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McNeill's got his gigantic hands full

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    After three months of conforming to football’s cultural imperative of playing them one game at a time, Marcus McNeill momentarily dropped his guard yesterday to admit he has been looking ahead.
    "Even though I wouldn’t have said it before, I circled this week on my calendar," the Chargers’ titanic left tackle confessed. “I know it’s going to be a big game and I’m going to have to play well if we’re going to have a chance to win.”
    Sunday’s skirmish with the Dallas Cowboys is sure to involve playoff implications, incite stadium envy and ought to indicate just how far these Bolts might be able to go. But the main reason for McNeill’s added emphasis is micro rather than macro, specific rather than sweeping.
    His name is DeMarcus Ware.
    The Cowboys’ right outside linebacker applies pressure like a latter-day Lawrence Taylor or a much-latter-day Tomas de Torquemada. Ware led the National Football League last season with 20 quarterback sacks, has accumulated another nine over his last eight games and continues to distance himself from the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman as the premier pass rusher of the class of 2005.
    Selected one slot ahead of Merriman in the 2005 draft (No. 11 vs. No. 12), Ware has totaled 62.5 sacks and forced 21 fumbles while successfully avoiding drug suspensions, season-ending surgeries and actionable encounters with Tila Tequila. Merriman, by comparison, has 43.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles over the same span.
    Though Merriman’s numbers have surely suffered from the amount of time he has missed, the cumulative impact of his injuries has reduced him from intensely intimidating to merely formidable. DeMarcus Ware, meanwhile, still hovers close enough to the top of his game that the Cowboys rewarded him with a six-year, $78 million contract just six weeks ago.
    “He’s athletic, big (and) strong,” McNeill said yesterday on his way out of the Chargers dressing room. “I know him personally. He’s a great guy. He’s going to be one of the bigger matchups of my season.”
    McNeill’s matchup is complicated by a sprained left ankle he sustained Sunday in Cleveland. Though McNeill said yesterday his foot is “perfectly fine,” and that the protective boot he was wearing was mainly precautionary, Chargers coach Norv Turner said the injury “concerns me.”
    Some of McNeill’s teammates have teasingly interpreted it as evidence that he’s looking for an escape.
    “They’re joking that I’m scared of (Ware), and that’s why I got hurt in the Cleveland game,” McNeill said. “I like stuff like that. I’m not a guy who really gets nervous. Stuff like that just makes me play better.”
    At his best, Marcus McNeill is a mobile monster, a 6-foot-7, 336-pound barrier who blocks Philip Rivers’ blind side with the elan of an elite cornerback.
    “I love the cornerback mentality,” McNeill said. “I always play around with (LaDainian Tomlinson), talking about how I’m playing corner out there at left tackle. When they slide their line, you’re out there by yourself (against) some of the best athletes.”
    When a cornerback gets beat, the damage is rarely more than seven points. But when a left tackle loses his individual battle, his quarterback can pay a terrible price.
    That message is imparted in the opening minutes of the new film, “The Blind Side,” with the familiar 1985 footage of Joe Theismann’s career-ending sack by Lawrence Taylor, and underscored by a script that points out that next to quarterbacks, left tackles are the highest-paid players in the sport.
    “It’s definitely a critical position and as valuable as it’s perceived to be,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “And I’m glad we’ve got the guy we’ve got.
    “You won’t play your best if you’re worried about what’s going on (behind you). Then you’re not seeing what you need to see.”
    To watch Rivers unhurriedly scanning the field for receivers is to witness a quarterback who trusts his left tackle. Though the Chargers sometimes shift to a fast-breaking, short passing game against blitzing defenses, Rivers’ trademark throw is the deep strike. That takes time and, more specifically, a left tackle who can provide it.
    Now in his fourth NFL season, McNeill has already played in two Pro Bowls. He conveys his cool and his confidence level through his Twitter home page, in which he refers to himself as, “the biggest, the flyest (and) the prettiest playmaker out there, baby.”
    “I don’t think I’m ever too relaxed,” he said. “(But) One of the big things I think people can take from me is I think if you think about too much stuff in the huddle, that’s when you kind of let too many thoughts get in your head.
    “I’m not thinking about what my technique is going to look like and stuff like that. I know that already. That’s when I go to playing football. … You can’t be uptight playing left tackle. You’ve got to be loose and relaxed.”
    Typically, this manifests itself by McNeill running his mouth.
    “I got (lines) coming for days,” he boasted. “If a backup comes in, I’ll hit him with, ‘Hey, man, I need your three best pass rush moves right now or you’re going to get me in trouble with my coach ’cause I haven’t seen you on film’
    “Some guys jaw-jack back less. I got into a little jaw-jacking with (Miami’s) Joey Porter early in the season. But you’ve got guys like (Pittsburgh’s James) Harrison and stuff, they’re more about business. You can talk to them all day, but you don’t get much.”
    Denied dialogue, Marcus McNeill will settle for monologue. Blocking the blind side has not made him mute.
    “My coach and some people said, ‘Why don’t they make a movie about you?’ ” McNeill said. “I said, ‘Cause I ain’t from the ’hood. I’m from the suburbs.’ ”
  2. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Big Mac faces big challenge

