was left all alone to block LDE Jevon Kearse. Kearse comes off the snap and grabs Tuman like sack of leaves, and literally tosses Tuman in this cartwheel-like spin to the ground. Kearse then rumbled straight towards Stewart, and blasted into Stew just a split second after the pass was released. Very, very poor by Tuwoman�..
- By no means did Porter have a top notch game, but with everyone seeing the pictures of Jason Gildon being left unblocked play after play after play, bear in mind that this allowed Tennessee to shift blocking protection toward the far better OLB, Joey Porter�
- For the record, Burress dropped 2 balls last Sunday, and had a third easily poked right out of his hands when he was casual in getting the ball grapsed-and-tucked. That said, I am pleased with some of his progress and the inclusion -- rather than the freezing out -- of him in the passing game�
- Just to clear up any debate, for those still debating about who the best blocking FB on this team is -- that guy would be the one wearing #35