Insider Matchup Notes For Week Four

Why is the Green Bay Packer defense so good? How is Jarret Johnson coming along in replacing Adalius Thomas? Get these insider scoops and a lot more in this week's edition of Insider Matchup.

Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings


* As noted during the broadcast of last week's game against the San Diego Chargers, head coach Mike McCarthy has decided to put their offense in QB Brett Favre's hands. Over the last few seasons, they used RB Ahman Green to set up their passing. That's now a thing of the past since they don't have a lead back. Favre is playing out of more shotgun formations -- and not just on passing downs -- which is a clear departure from past seasons."

* Another key to the sudden success of their improved passing game is the play of LT Chad Clifton and RT Mark Tauscher. Both should be able to handle the Vikings' pressure.

* Defensively, the depth in the front four is really apparent. On passing downs, DE Cullen Jenkins moves inside and veteran DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila comes in outside. This is similar to what the Philadelphia Eagles do in passing situations with DE Darren Howard who moves inside.

* A league source notes that CB Charles Woodson is playing the best he has in several years. Part of that could be attributed to him being healthy for a change.


* If WR Robert Ferguson plays well this weekend against his former team, look for him to keep the starting job over underachieving WR Troy Williamson. The Vikings are looking for any help they can get in the passing game.

* A key matchup here on offense is how RT Ryan Cook handles LDE Aaron Kampman who is a speed-rusher. Cook has slow feet and could have his problems on Sunday.

* A key defensive matchup will be when the Packers move WR Donald Driver to the slot in some passing situations which will put pressure on rookie CB Marcus McCauley.

Oakland Raiders-Miami Dolphins


* Don't look for the coaches to open up the passing game much if QB Daunte Culpepper gets to start this weekend against his former team. Culpepper didn't move all that well in last week's game and he didn't get a chance to throw it deep.

* LG Robert Gallery has found a home inside. Gallery seems more comfortable playing in a confined area with help on both sides of him.


* The biggest reasons for the improvement in the passing game are how QB Trent Green has been able to scan the field and how he's getting rid of the ball quickly.

* Look for head coach Cam Cameron to continue to dial up passing plays for RB Ronnie Brown outside of the formation -- where he seems more comfortable. Brown does a good job of setting up his blockers when he's out in space.

* This could be the breakout game that RDE Jason Taylor is looking for as he goes up against OLT Barry Sims. Taylor is the kind of speed rusher who could give Sims fits.

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills


* While OLT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is starting to perform better, he still has a long way to go. Ferguson struggled badly in the first two weeks of the season and he also didn't look good in the preseason. As a scout from another AFC team notes, Ferguson still needs to get stronger physically. He's unable to dominate as he did in college.

* A league source told recently that the team isn't looking to add another back despite the need for a big one who could come in during short-yardage situations. If the coaches feel they need a big back in the game, they could go to FB Stacy Tutt.


* The biggest reasons for the success of RB Marshawn Lynch so far are that he continues to run with good vision and he doesn't get knocked off his feet on the first hit. That was an issue with him when scouts evaluated his game tape coming out of college.

* Look for the Jets to run the ball as much as possible at undersized MLB John DiGiorgio who got blown off the ball last week against the New England Patriots.

Houston Texans at Atlanta Falcons


* You can credit much of QB Matt Schaub's success to two areas. The pass protection has been the best the team has had since their inception in 2002 and Schaub gets rid of the ball quickly.

* Rookie DT Amobi Okoye seems to have a really good first step and that's apparent on tape according to scouts whose teams are playing the Texans in the near future.


* QB Joey Harrington is throwing the ball much better of late and he did a nice job of getting the ball out of his hands last week against the Carolina Panthers.

* Some league insiders wonder if RBs Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood are good matches for head coach Bobby Petrino's power-rushing attack.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions


* Don't look for any scheme changes with QB Brian Griese behind center. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner runs a power-rushing scheme, which another pocket passer, Erik Kramer, did very well in back in 2005. Under Turner that season, Kramer posted 29 touchdown passes.

* Sunday's game could be a preview of things to come for backup WLB Jamar Williams. The second-year player could take over the starting job next season if the team decides to part ways with starting WLB Lance Briggs who is without a contract for 2008.


* Knowing that the Bears are banged up in the secondary, look for even more four-receiver sets than usual in this game. If rookie WR Calvin Johnson (back) can't go, look for veteran WR Troy Walters on the field as the fourth receiver.

* With the loss of blocking TE Dan Campbell for the season, the running game could take a hit -- and it showed last week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns


* QB Kyle Boller seems very comfortable coming off the bench in relief. In fact, as one league insider framed it, Boller seems to play better with no pressure on him to perform. He has done a good job of going through his reads and has put the ball where it needs to go.

* Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan continues to disguise his blitzes and fronts. Ryan used rookie OLB Antwan Barnes last week as a pass rusher at end.

