NFL Nation: Teddy Williams

Upon Further Review: Cardinals Week 11

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
8:00
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A review of four hot issues from the Arizona Cardinals' 27-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Bethel
Williams
Backup ammo: With gunner Teddy Williams out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles and Pro Bowl candidate Justin Bethel having suffered a concussion in Jacksonville, the Cardinals find themselves looking at a slew of potential replacements. However, who they pick to be the gunners can dictate how this team goes during the next few games. Bethel had become a one-man game-changer, getting to punt returners quickly and flipping the field with his speed alone. With Williams on the opposite side, the Cardinals had maybe the fastest and most formidable gunner tandem in the league. That's changed, and it could cost the Cardinals.

Just the Jags: How long until someone brings up the fact that the offense played well only because it played the Jaguars? While the Jaguars' front seven gave the Cardinals' running game fits, Arizona took advantage of the young secondary over and over again. But the Cardinals still didn't make as many mental errors and formation mistakes that have plagued them all season. The receivers and tight ends finally seemed to understand the playbook against Jacksonville and it resulted in 419 passing yards for quarterback Carson Palmer.

Playoff mentality: Whether the Cards are on the inside of the wild-card race heading into Sunday will be determined Monday night when Carolina, currently the fifth seed, plays New England. If the Panthers lose, Arizona will be the sixth seed while San Francisco moves to fifth. But Cardinals coach Bruce Arians isn't waiting for the playoffs to start putting his team in a postseason mentality. They've already been playing like it's the playoffs.

“We have talked about how the playoffs have already started [for us] -- you lose, you're out,” Arians said. “We are a game behind teams so we have to keep winning. We have to take a playoff attitude every week, that this game is a playoff game and we have to win to catch up. The guys have done it.”

Indy week: Forget Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis. Sunday's game against the Colts was the matchup Bruce Arians had circled since the schedule was released in April. It would have more of an impact if the Cardinals were returning to Indianapolis, where Arians won Coach of the Year by going 9-3 as interim coach of the Colts last season. But with Chuck Pagano and the Colts coming to town, Arians will still be a ball of emotions. Even a weathered veteran like Arians won't be able to contain his emotions about his opponent, as he usually does.

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
4:11
PM ET

A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 27-14 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

What it means: The Cardinals will hear it all week: Sure they won handily, but they beat the Jaguars. It doesn’t matter who Arizona played, what mattered was the Cards didn’t play down to their opponent's level. They started out sluggish, which has become the status quo, but both the offense and defense found a rhythm. Carson Palmer topped 400 yards passing for the first time since Nov. 4, 2012. After allowing the Jags to score their first two touchdowns of the season at home, the Cards' defense held the Jags to just 32 yards on the ground. Sunday’s win was more of a mental boost than anything. It showed that Arizona could win when it needed to, despite a few hiccups. And the offense proved it’s truly coming along to complement a stout defense.

Stock Watch: Michael Floyd was questionable heading into Sunday’s game, and all he did was set a career high with 193 receiving yards, including a 91-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. His previous high was 166 yards last season against San Francisco, but this is the game Floyd needed. He’s played well, but hasn’t shown that breakout ability that comes with being a first-round pick. The Cards needed Floyd to show he’s capable of being a first option, because too many teams are doubling or bracketing receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Injured gunners: While their offense was clicking, the Cardinals’ special teams took a major blow when both their gunners went down with injuries. In the first half, Justin Bethel left the game with a concussion and didn’t return. Then in the third quarter, Teddy Williams went down with an Achilles injury and was carted off the field. The Cards’ punt coverage suffered when Bethel went down, then it was rendered almost obsolete without Williams. That could be a turning point for the Cards, who have relied on Bethel to get to punt returners quickly.

Another option: The play calling early in the first quarter was telling for how far the offense has come. Palmer looked for his tight ends early and often, and it helped stretch the Jaguars’ defense. Rob Housler had a season-high 70 yards, Jake Ballard had one catch for 29 yards, and Jim Dray add 18 yards on two catches.

What's next: The Cardinals host Indianapolis next Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Upon Further Review: Cardinals Week 8

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
2:00
PM ET
A review of four hot issues from the Arizona Cardinals' 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

[+] EnlargeTony Gonzalez
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriSafety Rashad Johnson helped Arizona shut down star Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez on Sunday.
Fast Teddy in the house: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made it clear that Teddy Williams wasn’t signed to be a threat at receiver. Arizona has plenty of those. Williams was signed as a gunner to complement Justin Bethel, but Arians likes to take advantage of speed when he has it. Thus, the Cardinals implemented a play for Williams to take the top off Atlanta’s defense. It worked, but almost too well. Williams had to slow down to catch a 51-yard pass, which the Falcons weren’t expecting.

“I don’t know if they knew who he was,” Arians said. “I knew he could run. I didn’t know if he could catch.

