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The Notebook: Undervalued running backs & a closer look at Mike Glennon

Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White wonders if NFL team's aren't undervaluing running backs these days. Plus, another look at Jay Ratliff, beasting with Robert Quinn and what the film says about Mike Glennon's future in the NFL.

Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Washington head coach Mike Shanahan decided to shut down RGIII for the rest of the year, replacing him in with Kirk Cousins. This was obviously a very controversial move especially when Washington would be facing a Falcons team this week that has underperformed all year especially on defense.

Cousins did have a few brain farts, but for the most part he shined in a game Washington almost came back to win.

The keyword here is "almost."

With Washington trailing by seven with 3:25 remaining, Cousins led them on a 14-play touchdown. An extra point would have tied the game. A two-point conversion would likely win it. Being on the road and hoping desperately for a win, Washington elected to go for two.

This is where you need a dynamic quarterback leading your team. He doesn't have to run the read option or run a 4.5 forty, but he should have enough athleticism and pocket awareness to find a way to convert the deciding play with the inside the five yard line. On a play like this the quarterback will probably not have his first read open, and will have to find a way to extend the play and get it to a secondary receiver with the pocket breaking down.

That is precisely what happened here. The Falcons rushed. Cousins did avoid the pressure initially, but he ultimately couldn't find a way to make that game-winning play.

More from Stephen White: 5 ways to beat the Broncos

We've come to expect RGIII to make something happen in those situations. He has played like crap for a few games, but he's still given us a few "wow" plays this season. We won't even bring up how terrible the Washington defense played and how folks tend to overlook its major contribution to this train wreck of a season. At the end of the day RGIII hasn't had many opportunities to win or lose a game in the last minute this year.

Now ask yourself this question, if that was RGIII out there Sunday at the end of the game do you think he would have found a way to score on that two-point conversion for the win?

I know my answer.

The mighty Quinn

Every once in a while a great pass rusher will have a day where it seems like no matter what the other team does, they just can't stop him. Robert Quinn had a day like that in the Rams' mauling of the Saints on Sunday. The Rams defensive end started glowing like Leroy Green in The Last Dragon and found another level to take his game to.

Quinn finished with two sacks including an amazing play where he reached out with both hands and just snatched the ball away from Drew Brees. He so thoroughly dominated Saints left tackle Charles Brown that the Saints benched him in favor of Zach Strief, their usual right tackle.

It didn't help much.

There were many other plays during the game where Quinn either got a hand on Brees as he released the ball or forced him to move off his spot in the pocket. The Saints started throwing the kitchen sink at Quinn in the second quarter to try to slow down his rush. For the most part it didn't work.

With his two sacks on Sunday that makes 15 on the year for Quinn, who leads the NFC. I'm pretty sure the way he has dominated this season will have him on a plane to Hawaii in January.

Find the balance

I'm going to go out on a limb and say Saints head coach Sean Payton deserves his share of scorn this week along with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for abandoning the running game. At least Garrett waited until the end of the game to go completely pass happy. Payton had Drew Brees throw the ball 56 times against the Rams while running backs Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram only had nine carries, COMBINED. That's a recipe for getting your ass kicked on the road and guess what happened.

Just about every team needs a better balance than on offense if they hope to be successful, even the handful of teams that have elite quarterbacks like Drew Brees.

Undervalued running backs

Both Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell had slow starts to the season. They have another thing in common: They both went over 1,000 yards on Sunday (rushing yards for Lacy, all-purpose yards for Bell). I have to say both the Steelers and Packers got backs in the draft that perfectly fit their systems. Lacy is that big back with quick feet who can help in pass protection as well as catch the ball out of the backfield. He is who the Packers have been searching for the past four years. Bell has a lot of similar qualities, but might be a little more dynamic in space. With the Steelers going to more of a no-huddle/shotgun offense, Bell has stood out while helping to open up the offense by forcing opposing defensive coordinators to respect the run game.


