AROUND THE NFL

We split our four picks last week to get all the way to 2-6 on the postseason.  We feel like both home teams will win, their homefield advantages are among the best in the NFL.  Recent history is on our side, with home teams are 10-0 straight up and 8-2 ATS in conference title games in the last five years.  What little tradition the Patriots have on the road in the playoffs isn’t very good.

 

So Chiefs and Saints in Atlanta.  Where they will hear Gladys Knight sing The National Anthem.

 

Seven-time Grammy Award-winner and “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight will sing the National Anthem as part of Super Bowl LIII pregame festivities at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, February 3, the NFL and CBS announced today. The performance will be televised live on CBS prior to kickoff.

 

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” said Gladys Knight, “the NFL recently announced their new social justice platform Inspire Change, and I am honored to be a part of its inaugural year.”

 

Gladys Knight has enjoyed No. 1 hits in Pop, Gospel, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles (“Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For”), eleven No. 1 R&B singles, and six No. 1 R&B albums. She has won seven Grammy Awards and is an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with The Pips. Fall of 2015 marked the release of Knight’s first mainstream dance record, “Just A Little” in nearly twenty years. The song serves as lead single from her twelfth studio album that she is currently on. The year of 2011 was a year of much recognition as Knight was both honoring and being honored, first at a Michael Jackson tribute concert, and then at the 2011 Soul Train Awards.

 

Gladys Knight joins the ranks of many great performers who have sang the Super Bowl National Anthem including: Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Mariah Carey, Cher, Natalie Cole, Harry Connick, Jr., Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, Lady Gaga, Faith Hill, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Wynton Marsalis, Idina Menzel, Aaron Neville, P!NK, Jordin Sparks, Diana Ross, Luther Vandross, Vanessa Williams, and many more.

 

Tony Dungy was among those fired up by the choice.

 

@TonyDungy

So fitting for Gladys Knight to sing the National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta. An Atlanta native who grew up in an era of discrimination but kept her faith in God to overcome it, will now sing on football’s biggest stage. The “Midnight Train” has come full circle!

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

Carson Palmer sends an endorsement of Bruce Arians to QB JAMEIS WINSTON.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

One former Bruce Arians quarterback thinks the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach will be a godsend to signal-caller Jameis Winston.

 

Retired Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer joined NFL Network’s Up To The Minute and noted that Arians’ offense should fit Winston like a glove.

 

“They’re going to be great together,” Palmer said. “It’s probably the best thing that could’ve happen to Jameis at this point in his career. Getting a guy like B.A. to come in and clean up some things technically. And really installing what he does best and that’s push the ball down the field.

 

“He finds ways to get the ball down the field to Mike Evans with DeSean Jackson there and speed on the outside. His passing game, his vertical passing game is just different. It’s hard to defend. You don’t see it throughout the league. Every team doesn’t do what he does. That combined with the way that Jameis can throw the ball down the field with accuracy, I think it’s a great tandem.”

 

Palmer spent the final five years of his NFL career in Arians’ system and knows it as well as any quarterback.

 

It’s plowed ground suggesting Arians’ offense fits well with Winston’s skill set. Palmer noting that Arians can help clean up some of the quarterback’s technical flaws in the pocket shouldn’t go overlooked. The 25-year-old quarterback hasn’t progressed as well as most predicted since his rookie campaign.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Tom Clements, a national champion QB in 1973 by the way, surfaces as a possible OC for Kliff Kingsbury who was born in 1979.  Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic:

 

The Arizona Cardinals turned their attention to a new candidate in their ongoing search to hire an offensive coordinator, having interviewed former longtime NFL assistant coach Tom Clements for the position on Tuesday.

 

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media was the first to report the news on Wednesday.

 

Clements, 65, has been out of the league for the past two seasons after having spent the previous 11 years serving as a quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Green Bay Packers. During his time there, Clements worked with both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers and would be tasked in Arizona with helping new head coach Kliff Kingsbury develop young quarterback Josh Rosen.

 

Clements, who as a quarterback in 1973 helped Notre Dame to a national championship, is the fifth known candidate to interview with the Cardinals for the offensive coordinator position. Two of them have since accepted jobs elsewhere, as Steve Sarkisian is now the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and John DeFilippo has reportedly been hired by the Jaguars as offensive coordinator.

 

Former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and ex-Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter have also interviewed with the Cardinals.

 

Before joining the Packers in 2006, Clements also served as quarterbacks coach for the Saints (1997-99), Chiefs (2000) and Steelers (2001-2003) and was the offensive coordinator for the Bills (2004-05).

 

And did you know that Kliff has a brother named Klint?

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Now it has been revealed – the sad reason that WR MARQUISE GOODWIN missed a pair of games in November.  Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:

 

Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin hadn’t discussed why he stepped away from the San Francisco 49ers for two games during the season to tend to a personal matter. As it turned out, that personal matter was another devastating loss for him and his family.

 

On Wednesday, Goodwin and his wife, former University of Texas track star Morgan Goodwin-Snow, released a video on their YouTube channel explaining that they again had gone through the anguish of losing unborn children.

 

This time, Goodwin-Snow explained, more pregnancy complications led to the loss of the twin baby boys they had been expecting.

 

“November obviously would be tough since we lost our kid last year during the season the week of the Giants,” Goodwin said in the video. “So it was tough for us this November just dealing with that but had a lot of strength and we made it through that week and another thing happened. This November, I had to miss two games. We experienced another traumatic event in our life that we had to overcome and it was tough at that point in the season, but I’ll let Morgan go into detail on that.”

