AROUND THE NFL
The question was which Kubiak would be the OC of the Vikings in 2020 – and the answer is Gary, not Klint. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com with the Tweet.
The #Vikings are turning to a familiar face for their new OC: Gary Kubiak, who has been an assistant head coach and offensive advisor, is taking over as the offensive coordinator, sources say. His impact was felt quickly in Minnesota and now he sticks around.
Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com:
Kubiak, who already was under contract through the 2020 season, according to a source, helped revive the Vikings offense during a season that ended in the divisional playoffs. Stefanski often talked about the impact Kubiak had on his limited experience calling plays.
“Having him around has been invaluable to me,” Stefanski said in November. “This is my first year doing this, so having somebody that I can bounce ideas off of both during the week and during the game. … I think it’s a really great working environment [on this staff] where we could get a lot done and respect each other’s ideas and thoughts. And Gary’s certainly at the forefront of that.”
Prior to joining the Vikings staff, Kubiak held a position in the Denver Broncos personnel department after retiring from coaching after the 2016 season. He led Denver to a win in Super Bowl 50 and holds the record for wins with the Houston Texans (61), where he was the head coach from 2006 to 2013.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Is QB ELI MANNING worthy of Canton? NFL.com takes the pulse of more than 20 of its correspondents, many of them former players:
Eli Manning is calling it quits after 16 seasons in the NFL. The veteran quarterback, who played his entire tenure with the New York Giants, will announce his retirement Friday.
His potential spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been passionately debated throughout his career, and it will be even more now that his time on the gridiron is over. The voters won’t debate his candidacy for at least five years — he’ll be first eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2025 — but in the meantime, let’s take a look at Eli’s resume:
» Two-time Super Bowl champion
» Two-time Super Bowl MVP
» Four-time Pro Bowler
» Ranks seventh in NFL history with 57,023 passing yards
» Ranks seventh in NFL history with 366 passing TDs
» 117-117 regular-season record as a starter
» Third-most consecutive starts by a QB (210) in the NFL
» 2016 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year
Eli also holds countless New York Giants franchise records, including all-time leading passer. When considering all that he has done in his 16-year NFL career, there’s only one question left to answer:
Is Eli Manning a Hall of Famer?
Manning checks enough boxes to earn Hall spot
Every Hall of Fame voter has his or her own criteria to determine what truly makes a player worthy of a gold jacket. There are so many boxes to check — some more important than others — and rarely does a player check every single one. Eli certainly doesn’t, but he does check some. He played a long time for one organization, but he has a .500 regular-season record. The main box Eli checks is performing in big moments, and he’ll be known for those two lightning-in-a-bottle plays that helped lift the Giants over New England in two Super Bowls. The first was the “helmet catch” pass to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII, and the second was a strike down the sideline to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI. Those two championship moments will likely be enough to get him in.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is not what it used to be
Honestly, I’m not so sure what being a Hall of Famer means anymore. Football immortality used to be reserved for players who redefined their position, made a big impact on the game or dominated their position for a period of time. The way the Hall is trending now, Eli will get in most likely because he won two Super Bowls. It won’t be because he embodied any of those three points while in the league. It is what it is, man.
Manning will always be known for his monumental plays in Super Bowls
There are a lot of factors that favor Eli Manning’s Hall of Fame case. He was a great teammate and a hard worker, and he represented one of the NFL’s most storied franchises for nearly two decades. He has the record for most consecutive starts in NFL history — a streak that should have never ended the way it did — and, most importantly, a pair of Super Bowl wins (and SB MVP awards). Eli’s clutch throws in both championship games will help his case immensely.
A lot of factors, including his last name, fall in Eli’s favor
Eli Manning is going to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s going to be there because he has two Super Bowl rings. He’s going to be there because he played for a cherished franchise in the country’s biggest city, instead of toiling in a smaller market like Buffalo or Jacksonville. He’s going to be there because we love clutch players, and he’s been involved in two of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history, both of which resulted in wins against the most vaunted NFL dynasty in recent memory. And as much as people want to complain about his faults — that he was never an elite quarterback, that he threw too many interceptions and that the Giants missed the playoffs in nine of the last 11 seasons that began with him as the starter — Eli is also going to be there for one more key reason: He’s always had the right last name.
