Game Notes: Panthers, Bears, Bengals, Browns

This off-season, we spent some time watching each and every NFL team again, trying to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses with players we might have missed in the rush of the regular season. The intention was to feel more confident in our analysis for what turned out to be our biggest player profiles ever.We spent more time on some teams than on others, and even the teams we spent the most time on we were only able to watch a handful of games. But we thought it might be cool to publish a series of blogs detailing what we saw from the teams we watched with our raw notes.

These notes were never intended for publication, so forgive grammatical errors or the occasional poor language. Nor were they intended to be comprehensive, or definitive takes on fringe players (especially WRs, who are difficult to watch on TV angles). We simply thought it’d be a neat way to show a little extra insight into some of the players that we might not have felt like we had a great grip on this season.

Carolina Panthers

Week 2 – GB

Cam Newton
- Panthers came out chucking the ball. Deep shots to Jeremy Shockey first two plays. They trusted him EARLY in the season. Coaches know what they have.
- Newton throws on the move extremely well, so dangerous.
- Can throw across the field… arm strength allows him to do this.
- Recognized positive chances at the line of scrimmage… TD throw to Brandon LaFell good example, found single coverage.
- Panthers did nothing to hide Newton at all… a ton of shotgun and empty backfield. Run game was an afterthought.
- More comfortable in the gun.
- 2nd INT a mistake… broke down and threw off his back foot, Charles Woodson undercut it.
- Everything we learned about him this year confirmed in this game. If he continues to develop the sky is the limit.

DeAngelo Williams
- Non-factor in this game. Not really a “sustainer,” at least in terms of the gameplan. Panthers tried to get him going by running to the perimeter, putting him in motion, and splitting him out. Didn’t really work.
- Stewart is a more natural receiver… turns upfield quicker.

Jonathan Stewart
- Really looks natural coming out of the backfield as a receiver…turns upfield quickly and builds a head of steam. Surprising he wasn’t used in this capacity more.
- Major factor as a receiver in this game… extension of the run game, allowed Newton to get into rhythm.

Steve Smith
- Panthers put him in motion, make him hard for a defense to mark. This works to Smith’s advantage because he’s such a smart receiver.
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Legedu Naanee
- In three-wide, he was the slot WR.
- Struggled to gain separation from safeties when sent down the field.

Greg Olsen
- Panthers almost exclusively 2 TEs early. TD called back by penalty.
- Beat S Morgan Burnett in 1st quarter for 34 yards… Unbelievable throw by Newton. Recognized man and knew Olsen would beat him off the line.

Jeremy Shockey
- He can still get open, creates space. Understands route running.
- Panthers would occasionally run 2 TEs with BOTH TEs separated from the formation

Week 4 – Chi

Cam Newton
- Not immune to mistakes. Forced a throw into double coverage early downfield to Naanee. Ball was thrown late and almost intercepted.
- Panthers running a lot of different formations and looks. Newton ran reverse option from under center, took and flipped out to Stewart for solid gain, although holding penalty on Olsen brought it back.
- Stands tall and poised in the pocket.
- Throws a catchable ball with accuracy and a smooth delivery.
- Bad interception on second drive on another forced pass.
- Clearly not Mike Vick in terms of speed, but a fast and powerful runner.
- Effortless arm strength. Play broke down, but rolled out and threw 50+ yard pass to wide open Smith near goal line without setting his feet.
- Was a little lazy with footwork on a few throws, causing ball to sail a little high.
- Impressive in the pocket, but can also improvise and throw on the run. Does play like Ben Roethlisberger, fighting off tacklers, when necessary.

DeAngelo Williams
- Slippery between the tackles, hits the hole and has good vision. Keeps his legs driving and runs hard.
- Panthers using two-TE offense, shift TEs around and use in backfield.
- Ran a Wildcat read play with Stewart, took it himself and easily picked up 7 yards between the tackles.
- So dangerous when he gets a crease. Laterally explosive with a burst upfield.

Jonathan Stewart
- Big gain early from shotgun/3-WR look. Read option, Stewart gets the handoff and bounces it back outside to the right, gets upfield for big gain.
- Panthers clearly like using him as a receiver. Nice screen to him picked up a chunk of yards to the outside early after penalty set them back.
- Really dangerous when he gets some room going downhill. Another screen got him a crease, and he had a big burst through the hole, outran several defenders.
Steve Smith
- Chemistry with Newton is excellent. Timing there between them, even though it was only Week Four.
- Tough receiver with dsfaseep speed and physicality over the middle. Undersized but willing to get hit.
- Dangerous after the catch, still has a burst and elusiveness.

