After breaking down the film and critiquing the teams heading into Week 4, Scouts Inc. tells you what to watch for this weekend.
Favre and WRs aren't on same page
When you break down the film from the Jets' loss on "Monday Night Football," you realize there were a lot reasons QB Brett Favre and the Jets' passing game struggled. One thing in particular should be a big concern. The Chargers came after Favre and blitzed from all over the field, but the Jets' offensive line never seemed to pick up the extra defender or even recognize where the blitz was coming from. On top of that, the Chargers' secondary played tight man-to-man coverage, so when Favre saw the pressure, he had no one to throw to.
It seemed as if the Jets' offense had no hot routes built into their plays and that Favre and his receivers were not on the same page. That's a big problem. The Jets' pass protection will improve, but if the receivers don't fight to get open, Favre will continue to try to force passes that shouldn't be attempted.
Why the Wildcat worked
RB Ronnie Brown took six direct snaps versus the Patriots, and the Dolphins scored on four of those plays. It's not shocking to see one or two of these plays work out, but it's amazing that the Dolphins converted all six. In the Dolphins' Wildcat or spread-option formation, RB Ricky Williams was lined up in the slot to the left while Brown was lined up as quarterback. Once the play started, Williams motioned right. When he got to Brown, there was a fake handoff so the defense didn't know who had the ball. The Dolphins also used creative blocking schemes to set up these plays. LG Justin Smiley was a critical player because he either would pull inside between the right guard and right tackle or would pull around the edge with Brown or Williams following. That forced the Patriots' linebackers to fill the extra space.
The Dolphins' coaches should be given a lot of credit for focusing on ballhandling and blocking during the week and catching the Patriots off guard. The Dolphins might not use these plays again, but the Chargers will be ready for them in Week 5.
What's wrong with Anderson?
It is easy to see why QB Derek Anderson might have a short leash in Week 4. He doesn't look confident and has been skittish in the pocket. Defenses have been attacking him early to try to rattle him, and it has been working. Anderson is locking onto one receiver rather than going through his reads and surveying the whole field. It is almost as if he tries to hurry to get the ball out. When he does this, he leads defenders right to the ball. He is especially having trouble throwing the ball to the deep middle of the field versus a Cover 2 defense. Look for the Bengals to put pressure on him early in an attempt to fluster him, then drop back into a Cover 2 and make him beat them deep in the middle of the field.
Titans' tremendous front four
The Titans' defense tends to fly under the radar, but it may have the most impressive front four in the NFL. Tennessee is not a blitz-happy team, and most of its pressure comes from the front four with an occasional blitz from WLB Keith Bulluck. The right-side duo of DT Albert Haynesworth and DE Kyle Vanden Bosch is almost unblockable because Haynesworth draws so many double-teams that Vanden Bosch can take advantage of a one-on-one matchup. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz even swaps the two, and Haynesworth's coming off the edge is a scary site.
The Titans' front four won't dazzle you with flashy moves, but all are high-motor players who never quit. In fact, many of the Titans' sacks are due to their opponents' inability to hold their blocks. This group will keep the Titans in games all season and give Vikings RB Adrian Peterson all he can handle this week.
TE Jason Witten might be the most underrated player in the NFL. Everyone knows about his pass-catching skills, but most people don't recognize his versatility. He can line up as a normal tight end, flex out and go in motion. Or, he can line up as a fullback, where he can act as a lead blocker or receiver. He is a very good blocker because he has great feet and the ability to wall off and position himself. Witten always is aware of where the Cowboys are on the field and knows exactly how far it is to reach the first-down marker. He is the best security blanket any quarterback has.
Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm, The War Room.