Eli was never a consistent top-five player at his position
I’m going to say no, because to me, a Hall of Famer is someone who was a top-three or top-five player at his position for a predominant portion of his career. I think it’s fair to argue that Eli was never that. He was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and his longevity is certainly noteworthy, but I don’t know if that’s enough to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Look at it this way: If Trent Dilfer or Nick Foles had won a second ring, would they be shoo-ins for a gold jacket? No. And that’s how I look at it with Eli.
Eli weathered the storm, prevailing in a tough New York market for 16 years
Playing in Washington, I faced Eli twice a year for 10 seasons — well, if I wasn’t injured. He was a competitor and stepped up in big moments (see: Super Bowls XLII and XLVI) while playing 16 seasons in one of the biggest markets. He was scrutinized, praised, loved by the fans and represented the New York Giants in a positive light on and off the field. When you look at the totality of what Eli has done, I believe he’s a Hall of Famer.
Eli will eventually join Peyton in football immortality
There are plenty of Hall of Famers who never played in the Super Bowl, and not all of those who did played well. Eli Manning did both. He played his best games on the game’s grandest stage, winning two Super Bowl rings and game MVP honors as a result. I don’t doubt that Eli will join Peyton in football immortality. He might just have to wait a little longer to get there.
Two Super Bowl rings, game MVPs puts Eli over the top
Yes, Eli is a Hall of Famer. Maybe not a first-ballot slam dunk, but the two Super Bowl championships and two Super Bowl MVPs put him over the top. Though he might never have been the best QB of his era, the same could be said of future Hall of Famers Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees (although strong arguments could be made otherwise). Eli will be one of those players who was not fully appreciated until he left the game, but his bust will join his brother Peyton’s in Canton one day.
Steve Smith Sr.
Former Giants QB shouldn’t be considered one of the greats
Eli Manning will get in the Hall of Fame, so what I think feels irrelevant. Voters are trying to cultivate a case for Eli to get in based on two fluke plays, and I don’t think that case is good enough to get him in. Based on the culmination of Eli’s career, he shouldn’t be considered “a great.”
Eli Manning’s availability was one of his most important QB traits
There’s a lot that goes into Hall of Fame candidacy. It comes down to how good a player was during the postseason and regular season, along with longevity and availability. Eli Manning’s postseason record is undoubtedly worthy. Postseason success has always been held in the highest regard, especially at the quarterback position, so the fact that he won two Super Bowl titles and as many Super Bowl MVPs will go a long way. When it comes to longevity and availability, I am biased because of my own consecutive-snaps record, but Eli’s consecutive-starts record is an impressive accomplishment that will boost his candidacy. One of the single most important things a quarterback can do for his team is be healthy and available to play, so for Eli to find a way to remain healthy throughout a 16-game season, year in and year out, is incredibly hard. Teammates depend on his availability, and it’s why the Giants have put together great teams in the Eli Manning era.
Everyone talks about rings, and Eli has two
The biggest measurement of greatness in our game are Super Bowls, and championships carry a lot of weight — especially for quarterbacks — in determining whether or not they are Hall of Fame-worthy. Well, Eli has two of them, and both victories came against the greatest player and coach in NFL history. His two rings and Super Bowl MVPs, along with four Pro Bowl selections, his consecutive-starts record and the fact that he won the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year award makes him a Hall of Fame quarterback in my book.
His resume isn’t deserving of gold jacket
Eli Manning will most likely reside in Canton, Ohio, one day. But with his resume, I don’t think he deserves to be there among some truly great players. He wasn’t the greatest at any one thing, and the Hall of Fame should be reserved for greatness.
