NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.
Seattle will present different challenges to San Francisco's offense than Green Bay did in Week 1, and not because cornerback Richard Sherman will match up with 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, as I've heard a lot this week.
The Sherman-Boldin matchup might only happen a handful of times. The 49ers do a great job with shifts, motions, personnel, and bunch formations, and you can't press against bunch formations. When Carolina used that look against the Seahawks last week, Sherman lined up well off the line of scrimmage.
The difference for San Francisco from last week to this week is Seattle has two tremendous safeties, and the 49ers like to use their two best targets, Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis, in the middle of the field.
Seattle's Earl Thomas is, I believe, the best safety in the league, and strong safety Kam Chancellor moves better than he is given credit for. Last week Green Bay played without Morgan Burnett, the team's best safety. Seattle has good defensive players who work in the middle of the field – which is where San Francisco likes to throw the football.
Carolina did some good things against Seattle's offense last week, and the Seahawks struggled. In particular, the Panthers threw quarterback Russell Wilson off his game early on. The Panthers' front seven (which I've said this preseason is one of the three or four best in the league) did well against Seattle's run game. Against the pass, Carolina used a "mush rush," making sure its ends didn't come further upfield than Wilson. That took away Wilson's running lanes, and the defense caused Wilson at times to be a little frenetic in the pocket. He was not as comfortable as we’ve seen him in the past. Wilson did settle in as the game went on, and made a great throw to on a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Pryor Report: Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor will face Jacksonville on Sunday, and his Week 1 game tape showed some positives and negatives.
The Raiders played to Pryor's strengths against the Colts. They used some pistol formations and ran read option. They gave him elements of the Chip Kelly offense with post-snap options. They had a limited pass game with bootleg action that gave Pryor a run/pass option. The Raiders called a number of deep "shot plays" off play action with Pryor under center. And he obviously showed an ability to improvise and make throws on the move. His flashes of outstanding spontaneous playmaking break down defensive discipline.
But Pryor also showed he's a slow decision maker from the pocket. He's not yet a progression reader. He is not a calm helmet in the pocket, and has little sense of what he’s seeing. On one shot play, he did not feel comfortable turning it loose to Rod Streater on deep post – so Pryor ran right by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard for 29 yards. Pryor is more of a short arm pusher than a power thrower who can drive the ball. At this point Pryor has a lot of sandlot tendencies in the drop-back pass game.
The offensive line woes don't help. On his final interception of the game, the Colts were in quarters zone coverage and the Raiders kept seven players in to block. There was no route combination to occupy safety Antoine Bethea, who sat in the passing lane and picked off the pass. The seven-man protection showed a lack of trust in the offensive line; you can’t put the pick on Pryor.
Rams' offensive options: By adding receiver Tavon Austin and tight end Jared Cook this offseason, the Rams gave themselves some options and versatility. From the start of last week's game against Arizona you could see the formation versatility Cook provided. There were many snaps in which Cook aligned at “X-iso" as the lone receiver on one side of the field and was matched up against linebackers.
Then on the Rams' game-winning drive, with two receivers on each side including Cook in the slot, the Cardinals had cornerback Jerraud Powers on Cook. Arizona blitzed but Cook broke open so quick Bradford had a defined throw before Calais Campbell could get to him. Cook also beat a safety (Yeremiah Bell) off the line of scrimmage to the outside for a 13-yard touchdown earlier in the game.
Cook’s formation versatility will help Austin. In an empty-formation three-by-two set in the second quarter against Arizona, Cook was out wide (No. 1), Austin was inside on Cook's side (No. 3) and got matched up with linebacker Karlos Dansby. Austin got free for a 9-yard gain.
The Rams' empty package will be difficult to defend as the season progresses, with players like Cook and Austin able to line at multiple positions.
Patrick Peterson vs. Calvin Johnson, and maybe Tyrann Mathieu vs. Reggie Bush?: Last week, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson lined up primarily against Rams receiver Chris Givens and took Givens out of the game. Givens, who at this point in his career is a Mike Wallace type who relies on vertical routes, had two catches for 27 yards. This week Peterson will line up primarily on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, which should be a great matchup.
Last year, Johnson had 10 catches for 121 yards against Arizona, and Peterson had an interception in that game (though that didn't come in pure man coverage). Peterson is a rare cornerback who has the size to match up with Johnson, at 220 pounds. Peterson is a top three cornerback in the NFL, is probably the most athletic corner in the league, and sometimes he plays to his athleticism too often. He is improving on his technique.
One player to watch is Cardinals rookie cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. He showed in his first NFL game that he's really quick, really athletic, aware, and is going to be a really good slot corner. I'm intrigued to see if the Cardinals match him up against Lions running back Reggie Bush. I have no idea if the Cardinals will do that, but I'm intrigued by the possibility.