Bell and Lacy were both drafted in the second round. I still say running backs have not been overvalued in the draft. I think now we may be starting to undervalue the position, especially when you think about what kind of offenses advance in the playoffs. It doesn't have to be outstanding, but teams better have an adequate running game at least if they plan on winning a game outdoors in January or at the Super Bowl this year, since its being played in New Jersey. Because of injuries, both the Steelers and the Packers still may be eliminated from the playoffs after the next two games. However, if either or both teams do make it, I think their opponents should be worried specifically because of what Lacy and Bell bring to the table.

A new Jay

In his first game back in action, Week 13, the Bears had defensive tackle Jay Ratliff play mostly three technique against the Vikings. On Sunday, against the Browns, Ratliff moved over to nose tackle. I have to say, after watching the game, that I like the move.

Ratliff still has the strength and technique to hold up against double teams at nose tackle. He also brings a quickness and savvy to the position that helps him transition to the pass rush on early down dropbacks that you wouldn't see with most of the bigger nose tackles. He pressured Browns QB Jason Campbell several times on Sunday, and made some very good plays against the run as well.

The Bears gutted out the late win over the Browns to keep them in the race for the NFC North crown. If Ratliff can continue to contribute to what had been a shaky Bears' defense, Chicago might just slip right back into contention for the Lombardi Trophy this year.

They went to Jared

Since 2007 there have been at least three things you could always count on: death, taxes and Jared Allen having double-digit sacks. After a two-sack day on Sunday in the Vikings' upset of the Eagles, Allen now has nine sacks on the season. It may not always be pretty, but Allen has been the model of consistency when it comes to getting sacks and pressuring quarterbacks for the last six years. Even in a sad sack year for the Vikings, he still brings it week in and week out. My hat is off to him.

Glennon, Sullivan & the real problem with Tampa's offense

We started the day with some all-22 breakdowns, so why not end it with a few more?

One thing that I have noticed lately about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their offensive woes is that quite a few people have suddenly grabbed their torches and pitchforks wanting to run offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan out of town. I'm not exactly a fan of Sullivan's, but it's interesting how when Mike Glennon was playing well, the rookie quarterback got all the praise. Now that he is struggling, there's no need to sugarcoat it.

Now that the offense is officially the worst in the league, Sullivan is getting more than his share of blame while Glennon gets a pass.


A lot of people who should know better are too damn lazy and or uninterested to watch the tape and see what exactly is going on with this team on the field. Some people want to pump up certain rookie quarterbacks when they play well and overlook their mistakes when they don't because "they're just rookies".

Everyone is free to believe what they want to believe about Glennon and Sullivan; we do still live in America. However, if your contention is that Sullivan has gone too conservative and isn't calling enough plays with deep routes open, well let me see if I can point out a few of those "missing" plays for you from the Bucs' demoralizing beatdown by the 49ers at home last Sunday.


The photo above is the very first third down of the game for the Bucs offense. That yellow circle is around wide receiver Tiquan Underwood who is wiiiiiide open. Glennon however goes to fullback Brian Leonard for a slant route behind Underwood. It goes incomplete after Leonard gets blasted by the safety.

Can't really fault Sullivan for that.


On the Bucs' next possession they have a third-and-four. They run double crossers underneath and try to sneak Vincent Jackson behind the crossers in the deep middle. The 49ers stick with Jackson, but look at Tim Wright (yellow circle) who is open as one of the shallow crossers for the first down. Glennon doesn't pull the trigger.


That's right, I said open. Glennon just isn't looking at him because he is locked onto Jackson.

Two three-and-outs to start the game, two very good opportunities for a first down that Glennon failed to capitalize on.


The picture above is a second-and-6 from the Bucs' 44-yard line. Jackson (yellow circle) does a stutter and goes up top with the safety heading away from him and toward the middle of the field. Instead of taking the shot down field to Jackson for a jump ball in a one-on-one situation where he is usually money, Glennon throws a deep ball well off target to the other side of the field to Skye Dawson.


I know some of you were thinking "Hey, that's not open!" Oh, yes it is. That's about as open as Jackson gets on deep balls these day, but who cares, right? Once he has a one-on-one the quarterback just has throw a jump ball and watch the magic happen. Unless you don't throw it to Jackson and let him make a play for you in this situation. When that happens, you usually don't convert on third down either and end up wasting good field position by having to punt.