Manning’s resume will look stronger every year he’s away from NFL
The variables that are factored into the decision-making process change so much when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Eli Manning won’t be a first-ballot guy, but his case will get stronger every year he’s away from the game. He’ll likely get in when classes are strong at the other positions and weaker at quarterback. Lastly, the name “Manning” is associated with elite quarterbacks, and that will certainly be factored in when weighing Eli’s Hall-of-Fame resume.
Two Super Bowl wins over dynastic Patriots gives Eli spot in Canton
It’s wild that Eli is finishing his career with a record that is exactly .500 after 16 seasons. And though his numbers aren’t out-of-this-world or comparable to those of other Hall of Fame quarterbacks, he has two Super Bowl championships. I will say Eli is a Hall of Famer strictly based off those two Super Bowl victories over the winningest franchise in our game. To win his first title, he defeated arguably the greatest NFL team of all time — preventing a perfect season — and he made some big-time plays in his second title game, as well.
Eli will reside in Canton, but not because of his numbers
Eli’s regular-season record (117-117) is underwhelming, his stats aren’t overly impressive and he was never the problem for defenses that faced him. That said, Eli will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his epic Super Bowl runs. He was the hottest quarterback in the league in those Giants’ victories and took down the NFL’s best franchise both times. Those moments will lift his average numbers and get him into Canton.
Eli’s Giants slayed the dragon … TWICE
Yes, Eli Manning is a Hall of Famer. He is a true leader of men and will go down as a two-time Super Bowl champion who is on the short list of quarterbacks who slayed the G.O.A.T.
Eli Manning elevated players around him for 16 years
I might be a little biased, because I played with Eli in New York, but his bust will reside in Canton one day. He’s the smartest player I’ve ever played with, and I would say that he has Hall-of-Fame-level talent. A lot of current Hall of Fame quarterbacks had a ton of talent around them, but he didn’t get to work with a plethora of Hall-caliber skill position players during his career. In my opinion, the Giants have been good — some years better than others, of course — because Eli was the quarterback.
His postseason accomplishments give him a gold jacket
The Hall of Fame is for players who dominated at their positions throughout their time, as well as players who have accomplished feats no other players have. For the latter reason, Eli Manning will get in. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion and one of five players in the history of the game to be named Super Bowl MVP twice. I believe that not getting to the postseason should never count against a player, because football is the ultimate team sport, but if you’re lucky enough to get in the tournament, your play will count. Eli made his postseason appearances count by defeating the New England Patriots two times, including against arguably the best team of all time, the 17-1 2007 Patriots. As a former teammate of Eli’s in New York, you can bet I’ll be sitting in the audience with the Eli backers when he gives his speech.
Eli’s Super Bowl performances hold enough merit to outweigh mediocre regular-season play
A player’s entire body of work is weighed for Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration, but like with everything else, some accomplishments have more merit than others. Manning dialed up his very best football in the most important moments of his career. Those two Super Bowl victories — especially the first one, which ruined the New England Patriots’ perfect season — put Eli on the map, and he never looked back.
Eli’s career is defined by his historic plays with the Super Bowl on the line
I have no doubt that Eli Manning will be in the Hall of Fame one day. He made a HUGE play in two separate Super Bowl games, and both plays ultimately led to Giants victories. Eli had ice in his veins with the game on the line, making some of the best plays in Super Bowl history. His two passes to David Tyree and Mario Manningham will be shown every time the Super Bowl is mentioned. And, if we’re being honest, his last name is Manning. He’s getting in.
When, in conjunction with the retirement of ELI MANNING, we mentioned enduring QBs who might be approaching the end of their careers – we left off JOSH McCOWN and RYAN FITZPATRICK. Here’s an update on McCown from Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The Eagles discussed with quarterback Josh McCown the idea of returning to the team in a coaching role, possibly as offensive coordinator, during his exit interviews, NFL sources told The Inquirer.
While it’s unclear whether the team offered McCown a position, the 40-year-old veteran told the Eagles that he wasn’t ready to officially retire from his playing career, a source said.