 

According to Goodwin-Snow, she was about 19 weeks pregnant when she went into pre-term labor in November. She began having contractions, had been in and out of the hospital and was placed on bed rest in the days before the 49ers headed to Tampa Bay for a Nov. 25 game against the Buccaneers. She ended up back in the hospital again after waking up at 3 a.m. with painful contractions.

 

At the hospital, Goodwin-Snow’s water broke and complications led to her losing both of the babies.

 

“We knew that this was a possibility, obviously, because they’re sticking me with stuff in my stomach underneath anesthesia,” Goodwin-Snow said in the video. “So that happened in November, which is why [Goodwin] missed two games and we’re trying to make it, praying and going through that. But we’re just taking it day by day.”

 

Before losing their twins, the Goodwins had just hit the one-year anniversary of the loss of their previous child, whom they planned to name Marquise Jr., on Nov. 12, 2017. Goodwin-Snow was nearly halfway through that pregnancy when the baby was delivered stillborn. At the time, Goodwin-Snow encouraged her husband to play against the New York Giants later that day.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

RB C.J. ANDERSON offers a reason that he did so well down the stretch for the Rams – it wasn’t the stretch for him, it was the start of the season.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

C.J. Anderson had time to rest, watch the rest of the NFL — and maybe put on a few extra pounds.

 

(Don’t bring up that last part, though.)

 

Surprisingly, unemployment did Anderson some good. It landed him with the Rams, who are one win away from Super Bowl LIII, and it kept him off his feet for a healthy portion of the season. As a result, 20 weeks into the NFL campaign, Anderson feels more like a running back who hasn’t even hit his bye week yet.

 

“I’m the freshest running back in the league,” Anderson said. “I’m not gonna say they’re still fresh, but I’m fresher than Mark, Alvin and Todd, for sure.”

Anderson, who was released by the Denver Broncos in the offseason, signed by Carolina (where he played 73 snaps and received 24 carries in nine games), cut again, signed by Oakland (where he played 0 snaps), cut again, and then signed by the Rams, has carried the ball just 90 times (130 snaps played) in the 2018 season.

 

Comparatively, Todd Gurley has carried the ball 272 times on 835 total snaps (in 15 games). Alvin Kamara has run the ball 210 times on 726 total snaps. Ingram has 147 totes on 369 snaps.

 

Advantage: Anderson.

 

“I think it helps a lot,” Anderson said. “I’ve played over 1,000 snaps, 600-700 snaps in this league and when you get to this point of the season, you start to wave back and I’m out there flying around on practice, just being a kid, having fun. I look faster than everyone else, part of it because I’m fresh.”

– – –

Expert gambler Ron Boyles, quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, offers his reasons for liking the Rams on Sunday:

 

“The Rams ran the ball against Dallas at will, and I can see them doing that against the Saints,” he said. “Late in the season, the Saints didn’t overwhelm anybody.”

 

New Orleans is on an 0-4 ATS skid and has gone under in six of its past eight. Los Angeles has covered its past three games.

 

 

SEATTLE

Inside trading LB MYCHAL KENDRICKS is a free man until at least April.  Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times:

 

The sentencing for impending Seahawks free agent linebacker Mychal Kendricks has been pushed back to April 4, according to two reports Wednesday.

 

Kendricks had been initially scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 after having plead guilty to insider trading last August. It’s unclear why the sentencing was pushed back. ESPN cited a spokesman for the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania as confirming the news, which was also reported by @SeahawksMachine.

 

The timing of the sentencing could play into Kendricks’ future with the Seahawks. Kendricks signed a one-year deal with the team last September and played in four games with three starts at weakside linebacker, serving an eight-game NFL suspension in the middle of the season and then missing the final three regular season games and the playoff against Dallas due to a knee injury.

 

Kendricks will now become an unrestricted free agent on March 13 unless he is re-signed by Seattle prior to that date.

 

Seattle coach Pete Carroll has said on several occasions the team would like to have Kendricks back. If Seattle knew before the free agent signing period that Kendricks would be available to play in 2019 and beyond it would seem to make their decision about the weakside linebacker spot easier.

 

K.J. Wright has been the primary starter there for the last five years but is also due to be a free agent.

 

That means the Seahawks appear likely to have to make decisions on its WLB spot in the offseason without knowing for sure if Kendricks will be available — Wright isn’t likely to wait until April to sign.

 

There have been rumblings in NFL circles that Kendricks will not have to serve jail time, though the crime he plead to has a 30-37-month sentencing guideline. But Kendricks’ level of cooperation and other factors could lead to a reduced sentence.

 

Is it possible that the delay has something to do with the government shutdown?

– – –

The Seahawks have the shortest starting QB in the NFL in RUSSELL WILSON (until KYLER MURRAY gets here).  The plan seems to be to have the tallest backup with the signing of PAXTON LYNCH.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Paxton Lynch gets another shot with an NFL team.

 

Lynch, whom the Denver Broncos released on Sept. 2, 2018, signed a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

 

Sports Radio KJR in Seattle first reported the signing.

 

Lynch’s career has experienced a fall since the Broncos used a first-round pick (26th overall) on him in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started just five games for the Broncos over two seasons, completing 79 of 128 passes for 792 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions.

 

Lynch was once viewed as the Broncos’ future given his lofty draft status, but he failed to seize control of the starting job from Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler.

 

And after the Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal in March 2018, Lynch’s spot on the depth chart once again slipped. But he apparently had value in the eyes of some, even prompting one local Broncos beat reporter to call Lynch the “best No. 3 QB in the league.” The Broncos released Lynch the next day after claiming quarterback Kevin Hogan off waivers from the Redskins, and Lynch didn’t latch on with another team for the 2018 season.