* While he hasn't gotten much publicity, OLB Jarret Johnson is making a smooth transition with his move from end. Johnson has done a good job in coverage and doesn't seem lost playing a new position. He also has been moving around in their front seven each game as former starting OLB Adalius Thomas did.


* There are a few noticeable things that QB Derek Anderson has shown in his first two starts. He has done a much better job of getting the ball out of his hands quicker than in past performances. On the negative side, he continues to misread coverages. Teams are not blitzing him that much, rather they are dropping linebackers and he isn't clear on what he's seeing. That, according to a league source, can be corrected after watching tape during the week.

* The offensive line is really starting to form a cohesive unit according to a scout from an opposing team. Rookie LT Joe Thomas continues to improve each week, but this week's challenge will be a big one against a solid Baltimore front seven. The Ravens use both the 3-4 and 4-3 fronts almost equally.

St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys


* Because the Cowboys blitz so much, this could be another long day for their makeshift offensive line.

* Rookie NT Adam Carriker hasn't been an impact player overall, but he's doing well against the run according to a league insider. According to those who know Carriker well, he has taken to playing inside. The team believes he can put on even more weight in the future in order to stay at the position long term.


* Possibly the biggest key to the improvement of QB Tony Romo has been his decisiveness. It seems like he knows where he wants to go with the ball on every pass play and he's getting rid of the ball quickly. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is doing a good job of moving him around in the pocket and Romo seems very comfortable.

* Look for the team to add a veteran receiver by next month's trading deadline despite denials to the contrary.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers


* Despite some preseason hype, second-year WR Maurice Stovall doesn't have a catch. The reason why Stovall was supplanted by veteran WR Ike Hilliard could be because Hilliard is a better route-runner and has better hands.

* If you want to know why their defense is showing so much improvement, one needs to look no further than MLB Barrett Ruud. The third-year pro might be playing the best at his position of any team in the NFL right now according to a personnel evaluator from another team.


* A key for QB David Carr -- who is likely to start this Sunday -- is for him to be decisive with his throws. Carr gets sacked too much because he holds onto the ball too long.

* The team has an interesting decision coming after the season is over. RB DeShaun Foster is on the books for $4.75 million for the final year of his deal in 2008.

* The safety play has been the way teams have found success throwing against their defense. Look for that to continue. Don't be surprised if the team selects a safety on the first day of next year's draft or spends some free agent dollars on one who can come in and start.

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers


* The team used a lot of four-receiver sets last week which really isn't something they have done in the past. But the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary doesn't have very good depth, so it's understandable. Rookie WR Courtney Taylor played more than expected.

* The linebacker play was outstanding last week and many times on film, a league source points out, OLB Julian Petersen was playing with his hand down and got penetration into the Bengals' backfield causing RB Rudi Johnson to run another way.


* QB Alex Smith looks very mechanical and it's apparent the ball is coming out of his hands too late. This has been a problem for him at times in the past.

* In the words of one league insider, rookie ILB Patrick Willis is the best rookie at his position in the last 10 years or so. He apparently flashes on tape every week.

Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers


* Perhaps their best move in free agency was the signing of DT Alfonso Boone who might be playing the best ball of his career. While it may not show in his tackles numbers, Boone has been very disruptive to opposing offenses against the run and pass.


* While their run defense continues to be solid, the defense isn't dominating the competition as in years past. The big problem is OLB Shawne Merriman is struggling to make any kind of an impact. The safety play also hasn't been very good.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Arizona Cardinals


* Despite lots of preseason hype, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians isn't really using as many multiple receiver sets as many had expected. Instead, we're seeing a lot of two-tight end sets as has been the case in previous seasons.

* While he's not getting a lot of attention nationally, a league source who has studied WR Santonio Holmes of late notes the second-year pro has shown really good improvement in his route running.


* QB Matt Leinart has played with bad fundamentals and his game is too slow overall. That was noticeable last week once QB Kurt Warner took over.

* ILB Karlos Dansby seems very comfortable playing inside for the first time in his career and he gives the defensive coaches a good inside pass rusher which they haven't had in year's past.

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts


* According to a league source, the team would prefer not to trade FB Mike Bell this year. The coaching staff likes Bell's versatility and they believe he can grow into the position.

Look for the team to invest their free agent dollars next year in one to two defensive tackles. They have no apparent solid talent that's ready to make an impact and it shows on the field. Rookie DT Marcus Thomas is getting some snaps, but in the words of one league source, "he's not ready for prime time just yet."


* While the team re-signed RB Clifton Dawson, it's believed they didn't look to sign a veteran back because they believe RB Kenton Keith could handle the rushing load should starting RB Joseph Addai get injured.

* In discussions with many league sources, the one word that continues to be mentioned is "physical" from their defense. The cornerbacks continue to handle themselves well and are doing a good job in run support. CB Marlin Jackson, according to a league source, is currently playing at a Pro Bowl level.

Scout NFL Network Top Stories