Aside from meeting with coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman, McCown also sat down with owner Jeffrey Lurie, according to a source. Lurie doesn’t typically meet with players immediately after the season ends.
McCown didn’t respond to a message seeking comment. The Eagles had no comment.
Pederson announced that both coaches were being let go the following day.
The Eagles’ search for an offensive coordinator has yet to yield a replacement. The process hasn’t been made public, although they interviewed Southern Cal offensive coordinator Graham Harrell last week, per sources. He opted to stay with the Trojans.
Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban also interviewed, but he will remain in Baltimore, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last week. The Eagles had interest in Mike Kafka, but they never formally requested an interview because they had become aware that the Chiefs were prepared to block their quarterbacks coach.
The Eagles have been vaguely linked to some established coaches, but many have taken jobs elsewhere. Former Redskins coach Jay Gruden became the latest when he was hired by the Jaguars to be their offensive coordinator Wednesday. The Eagles and Vikings are the only two NFL teams with offensive-coordinator vacancies.
The Vikings job is likely more desirable because it will include play-calling responsibilities. Pederson is expected to continue calling plays with the Eagles.
While a jump from player to coordinator would be a significant one, working under Pederson would have allowed McCown to learn on the job. He took on the role of a quasi-coach backing up quarterback Carson Wentz last season.
Wentz and others credited McCown, who had first met the starter months earlier, with his improved play in the last month of the season. The Eagles won their last four games to capture the NFC East title, with Wentz leading the team to last-second victories over the Redskins and New York Giants. He had a 100.8 passer rating over that span.
But Wentz, who missed the previous two postseasons because of injury, played only eight snaps against Seattle. He suffered a game-ending concussion when he was hit by Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
McCown performed admirably in place of Wentz. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 175 yards and drove the Eagles offense into Seahawks territory on five possessions. But he struggled in the red zone, and the Eagles had to settle for three field goals.
It was later revealed that McCown tore his hamstring in the first half and played at far less than full strength.
“I’m feeling alright all things considered,” McCown said several days after the game, during a national podcast. “But football and 40 … it doesn’t blend as well as you might think.”
A tweet from Ed Werder:
Whether this is an indication of a lack of trust in Jimmy Garappolo, confidence in a dominant running game, or perhaps some of both, think about this: Since Garappolo’s INT against the #Vikings, #Niners HC Kyle Shanahan has called 15 pass plays and 72 runs.
QB JIMMY GARAPPOLO hopes watching TOM BRADY prepare for past Super Bowls will help him in the days to come.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t played in the Super Bowl before, but he had a good view of two of them when he was Tom Brady‘s backup in New England.
Garoppolo also had a good view of all the preparation that went into getting wins in both of those trips and he shared some of what he picked up from watching Brady’s approach to the game.
“Everyone says it should be like another game, but just the way that he actually did it,” Garoppolo said, via Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. “Up close and personal, picking up everything I could and seeing how he went about his business, obviously it worked out the two times that I was there with him. I’ll try to transfer that over to my game.”
Garoppolo may opt for a refresher course before facing the Chiefs. Garoppolo was asked if he’ll give Brady a call for advice about starting in the Super Bowl and he called it a “good idea” that he might follow through on in the coming days.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says that saavy and wily 49ers (like say CB RICHARD SHERMAN) would be willing to trade 15 yards for a big hit on QB PATRICK MAHOMES if he abandons protected positions.
Quarterbacks who become runners become running backs. They surrender all quarterback protections. Which means that they can be hit the same way a running back can be hit.
It’s a topic that came up from time to time throughout the regular season, as more and more quarterbacks decided to take advantage or an actual or perceived opportunity to run the ball on a passing play, or via a designed run. In January, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has joined the list, and he has led the Chiefs in rushing in both of their playoff games. Fully healed from ankle and knee injuries, he has the mobility to extend plays horizontally and also to take off vertically, as he did on Sunday with a 27-yard touchdown run that covered 64 yards and that featured a head fake for the ages and ugly, flailing efforts by multiple Titans defensive backs to tackle him inside the five.