 

In the meantime, Lynch fills a spot on the Seahawks’ 90-player offseason roster behind franchise signal-caller Russell Wilson, but the former first-round pick isn’t guaranteed a spot after training camp unless he wows the Seahawks’ coaching staff during offseason workouts.

 

Wilson is generously listed at 5-11.  Lynch is 6-7/

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

The forecast has warmed considerably for Sunday night in Kansas City.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

So much for the single-digit deep freeze that was predicted for the AFC championship game.

 

From a original low of one to a revised low of 15, the projected low temperature in Kansas City for Sunday has bumped to a balmy 22.

 

According to Weather.com, the high for Sunday currently is expected to be 27, and the low is expected to be 22.

 

Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal finds some sharpies who say that low temperatures should not depress scoring:

 

Reports of an arctic blast hitting Kansas City on Sunday resulted in a burst of under bets on the Patriots-Chiefs AFC title game.

 

The total opened at 57½ and dipped as low as 54 at Las Vegas sports books Tuesday before rising to 55½ on Thursday, when forecasts called for warmer game time temperatures, albeit still in the teens.

 

Arctic blast or not, professional sports bettors Rufus Peabody and Ron Boyles lean to the over in the rematch of New England’s 43-40 regular-season win over Kansas City.

 

“The narrative that cold weather is going to depress scoring is a bit of an overreaction,” said Peabody (@RufusPeabody), a part-time Las Vegas resident. “The real weather factor that impacts scoring is wind, but it’s not going to be a windy game.

 

“Honestly, temperature does not have a big effect on scoring. If you look at every game since 2000 with the game time temperature less than 30 degrees, overs have covered 55.7 percent of the time. They’re 108-86 against the closing total.”

 

Boyles also said that wind is the biggest weather factor impacting scoring.

 

 “It could be zero degrees, but if there’s no wind that doesn’t necessarily mean the game will stay under,” he said. “I’ve kind of got a feeling the game might go over.”

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers are going to try to get QB PHILIP RIVERS tied up into the opening of the new stadium in 2020, and perhaps beyond.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Philip Rivers, 37, has said he wants to play a handful more seasons. However long the quarterback plays, the Chargers want to ensure Rivers plays for them.

 

Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said Thursday the team plans to begin conversations this offseason with Rivers about a new deal. Rivers has one year remaining on his current deal, paying him $11 million in base salary in 2019 and counting $23 million against the salary cap.

 

“I can tell you he’s not going anywhere, so he’s going to be here,” Telesco said, via Eric Williams of ESPN. “We’ll talk at the right point, as far as the moves we need to make in the offseason, the resources we have and how it all fits in. But yeah, he’s not going anywhere.”

 

Rivers said he wants to continue playing at least through 2020, so he can open the team’s new stadium in September of that season, which would be his 17th.

 

Rivers had one of his best seasons with a 68.3 completion percentage, 4,308 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and a 105.5 passer rating. He made his eighth Pro Bowl, though Andrew Luck will replace him in the NFL’s all-star game after Rivers withdrew with an ankle issue.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

QB LAMAR JACKSON has a big goal.  Cassandra Negly of YahooSports.com:

 

A year ago Lamar Jackson was in small talk to be heir to Tom Brady in New England. Now the starting quarterback is talking big about being the heir to Brady in the NFL with aspirations to bring Super Bowls to the Baltimore Ravens.

 

Jackson spoke with Ravens’ Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis in December for Showtime’s “Inside the NFL” on his goals in Baltimore. The segment ran Tuesday night and NFL.com summarized the 3-minute teaser, shared Monday night by the show’s account.

 

Jackson sets sights on Brady levels

Jackson, who overtook Joe Flacco for the starting role in week 11, discussed with Lewis his speed and love for the game before a segue into his vision going forward.

 

“I already said it when I got drafted: I wanted to bring a Super Bowl to Baltimore,” Jackson said. “So, I’m going to try to bring as much as I can. … I want to bring the Super Bowl here. I want to be the [Tom] Brady [of Baltimore]. I want to be the Brady, bring multiple, if I could.”

 

It’s not the first time the two have been intertwined. Some thought the Patriots might draft Jackson, Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winner, in the 2018 draft and groom him to be Brady’s replacement. Prior to the draft he called Brady and Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton “superheroes.”

 

A long way to go

Jackson led the Ravens to a 6-1 record, closing the season with an AFC North title and the first playoff appearance in three seasons. He rushed for 695 yards, more than any other quarterback this season despite playing half the games. His 119 rushing yards against the Cincinnati Bengals was the most by a quarterback in his starting debut.

 

His success will look a little different than Brady’s given their different skill sets and approaches. But Jackson is hoping by the time he’s at two decades, he can bring Baltimore at least five Super Bowl victories. Brady has a chance to make it six, beginning with the AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.

 

Jackson will go up against Brady for the first time next season when the Patriots go to Baltimore.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com with an update on the health of LB J.J. WATT:

 

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t miss a game during the 2018 season, but he did appear on the injury report for much of the second half of the year with a knee issue.

 

Watt reportedly had the issue addressed after the team’s Wild Card round loss to the Colts. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Watt had the knee cleaned up surgically.

 

Rapoport reports it was a “minor” procedure and that it “sounds like he’s fine now.”

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

If you find yourself rooting against the Patriots on Sunday, you are not alone.  Adam Stites of SBNation.com:

 

The New England Patriots are in the AFC Championship for the eighth year in a row. A win against the Kansas City Chiefs would send the Patriots to the Super Bowl for the third consecutive year.