    Casey Pearce
    Posted Dec 11, 2009

    Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill will stare down one of the NFL’s elite pass rushers Sunday when the Chargers visit DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys.

    Marcus McNeill[​IMG] often refers to the values his parents James and Leola McNeill instilled in him, and honesty is certainly at top of the list. That’s why when asked about facing Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware this week, the Chargers’ starting left tackle was blunt.
    “Even though I wouldn’t have said it before, I circled this on my calendar,” McNeill said. “I know it’s going to be a big game and I’m going to have to play well for us to win.”
    McNeill, a two-time Pro Bowler who may be having his best season of his four-year career, is faced with a big task Sunday. Ware enters the Week 13 showdown with nine sacks on the season. He posted a team-record 20 a year ago and his 62.5 since entering the NFL in 2005 are the most by any player over the last five seasons.
    Ware and McNeill attended college 94 miles apart, McNeill at Auburn and Ware at Troy in southeast Alabama. The two have never faced each other, even though according to McNeill: “He was right down the street from me and I heard plenty about him.”
    While they’ve never met, McNeill has seen plenty of Ware on tape and is extremely impressed by the Dallas linebacker.
    “I face great pass rushers every week and he’s one of the best,” McNeill said. “He’s athletic and strong. I know him personally. He’s a great guy. It’s going to be one of the biggest matchups of the season.”
    In the Chargers locker room, the fun-loving McNeill is often the one telling jokes, but this week he took the brunt of them. His teammates have been hyping up the matchup, and McNeill has enjoyed it.
    “They’re joking on me, saying I got scared of him and that’s why I got hurt in the Cleveland game,” said McNeill, who sprained his ankle against the Browns but hasn’t missed any practice this week. “I like stuff like that. I’m not a guy that gets nervous. Stuff like that helps me focus even more.”
    Much has been made about the matchup, but when asked earlier this week about McNeill’s play this season, Head Coach Norv Turner praised his left tackle for the way he’s approached each week regardless of who he was preparing to play.
    “Marcus’s maturity level has really risen from the standpoint of the focus week-to-week and not being concerned, saying, ‘I’ve got a good player this week. I’ve got to play great. This guy is not as good, I don’t have to play great,’” Turner said. “He’s approached each week I think in a very professional manner and he’s played great.”
    Quarterback Philip Rivers[​IMG], who was sacked last week for the first time in three games, certainly appreciates McNeill’s ability to keep his blindside clean.
    “I’m glad we’ve got the guy we’ve got,” Rivers said. “You won’t play your best if you’re worried about what’s going on (behind you) because you can’t always see it. If you’re trying to see it then you can’t see what you need to see. Marcus does a great job over there.”
    McNeill believes he is more focused as Turner said and that’s helped him raise his level of play. He’s not ready to say it’s been this has been his best season, but a big performance Sunday may help him do so a few weeks from now.
    “I can’t say that yet because it’s not finished,” McNeill said. “I’ve been to the Pro Bowl, we’ve been to the AFC Championship game. We’ve got bigger things we want to accomplish as a team and my focus is on playing my best each week and helping us get there. We can take another step in that direction this week, and I know I’ve got to play my best against a great player to help us do that.”

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