NFC West: Cornelius Griffin

Jackson's 58-yard run in 10 quick steps

September, 22, 2009
9/22/09
5:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Ten things I noticed watching the Rams' Steven Jackson break a 58-yard run against the Redskins in Week 2:
  • The Rams were operating from what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur calls their "zebra" personnel package with three wide receivers, one tight end and Jackson alone in the backfield. This left the Redskins with only two linebackers on the field.
  • The Rams ran away from Albert Haynesworth, who was lined up over left guard Jacob Bell. Left tackle Alex Barron obstructed Haynesworth just long enough for Jackson to escape between right guard Richie Incognito and right tackle Jason Smith.
  • Incognito and center Jason Brown initially double-teamed defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. Incognito came off the block quickly and buckled linebacker London Fletcher with what appeared to be a left hand to the facemask. Fletcher lost leverage and Incognito buried him. Fletcher's left earhole was close to touching the grass.
  • Smith grabbed left defensive end Phillip Daniels by the jersey and held him. Daniels wasn't going to make the tackle.
  • Jackson ran strong and broke free from safety Chris Horton about 2 yards past the line of scrimmage. Horton overran the play but still appeared to grab Jackson by the foot.
  • Safety LaRon Landry came charging toward the line of scrimmage in run support, but he might have misjudged Jackson's speed and maneuverability. Both were between the hashmarks and within 5 yards of one another when Jackson cut to his right. I'm not sure if Landry even touched him.
  • Receiver Keenan Burton, lined up in the left slot, could have done a better job blocking safety Reed Doughty.
  • Receiver Donnie Avery hustled downfield to help with blocking, but he wasted the effort by shoving cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the back, drawing a penalty.
  • Coach Steve Spagnuolo grabbed Avery by the left forearm and appeared to be encouraging the receiver, not berating him. Avery seemed more interested in getting back on the field than staying around to listen.
  • As noted after Week 1, I'm still waiting to see whether the Rams are better off running the ball with fullback Mike Karney on the field. This was a second-and-10 play. I'm hoping to chart the Rams' personnel use before time runs short.

Cardinals rookie Hightower making mark

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
11:44
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Hightower

The Cardinals and Jets will field two of the older offensive backfields even beyond the quarterback position when the teams face off in Week 4.

Arizona's Edgerrin James and New York's Thomas Jones are 30. Jets fullback Tony Richardson is 36. Don't be surprised if Cardinals rookie running back Tim Hightower looks even faster than usual. He turned 22 in May and gives Arizona a more dynamic alternative to James' grind-it-out approach.

The fifth-round draft choice from Richmond is looking like the future starter, but the Cardinals aren't waiting to use him. Hightower rushed five times for 23 yards against the Redskins in Week 3. He also caught three passes for 38 yards. The Cardinals targeted Hightower as a runner or receiver on six of their 11 third-down plays, converting twice. Overall, the Cardinals handed off or threw toward Hightower 11 times in 56 plays, or 19.6 percent of the time.

James averaged better than 5 yards a carry against the Redskins, but the Cardinals are among only four teams without a running play of at least 20 yards this season (the Jets are another). James remains the established runner between the tackles. Hightower provides more big-play potential.

I've isolated each Week 3 play featuring Hightower, providing detailed notes on each in an effort to better understand how the Cardinals are using their promising rookie runner:

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