 

There’s no escaping the Patriots. They’re sports’ most inevitable team.

 

So it’s not exactly surprising that football fans are tired of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady winning so much.

 

In SB Nation’s FanPulse poll of 1,970 fans this week, 69.4 percent said the Patriots were the team they most wanted to see lose this weekend. No other team got even 12 percent of the vote.

 

Patriots: 69.44 percent

Saints: 11.88 percent

Chiefs: 9.9 percent

Rams: 8.78 percent

 

When asked what Super Bowl 53 matchup they’d like to see, 41.9 percent said the Chiefs and Saints, and 41.2 percent said the Chiefs and Rams. That left only 12.34 percent who wanted to see the Patriots vs. Saints, and 4.6 percent hoping for the Patriots vs. Rams.

 

Based on geotagged tweets in 2018, the Patriots were the NFL’s most hated team in 13 states. The Jets were the most hated in the six New England states, and no other NFL team was the most hated in any more than four. Public Policy Polling says the Patriots have been the most hated in the NFL for years now.

 

Winning will do that.

 

But it’s not too hard on the Patriots and their fans to be the evil empire everyone roots against. It’s easy when you get parades and a fresh set of championship rings on a seemingly annual basis.

 

“In a way, it was a compliment,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said after his team was booed at the Grammys last year, via USA Today. “I’d rather be on the receiving end than feeling it, you know? Remember, for 34 years I used to sit in the stands and it was a different experience.

 

“If we weren’t in the position we’re in, I would feel it toward whoever’s on top.”

 

So yeah, the Patriots aren’t crying themselves to sleep because you don’t like them.

 

Maybe the most obnoxious part of the Patriots’ 41-28 blowout of the Chargers came immediately after the game when Tom Brady talked to CBS’ Tracy Wolfson.

 

Apparently Brady — winner of the most games and Super Bowls of any quarterback in NFL history — thinks that the world believes the Patriots “suck and can’t win any games.” Alright, pal.

 

The Patriots are underdogs this weekend. They’ll play the Chiefs on the road — something they rarely have to do in the postseason — and they’ll face the likely MVP Patrick Mahomes. So even if they’ve been to three of the last four Super Bowls, they’re eating up the opportunity to be the disrespected team.

 

“In the early 2000s when Harrison joined the Patriots, the Patriots could be favored by two touchdowns and Rodney would tell us in the media ‘None of you guys picked us, none of you guys believed is us. You guys all thought we were chumps,’” Giardi said. “And I’d be like ‘Rodney I had you guys winning the game, 44-14.’”

 

The Patriots are embracing the role of Cinderella — one they’ve convinced themselves they deserve. They can also embrace the role of villain if they want — something that is definitely deserved.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Upon hearing that Gregg Wiliams is the new DC of the Jets, the New York media seems to be acting like they didn’t know he had been gainfully employed without controversy elsewhere for the last six years.  Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post:

 

On the day the Jets officially announced the hiring of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, newly hired head coach Adam Gase raved about his new head coach of the defense.

 

Gase expressed zero concern about the famous Bountygate involvement Williams spearheaded while coaching in New Orleans that led to the NFL suspending him for the entire 2012 season.

 

“Gregg was penalized for that heavily,’’ Gase said on the “Pro Football Talk podcast” Wednesday. “Football was taken away from him. He did his time. That’s what makes this country great, right? People get second chances all the time. He’s gotten a second chance. He’s done it right. He’s gone and worked extremely hard to do things right.

 

“For me or anyone else to hold that over his head, to me, is wrong. It’s like when we give players second opportunities. It’s the same thing. People make mistakes. We’ve moved on from it. That’s not something I’m even concerned about.’’

 

Gase added he “always wanted to work’’ with Williams.

 

“I’ve always wanted to go against him in practice,’’ Gase said. “I love the way his players feel about him [with] the swagger, the attitude that he brings to his group. I love his experience and the fact that he’s been a head coach.

 

“He takes over Cleveland and they’re winning ballgames over there … and he’s acting like this is what it was going to be the whole time. He didn’t even blink an eye. I love that about him. His attitude is just infectious.’’

 

Gase said he’s excited about the energy Williams is going to bring to the defense.

 

“I just keep picturing practice,’’ he said. “This is what’s going to be the difference-maker for us. It’s going to be like a game every day. The competition and competitiveness between Gregg, myself, the staffs. That’s how you get that energy you want. The players feel that.’’

 

The Williams hire, on a reported three-year contract, coupled with the Jets retaining special teams coach Brant Boyer with a contract extension, locks in two of Gase’s three coordinator positions, with offensive coordinator, among other position-coach jobs, still to be filled.

 

Gase, who will be calling the plays, is expected to bring in Dowell Loggains, who was his right-hand man on offense with the Dolphins. It’s not known, however, whether Loggains has been released from his Miami contract.

 

Loggains was quarterbacks coach when Gase was offensive coordinator for the Bears in 2015, and the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator under Gase last season.

 

Williams comes to the Jets after spending the past two years with the Browns. He was the defensive coordinator for the first 24 of those games, then served as the interim head coach for the final eight games of the 2018 season after Hue Jackson was fired, going 5-3.

 

Williams was the defensive coordinator with the Rams, Saints, Jaguars, Redskins and Titans. He went 17-31 as the head coach of the Bills from 2001 to 2003.