There's Wright (above, yellow circle) open in the middle of the field again. I will give you that Glennon (red circle) is under pressure here, but if he threw with the anticipation some folks keep saying he has, this ball would have already been thrown.


Throwing with anticipation in this case means that as soon as Wright breaks to make his cut here, Glennon should be in a throwing motion to get him the ball. As you can see from the coverage in the previous picture, he is going to be open behind No. 53 and in front of No. 31.

Nope, Glennon eats a sack instead. It doesn't mess with your completion percentage or QB rating, soooooo ...

Did I mention that was a third-and-3 with the Bucs only down 7-0 at that point?

You know what though, maybe Glennon saw that it's a tight game and decided to play it close to the vest. Maybe he will take more chances when the Bucs go down by a larger margin.


The score is 17-7 in the third quarter. The Bucs are facing a third-and-8 in the picture above. I think this was a nice call by Sullivan, actually. Run Jackson on a short crosser, and if he attracts attention, have Wright behind him on a deep dig.

Jackson runs the crosser, attracts attention, and Wright (yellow circle) is left open. Glennon throws to Jackson who gets blasted by 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman and can't hang on. I'm not sure Jackson would have had the yardage for the first down anyway.


This is a nice little in route by Tiquan Underwood on the back side in this photo above.

Glennon never looks away from front side.

Glennon go down, go boom ... sacked by Aldon Smith.

Maybe it's trust issues with some of the guys, right?


Here is Glennon's main guy, Jackson (yellow circle) curling in behind the linebacker. And there is Glennon dumping it off to Leonard out of the backfield.

On third-and-14.

The score is 20-7 with more than half of the third quarter gone.

It wasn't always this bad all day. The Bucs did eventually pull to within 20-14 in the fourth quarter. So let's fast forward a bit.

The score is now 30-14 after the Bucs fumbled an attempted reverse on the kick off return that was then returned for a fumble by the 49ers. There is only a little over four minutes left.


This is an end zone shot of Wright (yellow circle) about to make a double move up the left seam behind that linebacker. The quarterback has got to make this play in this situation to have any chance of coming back and making it a game.


Wright is open, but Glennon sails it over everybody's head.

I have quite a few more shots I could use, but I think I will end with these two of the same play because it kind of sums up a lot of the reasons I still have major doubts about Glennon.


Let's be honest, a bunch of shit had to go wrong on this play for three wide receivers to be bunched up together in the middle of the field and the quarterback to be rolling to his right outside the pocket. Still, that's where the Bucs were at on third-and-10 with 4:03 left in the game, down 30-14. At that point, it doesn't matter why everyone is where they are on this play, what matters is that the Bucs have to make this first down to have any shot at a comeback.

So you throw it up into that crowd of Bucs receivers and hope one of them comes down with it to move the chains.

Or not.

Glennon said screw it and threw the ball out of bounds.

That led to him missing four separate receivers that were open at different times on the next play. His pass to Eric Page near the sideline fell incomplete, ending any hope of the Bucs winning or tying the game.

Look at this from the end zone shot.


Down 16 points with not much time left isn't the time to be risk averse.

This is the time to have a little bit of a wild streak and take some chances.

I just don't think Glennon is built that way. That is why I don't see him as a long-term answer, for now at least. I believe that when the Bucs run the ball well and the defense creates a bunch of turnovers, Glennon can be a decent quarterback. When the crap hits the fan and the defense is struggling and the team is down in the fourth quarter? I have zero confidence in his ability to lead a comeback drive.

Having the ability to lead your team back from the brink of losing at the end of the game and put them in position to win it is the dynamic ability I like to see from a quarterback. To me, that is what the "elite" quarterbacks can do. Glennon hasn't shown me that so far.

Could coaching be part of it too? Is it possible Schiano wants Glennon to be gun shy?


What I will say, however, is that Mike Sullivan is making decent calls lately. Not great, but decent. It would be nice if folks would watch the film and notice that even if Sullivan is a problem, he sure as hell isn't THE problem with this offense.

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