Brandon LaFell
- Caught an improvised throw from Newton on the sidelines, but lacked awareness and stepped out of bounds right away instead of balancing himself and continuing to run.

Jeremy Shockey
- Got called for a push downfield on 25-yard TD from Newton, took it off the board.
- Uses size to his advantage. Can help make up for lack of speed/separation.

———-

Chicago Bears

Week 2 – @NO

Jay Cutler
- Has some “Vick” elements in his game… by that I mean he’ll run around when he doesn’t have to, make a play, and then it makes you forget that he didn’t have to break down in the first place.
- Cutler tough to watch in this game. Looked like he had no idea what was happening. OL didn’t help but he didn’t help the OL either.

Matt Forte
- Love watching him get to the edge… he might not be fast in the traditional sense but he “glides,” kind of like Arian Foster or Fred Jackson. No wasted movement with him.
- So painfully obvious he’s their best offensive player. I don’t think I noticed a WR in the first half outside of Dane Sanzenbacher’s TD and Earl Bennett’s injury.
- When lined up in the slot, he’s a terrible matchup for a LB. Big-time advantage for the Bears. Creates separation with “spin route.”
- Ability to make defenders miss is underrated. His moves aren’t flashy but they’re effective.

Johnny Knox
- Cutler was rushing throws… missed open Knox a couple times.
- Tough to stop when he’s the Z… he can run past his man and find a zone. Runs a square in well, presenting open target for Cutler.

Earl Bennett
- Slot receiver almost exclusively. Took huge hit from S Roman Harper on his first catch of the game.

Devin Hester
- Seems to have no idea how to run a route… most effective when they get him into the open field with a quick crossing route. His speed should make him a deep threat but it seems as if he takes himself out of the play sometimes.

Dane Sanzenbacher
- 8-yard TD total coverage bust. Wide open behind all coverage.
- Just does not gain separation against man. Single coverage with CB Leigh Torrence in 3rd quarter in red zone from slot… Torrence blanketed him, no room for Cutler to throw.

Week 4 – Car

Jay Cutler
- Bears had no interest in passing early. First drive ended in red zone when Cutler ran draw from shotgun on 3rd and goal from the 4.
- Attempted 1 pass in the first 24 minutes of the game. Bears ran and made big D/ST plays.
- No downfield passing game for Bears. They ran and threw short… and when Cutler dropped back, he was pressured.
- Frequently backpedalling away from pressure and forced to throw off back foot.
- Lacked confidence in this game. Was not poised under pressure.
- When protection is there, capable of stepping up and delivering strong/accurate throws into tight windows.
- Got happy feet in the pocket. Let a throw sail in 4th quarter, was intercepted. Perceived pressure.

Matt Forte
- Really dangerous in the open field. Followed blocks to the right, found a crease and made defenders miss in the open field. Really elusive with some lateral agility.
- Bears really riding him early in this one. Decisive runner with quick feet and burst. Hard to stop if you let him get to second level.
- O-line actually gave him some room in this one. He capitalizes on it with 17-yard TD on outside run with Panthers loading up the middle. Once he finds a crease, he’s incredibly dangerous. Hits the hole hard and is a smooth runner.
- Effective receiver, reliable hands, tough to bring down after the catch.

Marion Barber
- Actually made someone miss with impressive juke at the line on first carry, picked up a 1st down on 1st-and-10 play.

Johnny Knox
- Commitment to run/struggles in pass protection limit his value because lack of downfield game, but showed he can make plays with drag route. Turns up field and clearly has a second gear.

Roy Williams
- Actually made a catch early for 15 yards on slant, but that was his only target.

Devin Hester
- Can’t really be counted on to catch the ball in traffic.

Week 16- @GB

Kahlil Bell
- A lot of his runs came behind FB Tyler Clutts.
- Patient, willing to let holes develop.
- I didn’t find his lateral movement particularly smooth… he’s not necessarily a straight-line runner, but he doesn’t move side-to-side with perfect fluidity. Still, he manages to find yardage. Sloppy, but effective, at least this week.
- Doesn’t have breakaway speed.
- Wouldn’t call him a pure physical runner, but he’s not afraid of contact and is capable of generating enough power to run through tackles.
- Thought the Bear line in this game performed well, gave Bell holes to find.
- Capable receiver, not a stud because his routes were sloppy, but he could catch 50 balls in the right situation.
- Ball security issues? Fumbled twice in this game.
- Armando Allen, who was the backup RB in this game, clearly faster.