 

“I’ve known him for a while,’’ Gase said of Williams in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday. “I’ve always appreciated competing against him. It was always a challenge. [I] always loved the way his guys played, the intensity they played with, they defended every blade of grass. I mean, they would always get after it. It was always really tough to move the ball, it was tough to get in the end zone and you knew you were in for a 60-minute battle. His guys always just always played exactly the way you want a defense to play.”

 

Boyer will enter his fourth year with the Jets and is coming off an impressive 2018 season during which he coached kicker Jason Myers and kick returner Andre Roberts — both newcomers to the team last season — to Pro Bowl berths. Roberts also was named to the All-Pro team.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

There are no winners in the relationship between the two former Dolphins teammates Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.  Martin now faces a felony trial.  ESPN.com:

 

Former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin must go to trial on felony charges related to a threatening post on his Instagram account in February 2018.

 

The image on the post showed a shotgun and ammunition and tagged four accounts, including those belonging to former Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey. It also included hashtags for Harvard-Westlake, where Martin went to high school in the Los Angeles area, and the Dolphins.

 

The caption read: “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”

 

Martin was charged in March with four felony counts of making criminal threats. One of the counts was dismissed Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office told the Los Angeles Times.

 

Martin’s lawyer argued that the post was not specific enough to constitute a criminal threat, but Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels disagreed.

 

“It does say suicide or revenge,” Samuels said, according to the New York Daily News. “That does sound equivocal on its face. However, on the photo, there are 19 shells. Suicide would take one shot. Nineteen shells is a mass shooting, killing more than one person, revenge. I think that’s unequivocal enough [under the law] to be a criminal threat.”

 

The Daily News reported that detective Peter Doomanis testified at the hearing that Martin’s computer history revealed he did a search on Incognito hours before he ordered a shotgun on Feb. 9.

 

At the time of the social media post, Martin, 29, was detained for questioning and then released, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department told ESPN. Nine days before the post, a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

 

A law enforcement source told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that Martin was then held in a mental health facility.

 

Martin accused Incognito and Pouncey of bullying him in 2013, when they were teammates in Miami, which resulted in an NFL investigation. The investigation found that Incognito, Pouncey and John Jerry created a hostile working environment for Martin, who left the team in the middle of the season.

 

The NFL suspended Incognito for eight games after the investigation was completed.

 

Martin hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015. Weeks after retiring, he posted a lengthy message on Facebook explaining that he suffered from depression and had tried to kill himself on multiple occasions.

 

Harvard-Westlake, an elite private school, closed temporarily in response to the Instagram post, but police told ESPN there was no direct threat to the school.

 

According to a source, the Dolphins’ security director reached out to the league to make officials aware of the post. Pouncey also was made aware.

 

 

OSHANE XIMINES

In Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 at the bottom of today’s DB, he has this to say about Old Dominion rusher OSHANE XIMINES:

 

Oshane Ximines, DE/OLB, Old Dominion

How about this: Ximines is going to be the first prospect from Old Dominion to be picked in the NFL draft. Seriously: Check it out.

 

The DB can add that Ximines will indeed be the first prospect with a last name beginning in X ever to be drafted.  And when it happens, the entire Roman alphabet will have representatives.

 

We’re trying to get to the bottom of his unusual name.  He’s from Ahoskie, NC in the Inner Banks region of North Carolina near the Virginia line.  Ahoskie is located in North Carolina’s Inner Banks region. At Wikipedia we learn that Ahoskie’s nickname is “The Only One” because no other town in the world is known by the same name.  We can rest assured then that he is the only Oshane Ximines from Ahoskie, North Carolina in the world.

 

From his ODU biography, we learn that his father’s name is Delroy.

 

His pronunciation is:  “Oh-Shane Zim-ah-Nes.”

The family’s heritage is Jamaican.  This at ODU.edu on his mom, who goes by the surname McDonald.

 

“It all comes from my mom,” he said of Dane McDonald. “She ignited in me the desire to work hard.”

 

McDonald, who emigrated from Jamaica as a child, is an American success story. Some parents tell their kids to work. She showed hers that hard work can transform your life.

 

As a single mother she moved from New York to Ahoskie, N.C., in search of a better life.

 

Two days after that move, she enrolled at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. Each weekday she attended classes from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., came home and hurriedly cooked dinner, then went to her job at a nursing home. She often came home after midnight and would study for several hours.

 

Her family lived in a rundown, two-bedroom home where Ximines shared the second bedroom with his three sisters. His father lived in New York, so Ximines became the father figure to Natasha, Siane and Mikalah. Ximines has a tat across his chest that says he’s his sisters’ keeper.

 

McDonald said her work ethic came from her mom.

 

“The culture in Jamaica is much different than here,” she said. “There’s more discipline. You have to work hard for whatever you have. I let my kids know early on that I’m not their friend, I’m their mother.

 

“We were poor in Jamaica, so I know what it is to do without. I knew I didn’t want my kids to have the same life I had as growing up, so I went back to school.”

 

McDonald got her nursing degree after four long, hard years. The family moved into a better home, and McDonald has since purchased a house in Suffolk.

 

“I saw first-hand someone who came from nothing, who worked all day and stayed up late at night studying,” Ximines said. “And now she’s a homeowner.

 

“My mom is really something special.”

 

He is the first ODU player invited to the Senior Bowl.

 

This:

 

Ximines was a late-comer to the game. He didn’t play until the ninth grade at Hertford County High in Ahoskie. His debut came as a 5-foot-8, 150-pound safety on the junior varsity. He didn’t play a snap all season.

 

Undeterred – and six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier after an offseason growth spurt – Ximines returned for his sophomore year and was moved to defensive end, still on the JV.

