Friday, October 30, 2009

Feature: If They Played in the NFL

Again, I'm a little late on this one. Busy week off. Anyway, here's a guy who many might not be familiar with, as his sport isn't real popular in this neck of the woods, but he's a huge superstar in the rest of the world. I found it pretty interesting to try and fit him on an NFL field.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Forward, Real Madrid
6'1" 186 lbs

Position: Cornerback

This Portuguese mega-star is known as one of the best soccer players in the world, and his ball skills are a sight to behold. He's not the wizard that Ronaldinho is, but is much younger and has a ton of upside.

I chose Corner as his position for a variety of reasons. First, straight line speed is a valuable commodity for an NFL corner back, and Ronaldo's 4.34 40-yard-dash time is insane for a player his size. Corner backs over 6 feet tall are fairly rare, so that size/speed combination would cause any NFL scout to soil his pants instantly. He is tall enough at that position to match up against bigger receivers for jump balls, making him effective against the Randy Mosses, Andre Johnsons, and Larry Fitzgerald's of the world.

However, possibly the most prized attributes of corner backs are foot speed and hip fluidity. If you've ever watched Ronaldo play, it's quickly apparent that he excels at both. He has extremely quick feet and can change directions with frightening ability. As for flipping his hips to switch from a back pedal to a full run, again refer to that video. The man is freakishly gifted in his legs, which would be a huge boon covering fast receivers.

Ronaldo's straight-ahead speed would let him run step for step with burners like DeSean Jackson, Randy Moss, or Santana Moss. However, his foot speed and ability to move in traffic would also allow him to play slot receivers with equal effectiveness. Good luck with a 6'1" corner who's faster than you, Wes Welker. Ronaldo's sheer athletic freakishness would make him a brilliant cover corner.

The one are where he may be weak, oddly enough, is ball skills. Being a soccer player, he's used to never using his hands for anything. As a corner back, he would have to make great use of his hands to make plays on the ball all the time. Especially considering that he would be in very tight coverage and perfect position all the time, this would be hugely important. I imagine he would have far more passes-defensed than he would interceptions, so he would be a dominant cover corner, but not rack up the Hall of Fame stat of crazy interceptions. Taking away that little bit, he would probably be almost identical in his play to the great Deion Sanders. Their height, weight, and speed are basically the same, and anyone who watched football in the 90's remembers just how crazy fast Deion was, and how he was always right with a receiver and in position to make a play on the ball.

So where would Ronaldo play (other than Oakland)? I would say New England, not only because Bill Belichick loves great athletes with sports-smarts, but also because of the rest of the division. He would be going against Randy Moss in practice, then playing against big fast guys like TO and Braylon Edwards twice a year. He could also cover the smaller, faster guys in the division like Lee Evans, Ted Ginn, David Clowney, and Davone Bess. Also, the Patriots' corners aren't any good, and Ronaldo would completely change the complexion of that defensive backfield.

Whaddya think? Could a brilliant futbol player translate to a good football player?


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Giants v Cardinals Recap

Sorry this one took so long, folks. I don't usually go back and watch tape of games, but this week I had to. I had to really dig in, analyze, and figure out just what went wrong in this game. After watching it once, I was left wondering "Why did the Giants lose?" After some studious analysis, I think I have the answer. As a result of this weird, troubling loss, I'm going to do things a little differently for this recap.

What Went Right

Not much.

Brandon Jacobs
13 carries, 76 yards (5.85 YPC), one TD
Jacobs looked positively dominant this game, despite the fact that the Cards burned the frigging house down to stop him, putting 8 or 9 men in the box every time he took the field. The biggest indication of Jacobs' stellar running was his 12.5 YPC on FIRST DOWN!! The line and Hedgecock blocked well for him, and Jacobs hit his holes with power, making for a few very effective runs. Sadly, he only ran on 4 first downs, and only had 13 carries all game. Not good numbers for a team that is supposedly centered around the run.

Hakeem Nicks
4 catches, 80 yards (20 YPC), 1 TD
Granted, 62 of his 80 yards came on one catch, but that was a great heads-up play by a rookie. Bravo to Nicks for staying in the play on a ball to someone else, keeping his eyes on a tipped ball, then finishing the play in the end zone. He almost looks like a veteran player out there, and is likely to work his way into a starting role opposite Steve Smith by year's end. He also should have drawn a pass interference penalty in the end zone in the 2nd Quarter, when Bryant McFadden was guilty of some blatant face-guarding and jersey grabbing.

Defensive Blitzing
They didn't do it as often as Bill Sheridan boasted (only 16 blitzes on 38 called pass plays), but it was effective when it happened. The blitz, by my count, resulted in 1 interception and 2 sacks (19% called blitzes resulted in impact plays). Makes you wonder why they rushed only 4 men on the other 22 passes. I've always understood that blitzing is like running the ball: the more you do it, the more effective it is late in games. The Giants sustained neither, even though they did both effectively.

