Do Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock know what they’re doing?

What’s going on in Oakland? Leading up to the draft it sounded like chaos in that building, and then Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock raised eyebrows during the draft. Clelin Ferrell is a very good player, but nobody thought he’d go in the top 10. But the Raiders decided to snag him at pick #4, even with tons of other talent sitting there on the board. Gruden has never been good at managing the draft, but you would think Mayock would have a clue about how to trade down, get more assets, and still get your man.

Only the idiocy of the Giants pushed this down as the top story.

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2012 NFL Playoffs: Quick-Hit Reactions from Bengals vs. Texans

The Texans defeated the Bengals 31-10 on Saturday to notch their first playoff victory in franchise history. Here are a couple of quick-hit reactions from this Wildcard contest.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster rushes for a gain against the San Diego Chargers in the first half at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on November 7, 2010. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher

– Many times during the postseason we see a defensive line take over a game and that’s exactly what Houston’s front four did on Saturday. Outside of one or two passes, Andy Dalton simply didn’t have enough time to go through his progressions and get the ball down filed because the Texans’ D-line was up his ass every play. The Bengals’ running game didn’t do him any favors but credit Wade Phillips for putting together a great game plan. (A game plan that turned A.J. Green into a ghost.) Dalton had some success moving the ball in the first quarter but once the Bengals got further off of their opening script, their offense crumbled.

– You say defensive tackle J.J. Watt was a former tight end in college? Huh, could have fooled me on that ridiculous catch he made on that game-changing pick-six right before halftime. It‘s hardly surprising that he turned out to be such a good player in his first year. He’s a fellow Central Michigan Chippewa and those guys can just…flat…out…play.

– Speaking of Watt, how annoying was Mike Mayock when he kept boasting about how he thought Watt should have been a top-10 pick back in April? We get it Mike, you were high on the kid coming out of college.

– Speaking of Watt x2: What were Watt’s odds for the prop bet, “What rookie will score first in Saturday’s Bengals-Texans game?” Andy Dalton 5/1. T.J. Yates 6/1. J.J. Watt 100,000,000/1.

– It’s amazing to think that Arian Foster was once on Houston’s practice squad. You watch how elusive, athletic and powerful he is and it makes you wonder how the hell he wasn’t considered one of the Texans’ top 3 running backs during a given year. That said, Foster has even admitted that he wasn’t motivated until finding out that practice players could be called up, so it’s probably not the Texans’ fault that he wasted some time when he first arrived in the NFL. And boy has he arrived.

– I hate to be critical because the kid is doing the best he can in a difficult situation, but T.J. Yates wasn’t very impressive. On one drive in the second quarter, he overlooked open receivers on two separate pass plays in order to throw to guys that were covered, and Chris Crocker nearly had a pick-six late in the third when Yates threw across his body. (Crocker inexplicably dropped the gift.) But again, how critical can you be of a fifth-round rookie quarterback who won his first postseason game of his career? Peyton Manning didn’t accomplish that feat and neither did Eli Manning or Matt Ryan. I only mention the fact that Yates wasn’t impressive because Baltimore’s defense is a) better against the run than Cincinnati and b) will likely score more than 10 points. Thus, Yates might not be able to step into the shadows and allow Foster and Houston’s defense to take over.

– One thing that was impressive about Yates was the double-move he put on Pacman Jones to burn the corner on Andre Johnson’s touchdown catch. Houston‘s o-line gave him great protection and Yates calmly juked Jones out of jockstrap. (On a related note, it’s easy to forget that Pacman is still in the NFL when he’s not being arrested every week.)

– This game was yet another example of what happens when a team doesn’t have enough offensive weapons. The Texans took Green out of the game and Dalton essentially didn’t have anyone else to throw to. You see this type of thing all the time in the playoffs and you understand why teams like the Saints and Packers load up on playmakers during the offseason.

– The coaches upstairs for the Bengals should have done a better job of telling Marvin Lewis not to challenge Owen Daniels’ first-down catch late in the first half. Had they done their jobs, Lewis wouldn’t have blown Cincinnati’s second timeout and more importantly, the team’s final challenge on a call that obviously wasn‘t going to go their way. That said, it’s ultimately up to Lewis to make sure he still has a challenge in his back pocket for the final 30-plus minutes of the game. That’s just bad coaching all around for Cincinnati.

– That’s a bad half of football, Chris Crocker.

– Despite this bitter ending, it was a hell of a season for the Bengals. I know fans wanted their team to advance but looking at the big picture, nobody expected Cincinnati to make the postseason back in August.

Nessler and Mayock hired to save dreadful Thursday night NFL Network broadcasts

Finally, the NFL Network has wised up when it comes to its Thursday night broadcasts.

Assuming there’s even a season next year, Brad Nessler will do the play-by-play for the Thursday night broadcasts on the NFL Network, while Mike Mayock will be his color man. Nessler, who mostly does college football and basketball announcing, has an outstanding voice and brings some much-needed experience to the Thursday night booth. For those who follow the NFL draft coverage every year, you know Mayock knows his football (even though he can be a tad over-the-top at times).

This is a major improvement over the brutal trio of Bob Papa, Joe Theismann and Matt Millen. Of course, those three weren’t quite as bad as Bryant Gumbel, but that’s like saying Rebecca Black’s studio version of the song “Friday” is better than her acoustic rendition. Either way, it’s crap. (Who was the genius at the NFL Network that thought of the brilliant idea to have Gumbel announce Thursday night games despite the fact that he had zero play-by-play experience? His I’m-better-than-all-of-you style was a perfect fit for blue-collar NFL fans.)

The NFL Network is doing itself and fans a solid by going with Nessler and Mayock, although the revamping shouldn’t stop there. The network needs to take a long, hard look at its production quality as well, because for years the Thursday night broadcasts look like they’re being shot in a cave. It’s hard to explain, but the sound and lighting have never looked right to me, even on a HD screen. And they could play the games in a surround sound theatre and it would still sound muffled.

That said, Nessler and Mayock are a great fix. Nice job, NFL Network. It’s too bad only 34 get the network…

Lions to target Jahvid Best in the second round?

John Niyo of the Detroit News believes that the Lions may target Cal running back Jahvid Best if he falls to their pick in the second round.

The Lions have made no secret of the fact they plan to add another running back this offseason. Kevin Smith is busy rehabbing after suffering a torn ACL in December, leaving Maurice Morris as the only healthy NFL veteran in Allen Park. Aaron Brown, DeDe Dorsey and Cedric Peerman are the other backs on the roster.

If the Lions manage to trade down from the No. 2 pick — still a long shot, I think — Clemson’s C.J. Spiller will get strong consideration later in the top 10. More likely, though, Cal’s Jahvid Best could fall to the Lions at the top of the second round. And if he’s there, the Lions better be ready to pounce — maybe even trading up a few slots to get him — “because he’s got first-round ability,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says.

In my mock draft, I have Best going to the Chargers with the 28th overall pick, but some believe Fresno State running back Ryan Matthews will be selected before him. I think either back would be a perfect fit with Kevin Smith in Detroit. There’s no question that GM Martin Mayhew needs to give quarterback Matthew Stafford more quality playmakers on offense.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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