 

By the end of the year, he was a varsity starter.

 

“Everything became natural,” he said. “And ever since, I’ve just been doing my thing.”

 

It drew the attention of college recruiters. Ximines considered East Carolina before committing to ODU. Marshall made a last-minute push, but Ximines stuck with the Monarchs.

 

He knew about ODU in large part because of Antonio Vaughn, a Hertford High alum who starred for the Monarchs at receiver from 2011-14.

 

Once on campus, Ximines was eager to play right away, but coaches wanted him to add weight and strength.

 

Ximines has packed on about 30 pounds since arriving. Quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb, who recruits North Carolina and landed Ximines, likes to use him as an example when other freshmen voice impatience about redshirting.

 

“I tell them: ‘Oshane didn’t look like that three years ago,’ ” Whitcomb said. “He’s a really shining example of what we’re trying to do with every single player in our program.”

 

Ximines is one of four team captains, the only one not a senior. He’s also proud of his small-town roots. His parents had immigrated to New York from Jamaica, and he moved to Ahoskie in the first grade.

 

“I’ll claim being a country boy,” he said. “Ahoskie made me what I am today.”

 

That would be a finance major with an easy smile, but an intense game face and motor – and not just on game days.

 

We still haven’t conclusively reached the names origin but it may stem from the Spanish name we usually see spelled as Jimenez.

 

There are actually more people with the name Ximines than you might think.  Ancestry.com lists some in Jamaica, New York, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and Tennessee among other locations.  One Ximines has a Wikipedia entry.

 

Vicente Ximenes

Vicente T. Ximenes (December 5, 1919 – February 27, 2014) was a Mexican-American civil rights leader.

 

Ximenes was born in 1919[1] and raised in the town of Floresville, Texas, where he, along with the Mexican American community, were subjected to racial segregation. After graduating from Floresville High School in 1939, Ximenes became a chief clerk in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Ximenes also enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin where he became friends with Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who would later organize the Mexican American civil rights organization the American GI Forum.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Here is a first round Mock Draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. – and it contains Oklahoma QB KYLER MURRAY:

 

It’s NFL mock draft time, and this is my first crack at predicting picks 1-32 for the Class of 2019. April’s draft is coming faster than you think, and we now know which underclassmen are leaving school early and headed to the NFL, a list that includes intriguing quarterback prospect Kyler Murray.

 

Remember that teams are early in their evaluations, and we still have to get through postseason all-star games, combine testing, medicals, pro days and individual workouts before their draft boards become set. Free agency in March also will change needs for several teams. I’m predicting each first-round pick here based on a combination of my Big Board rankings, each team’s needs right now and my view on positions that could be upgraded.

 

Let’s dig into my 2019 NFL Mock Draft 1.0, starting with Arizona and ending with Green Bay, which has New Orleans’ pick.

 

Note: We used ESPN’s Football Power Index to project the order for picks 29-32.

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

General manager Steve Keim is going to have a chance to trade down and accumulate picks. He should take a look at it too, because this roster has been stripped of talent since the Cardinals went to the NFC Championship Game in 2016. But Bosa is going to be tough to pass up, as he is an elite pass-rusher. New defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is expected to switch this defense back to a 3-4, and Bosa has the versatility to play multiple spots. Give new coach Kliff Kingsbury a defensive stalwart opposite Chandler Jones who can get after Jared Goff, Russell Wilson and Jimmy Garoppolo twice a season.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers

Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

The 49ers took defensive linemen in the first round in three straight years (2015 to ’17), but DeForest Buckner is the only true star of the group. And none of those picks has the edge-rushing potential of Allen, who racked up 17 sacks for the Wildcats this season. If you’re talking about pure pass-rushing ability, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Allen is right up there with Bosa. San Francisco needs to add offensive weapons this offseason, but none is worth taking this high.

 

3. New York Jets

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

The Jets will have the most 2019 cap space of any team, so expect them to be active in free agency. For now, I’ll go with the best player on the board in Williams, who finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy this season. If new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams switches to a 4-3, Williams is a perfect fit as a 3-technique penetrator. Remember that the Jets don’t have a second-round pick — they dealt it in the Sam Darnold trade up last year — so it’s extra important that they hit here. New York does have an extra third-round pick from the Teddy Bridgewater trade.

 

4. Oakland Raiders

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

It’s tough to predict what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will do with three first-round picks in this class, but fixing an aging defense should be a priority. The Raiders have needs across the board, including at pass-rusher — they had a league-low 13 sacks in 2018. But with Bosa and Allen off the board, I’ll go with a corner. Gareon Conley came on strong at the end of the season, but there’s a hole across from the 2017 first-rounder. Williams is a big, 6-foot-3 corner with long arms and lockdown potential. The comp I’ve made for him is Aqib Talib.

 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama

The Bucs could look very different under new coach Bruce Arians in 2019, as they have several key free agents (Kwon Alexander, Donovan Smith, Adam Humphries, among others), plus veterans (DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy) who are candidates to be released. Upgrading the offensive line should be a priority, however, and Williams has Pro Bowl potential at both guard and tackle. Washington’s Brandon Scherff is the example I’ve used — Williams made 43 straight starts at tackle for the Crimson Tide, but he has the frame (6-foot-5, 301 pounds) to easily move inside.