“I’m just happy he caught it. I’m really happy he caught it. I was holding my breath. I know he was holding his.”

Containing a tight end: It’s no secret tight ends have been the Cardinals’ lone defensive liability, but they were able to limit Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez to three catches for 26 yards. Arizona did it by rotating defenders on him, that way the Falcons couldn’t adjust their plans according to coverage. Arizona mixed traditional defenses on Gonzalez with gimmick schemes, such as lining up two defenders on him like a punt situation.

“It was a team effort -- team defense, playing with great technique on the back end, defensive line getting pressure,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “We did it together.”

Time off needed for Fitz’s hammy: He might’ve said he’s fine, but Larry Fitzgerald’s hamstring hasn’t been at 100 percent for a while and it showed again Sunday. He had 48 yards and a touchdown on four catches. Arians said Fitzgerald played a solid game. But Fitz can’t wait for the bye.

“I’m glad we’re going into the bye to get some time to really get after it and nip it in the bud and have smooth sailing for the next eight games,” Fitzgerald said. “That would be ideal for me."

Ellington still looks to Mendenhall: Despite staking his claim for the starting running back job, rookie Andre Ellington still sees it as Rashard Mendehall’s. When Mendenhall returns, Ellington said it won’t be hard to accept a lesser role -- if he does.

“Rashard is our bell cow,” Ellington said. “He’s our leader in the room. This guy earned that respect. I’m waiting for him to get healthy and get out there and make plays.”

Observation deck: Dolphins-Cowboys

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
11:00
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Yeah, because I like to space these out. And no one reads them if I put them up in the middle of the night. And they put the ESPNDallas.com one up on the blog anyway. This is why you're just reading this now. Because I know some of you were asking.

I'm not sure how much there is to say about the Dallas Cowboys' 30-13 preseason victory over the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night anyway. Center Phil Costa was the only starter who played, and he only played because he'd been out for weeks with an injury and needed to see some game action, and he only played 11 snaps anyway. I didn't see anything egregious, and if you've been following my thoughts on the Cowboys' offensive line you know I was watching closely. He didn't have any problem getting the ball from the ground into the quarterback's hands, which sounds silly unless you've been paying attention to the Cowboys' backup center issues for the past few weeks. They tell me Costa's added bulk. We have yet to see whether or not he's added the strength he needs to make him a better player than he was last season. Could happen. We just haven't seen it.

Here's what else I saw in the Cowboys' final preseason game:
  • Kevin Ogletree didn't help himself much. He slipped on a route early and dropped a ball on third down on that same possession. Didn't catch any of the three balls thrown his way. I still think he showed enough in camp and in preseason to be the No. 3 wide receiver, but if that was still in doubt as of Wednesday, he didn't do anything to help himself. Of course, Dwayne Harris didn't catch a ball either, and Tim Benford was the only Cowboy who caught more than two. So it's possible Wednesday had no meaning whatsoever and I've wasted whatever time it took to type this paragraph.
  • Let's see, let's see, what else. ... Oh yeah, Josh Brent. I thought he looked real good a couple of times shoring up the middle against the run. I imagine he's the base-defense nose tackle assuming Jay Ratliff's ankle sprain keeps him out of Wednesday's regular-season opener against the Giants.
  • Victor Butler had a sack, which means it's still August. Seriously, we were saying this last year and it didn't happen, but don't the coaches have to find ways to use this guy more in the pass rush? He's got some skills. Rookie Tyrone Crawford had a sack, too. I know they plan to use him as a situational pass rusher this year in the hope that he adds size and can eventually be a starting defensive end for them down the road.
  • Orie Lemon had an interception and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown, which is good for Orie Lemon's effort to make the roster. He helps on special teams, too, so I'd think he's got a good chance. But they have some depth at linebacker and some choices to make there.
  • Choices at running back, too. I still think Phillip Tanner is the No. 3 behind DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, but Lance Dunbar made a nifty cut to finish off his 58-yard touchdown run, and given his ability in the return game has to be making them at least think about keeping four running backs. I just like the way Tanner runs. If he can stay healthy, I'd have to think he's at least a threat to Jones' carries.
  • Teddy Williams fumbled a return and probably should have been flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Even the Cowboys' broadcasters were saying that was interference, so that kind of hurts Teddy Ballgame's case. On the fumble, one of the most alarming things was that Danny Coale couldn't come up with the ball at the bottom of the pile. Miami kicker Dan Carpenter outfought him for it. Coale and Matt Johnson have done pretty much nothing this preseason, and the team has decisions to make about their roster status. Which, if I were the kind of dude who liked to say I told you so. ... Nah, let's not go down that road.
  • Calvin Watkins tells me Dan Bailey was 8-for-8 on field goals in the preseason. That's good.

And that ought to just about do it. Next post is the one that's going nuclear anyway. See ya there!

