NFC East: Ahmad Brooks

Malcolm Jenkins only echoed what others have said about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the new Philadelphia Eagles safety didn't question Griffin's game, but, rather his ability to stay healthy. At this point, it's a fair topic. Of course, maybe it's not one a player new to the division might want to address. But then again, it was tame compared to his thoughts on the Dallas defense.

Jenkins
When Jenkins appeared on the NFL Network, he discussed the other three teams in the NFC East. He took a shot at Dallas' defense, as well as the New York Giants' ability to protect Eli Manning. Here's what he had to say about Griffin:
"I think the biggest thing we're going to see is [Robert Griffin III] take that next step as far as the cerebral approach to the game. But the biggest concern I have with RG3 is, will he protect himself? And that's a thing he hasn't done early in his career.

"He scrambles, he gets those extra yards, he makes those throws out of the pocket, but takes a lot of unnecessary hits. We've seen the toll that has had on him.

“Last year he really wasn't himself, still trying to recover from that injury. Those kind of hits, when you talk about a QB, it's all about accountability and availability. He's very very accountable, but availability is going to be an issue if he continues to play the style of football that he's used to."

Jenkins isn't the first opponent to wonder about Griffin's durability or his health. In the past year, several players did just that, including Dallas corner Brandon Carr, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks and New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle among them.

But Jenkins is new to the division and his yapping does two things: endear him to Eagles beat reporters and mark him as a target for other teams. With Griffin, there's only one way to prove Jenkins and many others wrong. He needs to stay healthy; it's not about one game or one throw, it's about a season and then a string of them. And Jenkins didn't knock his game, just questioned his durability.

Dallas' defense might feel a little differently about Jenkins. But when a defense ends the season ranked 32nd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, and then loses its best pass-rushers (Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware), well, it leaves little room for anything but criticism. So here's what Jenkins said:
“A couple years ago, their scapegoat was Rob Ryan, and they got rid of him, and he was the cause of all their problems. He went to New Orleans and took the worst defense in NFL history and turned them into a top 5 defense. So he couldn't have been the problem.

“And then you look at this year, I had the best seat in the house when I watched the Saints get 40 first downs in one game. Forty. In one game. So it must be the players.”

And then Eli Manning was the topic. Again, good, honest stuff.
"I think the problem is he was sacked 39 times, a career high last year. If that continues, Eli's best days are behind him. If they can protect him, then maybe, but it doesn't look like it."

When Jenkins played for Ohio State (my alma mater, as you might know), I preferred that he keep quiet. Typically his game spoke volumes. In the NFL, he's been up and down, but there's no doubt he now has a role as a future analyst. As a reporter, I'll never knock a guy for giving an honest opinion. Sort of helps the job, you know?

Brian Orakpo will play in Pro Bowl

January, 21, 2014
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Brian Orakpo's strong finish could result in a hefty contract this offseason. Turns out it also will result in a trip to Hawaii.

Orakpo
Orakpo was named to the Pro Bowl team as a replacement for San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who pulled out of the game Tuesday. The 49ers had eight players chosen for the Pro Bowl this season, but none of them will play in Sunday's game. The 49ers lost to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game this past weekend.

But that's beneficial to Orakpo, who will play in this game for the third time in his first five seasons and his first since 2010. Orakpo missed all but two games in 2012 because of a torn pectoral muscle and he admitted it impacted his play in 2013. Orakpo said it took him a while to trust his arm (he had torn his pectoral muscle at the end of the 2011 season as well). Though the coaches were pleased with his play, his sack total was down for the first half of the season with four in the first eight games. But he recorded six sacks in the next seven games and finished with 10 overall. It marked the second time in his career that he finished in double digits; he had 11 as a rookie in 2009 en route to a Pro Bowl berth.

Orakpo will be a free agent in March, but needs to be a priority for the Redskins to re-sign. The coaches like how he's developed in other areas as a 3-4 linebacker, but they also lack a strong option should he leave. Rob Jackson also is a free agent, but even if the Redskins re-sign him, he's not viewed the same as Orakpo in terms of his all-around game. And in the 3-4 played by Washington, the outside linebackers must do more than just rush the passer. But having a strong pass-rusher at both outside linebacker spots is imperative. With Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, they have two linebackers considered to be good pass-rushers.

Antrel Rolle has a point on RG III

December, 3, 2013
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I disagreed with Ahmad Brooks when he said Robert Griffin III didn’t look like he should be playing. That was silly. I don’t have a problem with what New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle said when it comes to how many hits Griffin is taking.

"I think that guy takes too many brutal hits. As far as whether he gets hit going out of bounds, whether he's causing himself to hit the ground extremely hard or whether he's just getting hit by opponents, he does take a lot of hits," Rolle said on SportsNet New York.

The main reason I don't have a problem with that statement? One question I heard from NFL people before the 2012 draft centered on Griffin’s durability. They knew his legs would be an important weapon; they also knew he was not a big guy like Andrew Luck or Cam Newton, and that it would be tough to withstand so many hits, regardless if he stood in the pocket or ran.