 

6. New York Giants

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

This is an easy call. The Giants need a quarterback, and Haskins is the best quarterback in the class. The Giants can’t afford to put off the decision for another year, even if they bring back 38-year-old Eli Manning and let the rookie learn behind him. Haskins (6-3, 220) is far from a finished product — he started only 14 games at Ohio State — but he has an extremely high ceiling. One thing to watch is whether QB-needy teams get aggressive and try to trade up to get in front of the Giants.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma

Can the Jaguars pass on a quarterback in this draft? Here’s why I’m going in a different direction: Despite the struggles in 2018, this roster is built to win now. Jacksonville has talent and is just a year removed from playing in the AFC title game. That’s why I think Tom Coughlin & Co. will already have made their quarterback decision by April’s draft, going with one of the free-agent options who is more likely to help the Jags win in 2019. Instead, let’s upgrade a porous offensive line with Ford, a mauler who would slot in at guard or right tackle.

 

8. Detroit Lions

Devin White, LB, LSU

This is a spot to watch for a pass-rusher, as the Lions could part ways with free agent Ezekiel Ansah. In fact, coach Matt Patricia could use improvements at every level of his defense. White is a fly-to-the-football linebacker with similar athletic traits as Detroit middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, who was taken in the first round in 2017. The two could form a stellar tandem, as both are three-down linebackers. White isn’t a true pass-rusher, but he makes plays in the backfield.

 

9. Buffalo Bills

Rashan Gary, DE/DT, Michigan

Could the Bills get their Kyle Williams replacement here? At his peak, the 6-foot-6, 283-pound Gary is a menace who makes offensive linemen look foolish, but you’d like to see him do it with more regularity. Gary could play end or nose guard in a 3-4 defense or tackle in a 4-3. Buffalo could look at centers or guards here; improving the interior of the offensive line should be a priority.

 

10. Denver Broncos

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Former first-round pick Bradley Roby is a free agent, and Chris Harris Jr., who broke his leg in December, turns 30 over the summer. Cornerback is the No. 1 need for the Broncos. Baker isn’t far behind Greedy Williams as the top corner in this class. General manager John Elway hit on his 2018 draft class, and he needs another good one to get the team back on track under new coach Vic Fangio.

 

11. Cincinnati Bengals

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

The Bengals have missed on a few offensive linemen in the draft in recent years, and there’s still a hole at right tackle. That’s where Taylor would slot in. He took a huge step forward playing on the right side in 2018, though there’s still mixed opinion from people I trust in the league. Taylor is raw, but he has the tools to be a premier road grader in the running game.

 

12. Green Bay Packers

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Ferrell, who had 21 sacks the past two seasons, isn’t a perfect fit in the Packers’ 3-4 defense, but he’s the best pass-rusher left on the board. Green Bay needs to add edge-rush help this offseason — Clay Matthews and Muhammad Wilkerson are free agents — and Ferrell (6-5, 265) could play end or outside linebacker here. The Packers will likely keep an eye on offensive playmakers too, and they have New Orleans’ first-round pick from last year’s draft-day trade.

 

13. Miami Dolphins

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

The Dolphins need to rebuild. What better way to start that rebuild than to take the Heisman Trophy winner? Now, just because Murray has entered the draft doesn’t mean he’s sticking to football. He could still back out and play baseball. But I’m treating him as if he’s all-in for now, and if he goes to the combine — he’s going to run a blazing 40-yard dash — and goes through workouts for teams, I expect him to be picked in Round 1. This is an unprecedented situation for a 5-foot-10 quarterback, but it’s going to be fun to watch over the next few months.

 

14. Atlanta Falcons

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

If Grady Jarrett’s price tag in free agency proves too much for the Falcons, Oliver is the perfect replacement as an interior game-wrecker. His tape was picked apart this season, and he was better in 2017, but he can dominate a game when he’s playing at his best. He needs to keep developing as a pass-rusher, however. Oliver is only 21, and he has a high ceiling.

 

15. Washington Redskins

Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida

This is another potential landing spot for Kyler Murray. Alex Smith’s scary injury put his future in jeopardy, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Redskins added a young quarterback this offseason. Ultimately, I’m going with Polite, a perfect pass-rusher for a 3-4 defense who came on strong with 11 sacks this season. Former second-round pick Preston Smith has been inconsistent, and he’s a free agent, so Polite makes sense as a replacement opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Safety is another position to watch, depending on what happens with free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

 

16. Carolina Panthers

Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State

Mario Addison led the Panthers with nine sacks this season, followed by five for the ageless Julius Peppers. Unless Peppers can play forever, this is a clear area of need for Carolina. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Burns, who had 10 sacks in 2018, needs more time in the weight room, but he could grow into a defensive end.

 

17. Cleveland Browns

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

The surging Browns hit on their 2018 draft class, led by Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb. Can general manager John Dorsey do it again? My comp for Simmons is emerging Chiefs star Chris Jones, whom Dorsey picked in Round 2 when he was in Kansas City. Simmons is supremely athletic and already advanced in his technique as a pass-rusher. However, he will have to answer to NFL teams about his 2016 arrest during the pre-draft process.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

There’s a case to be made that Little is the best true left tackle in this class. He’s certainly the most talented. The former five-star high school prospect was inconsistent at times in college, but he should take off in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Coach Mike Zimmer loves guys who get after quarterbacks too, so that’s going to be in consideration here.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

This might not look like a need on paper, but Delanie Walker is 34 and missed most of the season after a severe ankle injury. Hockenson can be a weapon. He is an all-around tight end, an excellent blocker and a good pass-catcher with a big 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame. The Titans will keep a close eye on playmakers for Marcus Mariota.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

The Steelers tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks this season, but the weakness on defense was at inside linebacker, as they struggled to replace Ryan Shazier. The phrase I keep repeating about Bush is “perfect for today’s NFL.” He would be a great fit as a three-down linebacker who never has to leave the field. At 5-foot-11, Bush is undersized, but he should test well at the combine.