———-

Cincinnati Bengals

Week 2 – @Den

Andy Dalton
- Thought he was occasionally a little bit late with his throws, minimizing YAC on occasion.
- I actually think he throws a pretty nice deep ball when given time.
- He can create a little bit with his feet, an essential trait with a lack of arm strength… kept his shoulders turned upfield when running.
- Sold the play action well. What you notice about Dalton is he does everything he needs to do to hide his limitations as an actual thrower.
- Ridiculous poise… didn’t play like a rookie.

Cedric Benson
- Bengal line was BAD in the run game.
- LB Joe Mays stood out as a good run defender, aggressive.
- He was dancing in the backfield, but he had to.
- I thought LT Andrew Whitworth looked a little slow off the snap… Benson had to create on his runs to the left edge.
- Non-factor in this game. Function of the line?

Bernard Scott
- I didn’t see much lateral movement from him.

A.J. Green
- What can you say about this guy? He’s fantastic. Does remind me of Calvin Johnson. Thought he was a tier below that kind of talent but I might have been wrong.
- Elite YAC ability.
- Type of WRs who makes DBs look totally hopeless.

Jerome Simpson
- I thought his routes were a little sloppy… at least inconsistent.
- Tough to bring down with the ball in his hands… 31-yard catch 3rd quarter a good example, as was 84-yard 4th quarter catch… great speed down the middle. Fun player to watch, if a little unpolished.

Jordan Shipley
- Tore his ACL in this game.

Jermaine Gresham
- Was utilized both in line and on the perimeter in this game, but he was a non-factor.

Week 4 – Buf

Andy Dalton
- First pass to Gresham had somewhat lazy mechanics, threw off back foot, and let it sail.
- Solid mobility, capable of staying poised and decided when to run to escape pressure.
- A little sloppy early. Misfired another short throw with poor footwork.
- Fearless in the pocket. Fantastic poise for a rookie. Stands in there. Still missed Green downfield, although had hand in his face.
- Missed an open Caldwell, throwing it behind him, and the ball ended up bouncing off Caldwell’s hands and getting picked and returned for a TD.
- Dalton started the game horribly, 4-for-15 and an INT. Very erratic with accuracy and mechanics. Then the day turns around right away by Green’s ridiculous catch over a defender down the sidelines.
- A few plays after Green play, Dalton blows momentum by throwing a horrendous INT. Have no idea what he was looking at, but George Wilson was running stride for stride in front of Caldwell.
- Was a little off balance, but delivered nice 18-yard TD pass from pocket over the shoulder to Gresham in front corner of the end zone.

Cedric Benson
- Remains an impressive one-cut runner. Good vision, solid burst through the hole.
- Lousy job dropping a well-blocked screen pass.
- Still runs really hard, gets North-South.
- Capable of being a sustainer, but Bengals not really allowing him to get into rhythm in the first half.

Bernard Scott
- Mixed in a little more than usual early in this game.

A.J. Green
- Smooth, fast runner who can mix it up.
- Runs good routes. Makes sharp cuts, breaks to the ball.
- Breaks Dalton out of slump with absurd catch on deep ball, reached over defender, stayed on his feet, and cut back for more. Unbelievable body control, awareness and balance. Totally embarrassed Leodis McKelvin.
- Willing blocker in the run game.
- Green embarrasses McKelvin AGAIN early in second half. Dalton just throws it up for grabs down the sideline… Green turns around, extends, leaps, and catches the ball falling backwards. Unbelievable play for a big gain, throw wasn’t even great.
- Incredible field awareness.

Jerome Simpson
- Simpson started but totally silent early in the game.
- Finally made a catch with 20 seconds left in first half, proceeded to spend too much time celebrating a couple yards with time running.

Andrew Hawkins
- Actually has some real explosiveness. First NFL catch on a swing pass, made a quick move upfield. Lateral quickness.

Andre Caldwell
- Bad drop on an early 3rd down at the sticks. Dalton’s throw pretty much hit him in stride but it just hit his hands.
- Had a ball pop off his hands again and caught by Bryan Scott, who returned it for a TD. Dalton’s throw was behind him though.

Jermaine Gresham
- Tough to bring down, pretty strong after the catch.
- Impressive hands, beat defender for excellent grab, high-pointing the pass in front corner of end zone for 18-yard TD. Uses size to his advantage and has good concentration.