The Redskins can continue to run the zone read option as part of their offense (as the passing game develops, it should be a smaller part of the offense). And it should be noted that of the hard hits he took Sunday night, none came from the zone read runs (six hits on these runs, though three were shoves out of bounds). It should also be noted that a constant storyline the past two seasons in Indianapolis has been the hits taken by Luck. But he's not coming off a second torn ACL, so Griffin's health clearly is more under the microscope. But as others have said, some of the hits just look worse than they do for other quarterbacks. Still, it must comfort him to know how many players -- and media -- care about his health or whether he should be playing.

Thing is, Sunday night, Griffin did a better job early of avoiding hits by checking down passes or flipping to a receiver or running back instead of running himself (11 of the 16 hits, of various degrees, occurred in the first half). He started upfield on one run only to flip to running back Alfred Morris for a five-yard gain. Had Griffin continued, he might have gained the same yards, but he also would have been hit.

Later in the game, he ran a triple option and instead of cutting upfield he pitched to receiver Santana Moss, who weaved his way for 10 yards. There were other times Griffin had enough vision on his runs to bounce them outside rather than cut inside where extra yards were available, but, so too was danger in the form of a hard-charging defender.

Griffin remains a work in progress in the pocket, like most young quarterbacks. He knows he can make plays with his legs so there are times he'll hold the ball a little longer. But between that, protection breakdowns, receivers who don’t always win routes and Griffin sometimes hesitating when players are open, the hits add up. For him to have a long career in the NFL, he and the Redskins must continue finding a way to limit those hits.

RG III's game, not knee, remains the issue

November, 26, 2013
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If San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks thinks Robert Griffin III shouldn’t be playing, that probably says more about the state of his game than his physical condition.

Griffin
Griffin is not limping through the locker room after games. He’s not limping on runs the way he did in the playoff loss in January to Seattle. When the entire pocket collapses, it’s tough for any quarterback to get out of the way. If you hold the ball a little longer or your receivers don’t win on routes, then it compounds the problem.

Griffin’s lack of development because of a missed offseason? That’s on the knee. And that aspect is affecting him now. I’m sure there has to be some soreness for Griffin; that’s true of every player. If it indeed is bothering him that much, then he hides it well. Heck, for weeks now his knee hasn’t really been discussed, aside from the lost offseason time.

That said, Griffin is not as explosive as a year ago, though he moves well enough to be a mobile quarterback. Maybe he never will be that guy again; I’m not smart enough to know. He’s still shown in other games the ability to extend plays. I do know that he has to learn to play a different way to have a long career, and that much remains a work in progress.

Rather, this is about where Griffin’s game is at: When there’s no threat of the play-action pass, Griffin doesn’t throw as well. The 49ers didn’t use many eight-man boxes and the run wasn’t working. Griffin did not look sharp in the pocket. It’s not a coincidence. He’s a developing passer, and in some games he looks bad. Like Monday night. He was far from alone in the horrid performance of Washington’s 27-6 defeat.

I also think Brooks underestimates how well he and the other 49ers linebackers played and the quick pressure they too often applied and the impact it had on Griffin.

Perhaps Brooks was anticipating a different player than the one he saw. Griffin can help himself by developing as a passer, lessening the need for his legs to be an issue. He’s not at that point yet, and therefore teams are forcing him to win with his arm. Still, I’d be curious to hear more of what Brooks said to understand why he did say it. An opposing player’s perspective is always a good one.

Former Skins player Brooks dies

March, 7, 2010
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Former Redskins defensive lineman Perry Brooks, the father of 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks, passed away last Monday. He was 55.

Brooks played for the Redskins from 1977-84 and he had 5.5 sacks in his final season with the club. According to friends, he remained a huge fan of the team and helped lay the foundation for his son's NFL career.
"He was one of those parents that was very supportive," said Bill Brown, who coached Ahmad at Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Va. "He was always so personable. Everything was always positive with Mr. Brooks. He was 100 percent behind us at Hylton."

Here's a story about Brooks on the team Web site. Brooks was part of the Skins' Super Bowl XVII championship team. After his playing days were over, he became a car salesman. I noticed that some folks who purchased cars from Brooks had some really nice things to say about him.

In McNabb's defense...

December, 22, 2009
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If you were watching the Eagles-49ers game Sunday, you might recall fullback Leonard Weaver and Ahmad Brooks shouting at each other while quarterback Donovan McNabb was desperately trying to spike the ball at the end of the first half. Paul Domowitch of the Daily News says that several e-mailers suggested that McNabb should have gone ahead and spiked the ball while the two argued, prompting off-setting penalties and clock stoppage.

Domo said the e-mailers were using the play as an example of McNabb not being familiar with the rules, so the erstwhile reporter called the league's vice president of officiating Mike Pereira and asked for a clarification. The following response won't please the anti-McNabb faction:

"If the ball would have been snapped, we would have penalized the Eagles for a false start since all offensive players did not get set before the snap," said Pereira. "That would have taken precedent over the defense being offside. There would not have been a play and there would be a 10-second run-off."

And that means the half would have ended without the Eagles having the opportunity to kick a field goal.

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