NFL Nation: Cedric Griffn

How you feeling? Redskins-Ravens

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
11:30
AM ET
As the Washington Redskins prepare to host the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET in a game critical to their newfound playoff hopes, here's one reason for Redskins fans to feel good about their team's chances and one reason for concern.

Feeling good: The game is at FedEx Field, which matters. The Ravens are 27-4 at home and 18-17 on the road the past four seasons. Even with key defensive players such as Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and probably Terrell Suggs out with injuries, the Ravens would seem a far more daunting opponent if the game were being held 33 miles up the road in Baltimore. The Ravens' defense isn't what it used to be. Baltimore allows 125.8 rushing yards per game, while the Redskins' rush offense is the best in the league at 167.2 yards per game. Most people expect the Redskins to confuse the Ravens' defense with their pistol formation and read-option plays behind fantastic rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and that's entirely possible. But they're also pretty good when they just line up and run it between the tackles with rookie running back Alfred Morris.

Cause for concern: I don't like the secondary matchups for the Redskins, particularly with cornerback Cedric Griffin starting a four-game suspension this week. The Ravens' receivers are either fast enough (Torrey Smith) or savvy enough (Anquan Boldin) to win consistently against what's left of the Washington defensive backs, and it's easy to see this being a nice rebound game for Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco after a tough game last week against the Steelers.

Draft Watch: NFC South

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:03
PM ET
NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

They’re sitting at No. 3 and recent history indicates they’ll get a big name, but not necessarily a guaranteed star. The jury is still very much out on defensive end Tyson Jackson, who went to Kansas City in this spot last year. Jackson didn’t record a sack in his rookie year. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan went No. 3 overall in 2008 and is off to a very good start, and the same can be said for 2007 No. 3 pick Joe Thomas. The Cleveland offensive tackle already has been picked for three Pro Bowls. But 2006 third pick Vince Young and 2005 No. 3 Braylon Edwards have both had very uneven careers thus far.

Atlanta Falcons

They hold the No. 19 pick and the recent history in that spot has been solid. Philadelphia receiver Jeremy Maclin and Carolina offensive tackle Jeff Otah are off to strong starts. Tennessee safety Michael Griffin, who went in this spot in 2007, has been a very solid player and 2005 pick Alex Barron has been a regular starter at offensive tackle for the Rams. The biggest question mark at this spot in recent history is Antonio Cromartie. He had a few very productive years in San Diego, but slumped last season, prompting his move to the New York Jets.

New Orleans Saints

They hold the No. 32 pick, the final one in the first round because they won the Super Bowl. There are no guarantees of instant success when you’re picking this late. Ziggy Hood went in this spot to Pittsburgh last year and the Steelers are bringing him along very slowly. Safety Kenny Phillips went No. 32 to the Giants in 2008. He was primarily a backup as a rookie and got hurt early last year. It’s a similar story for 2007 pick Anthony Gonzalez of the Colts. He showed promise in his first two seasons as a backup, but an injury derailed him last year. The Giants have had mixed results with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, whom they took in this spot in 2006. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he has been somewhat productive. The real gem in this spot has been 2005 pick Logan Mankins. The New England guard has been to two Pro Bowls.

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers traded this year’s first-round pick to San Francisco last year. As a result, their top pick is in the second round and it’s No. 48 overall. History has shown you still can get a productive player at this spot. Cornerback Darcel McBath got off to a good start with Denver last year before being sidelined with an injury late in the season. Tight end Fred Davis had a quiet rookie season with the Redskins in 2008, but started to emerge last year. Jacksonville linebacker Justin Durant was a part-time-starter as a rookie in 2007, but has been a full-time starter the past two seasons. Cornerback Cedric Griffin has developed into a solid starter in Minnesota after being selected by the Vikings in 2006. Then, there’s the sad story of linebacker Odell Thurman, whom the Bengals took at No. 48 in 2005. He played only two seasons before suspensions and off-field problems derailed his career.

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Rising

 Finley
1. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay tight end: Finley enjoyed a breakout game on a national stage Monday night, displaying the kind of downfield playmaking that had so many people excited this summer. He finished the evening with six catches for 128 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown in the first quarter and also a 37-yard reception in the fourth quarter. The touchdown play displayed all of his skills: He ran past Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield, juked safety Tyrell Johnson and dragged cornerback Cedric Griffin for the final 5 yards. This might have been the week where Finley passed veteran Donald Lee, who dropped a critical fourth-down pass in the end zone.

 Allen
2. Jared Allen, Minnesota defensive end: Brett Favre got all of the attention, but Allen might have been the best player on the field Monday night. His motor ran non-stop despite a sinus infection that had him speaking in a cracked voice after the game. His 4.5-sack night, which included a safety, brought his four-game sack total to six. It’s still not clear why the Packers thought they could check him with mostly single-blocking schemes. But if there was any doubt, Allen showed what he will do when opponents try to cheat on him. Consider this statistic when evaluating the Vikings’ decision to acquire him last season: He has 20.5 sacks over the first 20 regular-season games in Minnesota.

 Forte
3. Matt Forte, Chicago tailback: The Bears’ running game had been a point of concern for fans and media over the past few weeks -- right up until Forte dashed 61 yards on his first carry Sunday against Detroit. Later, Forte had a 37-yard touchdown run and finished with 121 yards on 12 carries. There remains room for improvement; he managed 23 yards on his other 10 carries. But the two long runs each led to touchdowns for the Bears, and that translates into a productive day for any running back.

Falling

 Capers
1. Dom Capers, Green Bay defensive coordinator: Capers got plenty of recognition when his defense shot out of the gates on opening weekend, intercepting Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler four times. His zone-blitzing scheme seemed the perfect tonic for the problems that plagued the Packers last season. But it was hard to explain why Capers called such a passive game Monday night. He seemed to ignore the blitzes in favor of a run-stopping package against tailback Adrian Peterson. That’s an understandable approach in theory, but in reality the Packers overcompensated. Peterson managed only 55 yards on 25 carries, but Favre was rarely hurried and hit only once. The result? Favre picked the Packers apart.

 Peterson
2. Adrian Peterson’s grip: There aren’t too many more ways to say this: Peterson has got to find a way to protect the ball better, whether he’s being gang-tackled by 10 players or tripped up by one. His strength admittedly worked against him Monday night, when the Packers’ inability to bring him down on a second-quarter run ultimately gave linebacker Clay Matthews time to rip the ball away and return it 42 yards for a touchdown. But the play gave Peterson 15 fumbles since the start of the 2007 season, the highest total for a running back over that span. Unfortunately for him, Peterson is doing nothing to discourage future opponents from ripping, grabbing and punching the ball more frequently.

3. Detroit’s special teams: The Lions gave up four returns of 24 or more yards, including a 102-yard kickoff return to the Bears’ Johnny Knox. Some of that can be credited to the typically superior Bears blocking schemes. But over the course of the game, the Bears’ average drive started at the Lions’ 46-yard line. That’s right: Six of their 13 possessions started on the Lions’ side of the 50-yard line. Detroit’s defense isn’t nearly good enough to handle that type of short field on a consistent basis. Things were just as bad in the flip scenario: The Lions’ average drive started at their own 18-yard line.

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