Corey Webster
Despite a weak performance against the Saints last week, where Webster wasn't the worst out there, number 23 has been fantastic this year. Larry Fitzgerald, arguably the best receiver in the NFL, was held to 2 catches in the first half by Webster. However, in the second half, Webster was rarely assigned to cover Fitz, and he lit up for another 4 catches for big gains (CC Brooooooooooooown!!!). Nonetheless, for the first half, Corey Webster eliminated Larry Fitzgerald from the game, which is tremendous. I just need to know why Bill Sheridan took him off Fitz in the second half (and ruined the game plan).

Justin Tuck
5 tackles, 1 forced fumble
This is mainly for that fumble Tuck forced in the first quarter, as he had a somewhat quiet game after that. But on that particular play, Tuck shot right by RT Levi Brown and grabbed Tim Hightower in the backfield. Go back and watch the play again, if you're able, and you'll see that Tuck spins Hightower to the ground not by any part of his body, but by the ball, which directly resulted in the fumble. Great play by Tuck, and an extremely smart move. Also, kudos to Tom Coughlin for challenging that play, as it was totally the right call.

What Went Wrong

Game Planning
As mentioned above, I'm extremely disappointed in how Kevin Gilbride got away from the running game this week. The Giants had 23 first downs (16 earned), and ran the ball only 9 times on those first downs, only 4 of which were by Brandon Jacobs. This guy is viewed league-wide as the tone-setter for the NYG offense, and only ran it on 25% of the Giants' first downs?! Also, on plays where the Giants needed 3 yards or less, they called pass plays on 5 of them, even though Jacobs converted a 4th and 1 in a big way in the fourth quarter. A 37/25 Pass-to-Run ratio is unacceptable for this team. I get that they want to take advantage of the speed of the receivers, but you run to set up the pass. There was no play action in this game, and Arizona blitzed like crazy as we didn't use run plays to slow them down. The Giants started this game with 3 straight pass plays, basically telling the Cardinals "We're not even gonna try to run it on you." What happened to asserting your dominance on the ground and dictating the pace of the game?!

CC Brown
Once again, CC (Can't Cover) Brown had a rough day. I kept track of how many plays he messed up by either missing tackles, getting there late, or blowing coverage, and I counted 6 big ones. In the NBA, this is called being "posterized," as in, "You're the guy getting stiff-armed on the Beanie Wells poster," or "you're the guy way in the background on that Anquan Boldin catch when you should have been covering him." Brown was nowhere near the screen pass to Tim Hightower that set up the Cardinals first touchdown, and a review of the tape reveals that covering Hightower was Brown's responsibility on that play. Why wasn't he withing 15 yards of the receiver, then? Bad safety play could completely sabotage a good team this season.

Eli Manning
Eli's been really good this year, so I'll go easy on him. But he wasn't throwing to open receivers on any of his interceptions. I'll give him a pass on the second one, as it was tipped at the line by a 6'8" defensive lineman, but the other 2 were bad decisions. This is partially the fault of Gilbride, who should have put the ball in the hands of Brandon Jacobs, not Eli Manning, to set the tone for this game. Either way, Eli needs to play better against good teams to take this team anywhere. The fact that the Giants suck against 3-4 defenses is immaterial, as they need to learn to beat those teams.


The refs had another rough game this week. Mostly, Alberto Riveron's crew called a decent game, but there were some flagrant fouls that were not called against the Cardinals. First, I have to look at the obvious pass interference on Bryant McFadden on Hakeem Nicks in the end zone. McFadden was guilty of face-guarding (never turning to play the ball), and even if they don't call that, he had Nicks wrapped up before the ball got there, so they could have called him twice. Second, and most egregious, was the helmet-to-helmet hit put on Kevin Boss by Antrel Rolle. It was obvious in live action, and replay made it clear. With the league's stance on player safety, how do they not call that by default, then pick up the flag if they're wrong?! Boss is lucky to not have a concussion, and those extra 15 penalty yards would have completely changed the 4th quarter as the Giants attempted their come back. And finally, on the play where Ahmad Bradshaw was called for punching Darnell Dockett, Dockett needs to be penalized for defensive delay of game, as he layed on top of Bradshaw and wouldn't let him get up, killing valuable comeback time.

Speaking of comebacks, if Mario Manningham catches that pass in the second half for an easy touchdown, this is a totally different game. When Eli throws a beauty right into his hands at the goal line when he's beaten his coverage, he's got to pull that in. According to the NBC play by play, that's Manningham's 7th drop of a catchable pass this year, in only 7 games. He's got to get that sorted out, or he won't be much use late in the year.

Again, sorry for the lateness, but I had to study this one. The usual Wednesday feature will be up this afternoon, and picks go up tomorrow. Here's hoping the Giants can rebound against the Eagles on Sunday!