———-

Cleveland Browns

Week 2 – Ind

Colt McCoy
- Lack of arm strength is evident when he’s throwing toward the sidelines. If the timing with WR isn’t perfect, it’s going to be incomplete or intercepted. No margin for error on those throws.
- A major problem for McCoy was that his WRs were really non-factors in this game. How can a QB like McCoy succeed when his WRs can’t gain separation?
- Improv is part of his game. 16-yard TD to Moore in 2nd quarter great example. McCoy can give himself time and give his receivers time to get open. Also 28-yarder to Massaquoi to set up Hillis TD late 2nd quarter.
- His recognition of pressure is too inconsistent. Didn’t feel it when it was there sometimes (causing a fumble) and others felt it when it wasn’t.
- You get the feeling that every throw McCoy makes down the field has a chance to be picked. Throws just don’t zip in there the way you like to see.
- Browns won this game because Hillis was good and Kerry Collins was terrible. McCoy was average to poor, and made some improv plays when he had to.

Peyton Hillis
- Lined up at FB on more than one occasion. This versatility could be big for his free agency prospects… he’s the type of guy you can use on the field with another back. Old-school FB.
- Has absolutely no moves whatsoever, but he’ll run a guy over.
- The one thing you notice about Hillis is that he always tries to fall forward when he’s going down.
- Natural as a receiver. When he gets to the flat he turns it upfield quickly, and he actually looks somewhat fast when he has a head of steam.
- Long TD run 24 yards was nothing special… just broke free of arm tackle, got outside pile and wasn’t touched past line of scrimmage.
- With Hillis’ style, you worry about two things – injuries and ball security

Mohamed Massaquoi
- McCoy’s “preferred” target in this game.
- You try to find something unique to say about Massaquoi but it’s difficult. Average size, speed, and route running. Average WR.

Greg Little
- Tough to bring down on first contact.

Josh Cribbs
-  Don’t think the Browns took a shot to him past one yard down the field. Just wanted to run WR screens and swing passes to try to get the ball to him.
-  Put in motion a lot.

Evan Moore
- You wonder why the Browns don’t use him more… only receiver capable of creating a mismatch here.

Week 4 – Ten

Colt McCoy
- Nimble in the pocket, stepped up under pressure and found outlet over middle.
- Doesn’t get enough velocity on passes
- Poor footwork on missed throw behind open Watson, second throw in a row that he was behind receiver. Not leading receivers.
- Badly misses on some throws… nearly picked on throw for Cribbs on third down, although OL did a terrible job in protection.
- Made a few nice throws into tough windows, including a slant to Moore… can be really precise with accuracy.
- Can be late with reads… Hit Cribbs over middle but missed him wide open earlier, could have turned it up field for more
- They protect him with a lot of underneath throws
- Will sometimes get happy feet under pressure
- Makes bad decisions when the play breaks down… On one throw was flushed out of the pocket and threw to nobody but Titan defenders, resulting in a pick-six
- Almost every pass seems to be a short, quick curl or crossing route
- Hit Watson for a TD down the seam, threw off back foot but ball still got there because he was wide open. Inexplicably, Watson was covered by DE Derrick Morgan.
- McCoy actually threw for 350 yards, but all about volume in this one. Got away from what they want to do and threw 61 passes, completing 40. Hardly any throws downfield.
- Struggles to get into a rhythm. Hops and has hitches instead of trusting protection and letting the ball go. To his credit, also took a beating in this one.

Peyton Hillis
- Second effort, driving forward after contact.
- Patience before cutting up field on stretch play.
- Straight-line player who doesn’t cut quickly, no lateral explosiveness, but gets his momentum going North-South and is tough to tackle.
- On a 4th and 1, the Browns lined up Hillis/Armond Smith in I, pitched out to Smith, who didn’t get there. Second busted play involving Smith after earlier pass out wide.

Montario Hardesty
- Browns used Hardesty with Hillis in split-back set on first play.
- Runs pretty hard, appears decisive.
- Nice job on catch down sidelines on 3rd and 1 that goes for a big first down… Stays with the ball and catches it in stride… Was lined up on the wing and ran a wheel.
- Hardesty active as a receiver.
- Caught 5 passes…. But also dropped 4 balls. Don’t understand why they used him over Hillis. Heard footsteps and turned before securing ball. Lack of concentration.

Mohamed Massaquoi
- Got a few short targets but didn’t do anything.

Greg Little
- Nice route down field on play-action from McCoy, adjusted and came back to throw that was slightly behind him on 20-25-yard out.
- Drew hold from Cortland Finnegan and was still wide open, although pass missed.

Josh Cribbs
- Horrible reverse attempt on a 3rd-and-6… Titans read it and Cribbs had to reverse field and had nothing… big loss.

Ben Watson
- Good feel for coverage, finds the open spots on the field and has good hands.
- Scored a TD, but could have walked backwards to get open matched up one-on-one with DE Morgan.

Category: Joe Dolan

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