 

21. Seattle Seahawks

Oshane Ximines, DE/OLB, Old Dominion

How about this: Ximines is going to be the first prospect from Old Dominion to be picked in the NFL draft. Seriously: Check it out. He is an explosive pass-rusher — 12 sacks in 2018 — who has the versatility to play with his hand in the dirt or standing up on the edge. His game reminds me a little bit of DeMarcus Ware’s, though Ximines has a ways to go. Pete Carroll is always looking for pass-rushers, and the Seahawks could lose Frank Clark in free agency.

 

22. Baltimore Ravens

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Let’s get a playmaker for Lamar Jackson. He’s going to improve in Year 2, but he needs a better (and younger) supporting cast. And yes, the Ravens have a terrible track record in taking receivers, but they have to hit some time, right? Brown is explosive after the catch. Reminder: New general manager Eric DeCosta doesn’t have a second-round pick as a result of the move up for Jackson last year, so this is an important pick.

 

23. Houston Texans

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

It will be a fascinating offseason for the Texans, who need to make decisions on free agents Jadeveon Clowney, Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson, among others. Corner sticks out as a need because Johnathan Joseph, the starter opposite Jackson, will be 35 when the 2019 season starts, and the big-money signing of Aaron Colvin last offseason looks like a miss. Murphy is still raw, but he’s a ball hawk on the outside. He also has the versatility to play in the slot. Keep an eye on offensive line too, as Houston gave up a league-high 62 sacks this season.

 

24. Oakland Raiders (from CHI)

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Can you name the Oakland player with the most receiving targets in 2018? It was … tight end Jared Cook. And yes, Gruden traded top wideout Amari Cooper, but this roster needs pass-catching upgrades. Brown is going to be one of the fastest prospects in this draft. He can run every route, and he’s tremendous after the catch. Size is the question, as he’s only 5-foot-9, 168 pounds. He is more in the mold of John Ross, who went in the top 10 in the 2017 draft, than a typical No. 1 receiver. But he can be a downfield threat for Derek Carr.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

With free agents Brandon Graham and Chris Long potentially moving on, Philadelphia could add some pass-rush help here. At 6-foot-6, 241 pounds, Sweat is a rangy prospect who is athletically gifted. And he produced, racking up 22 sacks the past two seasons. Receiver is also a position to watch, as Golden Tate and Mike Wallace are both on the free-agent market.

 

26. Indianapolis Colts

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Lawrence is higher on my Big Board — No. 17 — but he won’t fit every NFL team. At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, he’s the top nose tackle in this class, so he needs to find a team looking for a plugger in the middle. With Margus Hunt — who had a stellar 2018 — a free agent, the Colts could have a need along the interior of the line. Lawrence can disrupt a pocket and hold up against the run, but he’s never going to be an elite penetrator like Quinnen Williams.

 

27. Oakland Raiders (from DAL)

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

I don’t have another Round 1 edge rusher left on my board, so I’m moving on to tight end with the third Raiders pick of the first round. I mentioned Cook earlier, and he’s a free agent, so this is going to be a need for Oakland. Smith had 44 catches and seven touchdowns for the Crimson Tide this season, and he is a really good player. He needs to improve as a blocker, but I expect him to test well at the combine. The Raiders have a ton of cap space, so they also could address the position in free agency.

 

28. Los Angeles Chargers

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Did you see the Patriots punish the Chargers up front in the AFC divisional round? They were pushed around. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Wilkins would be an improvement. He could plug the nose for L.A. and also bump outside to end. He was a four-year starter for the Tigers and always showed up on tape; he had 15 tackles for loss in 2018. Derwin James was one of the stars of the Class of 2018, and the Chargers have a solid roster. Let’s get them past the divisional round.

 

29. New England Patriots

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Tom Brady is going to be 42 when the 2019 season begins. Forty-two! It’s unbelievable what he’s continuing to do on the field, but the Patriots have to start thinking about the future … right? Jones could be the heir apparent. He has learned from quarterback guru David Cutcliffe at Duke, and you see it in his footwork. He excels in the pocket. Jones is athletic too, and he has a big, 6-foot-4 frame. There’s no guarantee that Jones will be the third quarterback off the board, and you can see more of him at the Senior Bowl next week, but this fit makes a lot of sense.

 

30. Los Angeles Rams

Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

You can’t discount the Rams trading out of this spot — they didn’t pick until No. 89 last year. But since there are no trades allowed here, let’s give Wade Phillips a piece with which to work. Ndamukong Suh will likely move on in free agency, which means there’s an open spot next to all-world interior pass-rusher Aaron Donald. Jones, who had 8.5 sacks in 2018, is an athlete. He could even play end for L.A.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

Eric Berry has played 154 snaps the past two seasons. There’s no guarantee that the 30-year-old will get back to an All-Pro level, and we know the weakness for this defense is in the secondary. Thompson would help immediately. He’s a rangy playmaker with supreme athletic traits, though he was inconsistent down the stretch in 2018. We know the Chiefs’ offense is loaded, but a safety or corner would boost the defense.

 

32. Green Bay Packers (from NO)

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

Free-agent Randall Cobb is probably finished in Green Bay, and Aaron Rodgers needs some help. Campbell was one of the most electric players in college football in 2018, and he could move even higher after athletic testing at the combine. He caught 90 passes and scored 12 touchdowns this season. Let’s see what Matt LaFleur & Co. cook up with an athlete such as Campbell.