Dallas Cowboys Observation Deck

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
9:17
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OXNARD, Calif. -- If not for offensive tackle Marc Colombo's injury at the end of practice Sunday afternoon, the day would've been all about tight end Martellus Bennett. The mercurial player with the balky ankle put on a show in front of a nice crowd, but the sight of Colombo being carted off the field with a knee injury stole the headlines. Some of the players on offense walked off the field dejectedly -- especially Colombo's fellow offensive linemen.

With Alex Barron recovering from an ankle sprain, the Cowboys are suddenly thin at the tackle spot. Rookie Sam Young, who's been impressive at times, replaced Colombo in Sunday's practice. Robert Brewster's also in the mix, but he's looked overmatched in two preseason games. Colombo's the emotional leader of this line, and the Cowboys need him to be ready for the opening game against the Redskins. But since we've already said a lot about the injury, let's take a look at what else happened once the Beast rolled into camp Sunday afternoon:
  • I was surprised at how sloppy the offense looked three weeks into training camp. I'm told the quarterbacks were fairly sharp Sunday morning, but Tony Romo and Jon Kitna both struggled in the afternoon. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett responded by making his players stay after practice and walk through a series of plays. The offensive line gave up at least three faux sacks and there was a lot of confusion between the quarterbacks and receivers. Even the normally reliable Jason Witten-Romo combo was off. Bennett was the only player who really stood out on offense. Perhaps it's because he has fresh legs after so much time off during this camp. He was surrounded by reporters after practice, but he didn't seem as jovial as usual. Bennett seemed to be a little annoyed with the media, and there's no shame in that.
  • Linebacker Keith Brooking has been excellent in pass coverage throughout camp. He had a good chance at an interception when Kitna threw a weak pass across the middle in team drills, but the ball glanced off his hands. Brooking sat out OTAs this offseason following knee surgery and I think that's made him fresher in this camp.
  • Bennett made a beautiful adjustment to a ball that Romo threw behind him in 7-on-7 drills. He basically posted up a smaller defensive back and then snatched the ball with his hands instead of trying to cradle it, as he once did for Texas A&M on the rare occasions Dennis Franchione remembered he had a tight end.
  • Free-agent rookie Bryan McCann out of SMU has not backed down from any of the Cowboys' top receivers. On an out route to Miles Austin, McCann poked the ball away with his right hand. You can tell that secondary coach Dave Campo's really excited about McCann.
  • Tight end DajLeon Farr's only here because so many tight ends were injured, but he's making the most of his opportunity. He snagged a ball in team drills and showed a little speed after turning upfield.
  • Young was pulled out of team drills following a false start. But when All-Pro nose tackle Jay Ratliff was called for jumping offside, he remained in the lineup.
  • Roy Williams had a decent day. He made a nice catch on the sideline before cornerback Teddy Williams shoved him into a writer from the Associated Press. Teddy Williams may be one of the fastest players in the league, but I'm not sure there's a roster spot for him.
  • The Wildcat formation is going to need a little work. At the end of practice, Tashard Choice took the snap and handed the ball to Felix Jones, who lateraled the ball to Romo. The quarterback then delivered a short pass to Jones for a minimal gain. Even though the play was handled ineptly, the crowd seemed somewhat pleased that Garrett attempted to entertain them.
  • Cornerback Mike Jenkins closed hard on a Kitna pass, but he couldn't hold on for the interception.
  • Cornerback Cletis Gordon missed Thursday's game with a neck strain, but he's returned to practice with a vengeance. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon, who has seen every practice in camp, told me Gordon has nine interceptions since July 24. That's believed to be a new camp record dating back to the Bill Parcells era. My notes from those years are a little tough to read, but I believe Aaron Glenn had a 10-interception camp in 2003.
  • Safety Gerald Sensabaugh intercepted a Kitna pass when the quarterback mistook Patrick Crayton for an NBA center. Romo apparently had the flu. Not sure what Kitna's excuse was Sunday.
  • Terence Newman's having one of his best camps in years. He's deflecting a lot of passes and he just seems to be as technically sound as any defensive back on the roster. He's also doing a nice job of mentoring some of the young players. It's not easy to provide tips to folks who desperately want your job, but he doesn't seem to mind. Newman's been banged up in camp the past couple seasons, so he backed off his workouts a little bit this offseason.
  • I had a nice visit with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer after practice. His growing confidence on the field has carried over to his interviews. He used to be painfully shy, but now he's engaging and seems to enjoy talking about his craft. He learned a lot from watching Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware, but he's now doing some "really creative" things on his own. Spencer's also a little more menacing with an unruly beard. Doesn't appear to be a lot of maintenance involved.
  • Running backs coach Skip Peete spent a lot of time talking to me about the rotation Sunday afternoon. I'll roll out that conversation in a blog entry later today.
  • The only practice Monday is at 5:15 p.m. ET. And if you're scoring at home, that's 2:15 local time. Thanks for making us either your first or second stop this morning.

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