All too often, defenders get freaked out by the prospect of hitting a running quarterback the same way they’d hit a running back, especially when the quarterback strays toward the sideline or seems to be on the verge of sliding. And some quarterbacks take advantage of that dynamic, acting for example like they’re heading out of bounds and then darting forward for another five or 10 yards when defenders pull up, fearing a 15-yard penalty and/or a fine.
Some defensive coaches take things the other way, constantly reminding defensive players to treat running quarterbacks like running backs. Remember the controversial hit by Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz? (Clowney should have been flagged and fined.) That play felt like the product of seeds planted in the meeting room, with defensive coaches showing clips of Wentz pulling the ball down and running it and urging defensive players to take advantage of the opportunity to apply a maximum degree of physicality to a player who at all other times is protected from it. (Clowney’s hit crossed the line when he dropped his helmet and rammed it into Wentz, a protection that applies to all players.)
It’s a relevant consideration as the 49ers prepare to face Mahomes. Surely, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and the team’s defensive position coaches will be displaying the 27-yard touchdown run, pointing out the various missed opportunities to treat Mahomes like a running back, and ordering the defensive players to not let Mahomes have his cake and run it in Miami.
With more and more talk about Mahomes exploiting defensive efforts to blanket his receivers by running to where the defenders aren’t, it’s a critical talking point regarding the manner in which Super Bowl LIV may unfold. And so we’ve been talking about it. And some Chiefs fans have gotten riled up about it, ignoring the words that were used and hearing what they want to hear.
Here’s my quote from Wednesday’s PFT Live that has placed a burr into the butts of some Chiefs fans: “You know what? At a certain level I think that — and I want to be careful here because I’m not suggesting that they try to knock him out of the game. That’s not what I’m saying. But at a certain point, you trade the risk of 15 yards, if you can send a message. And football is still a physical, violent game. If you can hit him, even if it’s close to the sideline, even if he’s maybe started into his slide. When the championship is riding on it, I think it’s a different analysis. And yeah we may give up 15 yards or half the distance to the goal line. I mean, that’s the thing, Peter. If someone had blown up Patrick Mahomes inside the five, big deal. If goes from the four to the two. Big deal. So, again, I’m not saying that that should be part of the deliberate effort. But the Super Bowl is riding on it. And if this guy’s gonna think he can run through the defense without any physical consequence, they need to dispel him of that notion the first time he tries.”
That’s an accurate, candid, honest assessment of how football works at the highest level. The Saints’ bounty scandal from 2012 has caused players, coaches, and media to tiptoe around the topic, but football remains a very physical, violent game. And when quarterbacks choose to shed the rulebook bubble wrap that applies while in the pocket, they assume the same risk that every running back embraces on every single snap.
If the quarterback runs it once and absorbs the kind of hit that running backs routinely endure, the quarterback may decide the next time he’s considering whether to take off with the ball that maybe he should throw it instead.
That’s the point. The Super Bowl hangs in the balance. Legacies are on the line. Whether it’s Mahomes or Jimmy Garoppolo, the rules still allow a quarterback who runs the ball to be hit like a running back. And if the 49ers hope to avoid being shredded by Mahomes, they need to be willing to hit Mahomes the same way that Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen hit Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill when he decided to become a runner on Sunday.
And in the gray areas of the sideline and the slide, yes, the defense may be more willing to risk a foul if it makes the quarterback think twice about trying to pick up some easy yards on the ground the next time around.
That’s a far cry from trying to injure Mahomes, who already has become one of my all-time favorite players. It’s about the fundamental nature of the game, a fundamental nature that has not changed despite the various rules changes that have made the game much safer than it once was.
For any quarterback who doesn’t like that, there’s an easy solution: Don’t run the ball.
Chiefs fans and some media decided to throw Florio to the wolves for the above, declaring that he was encouraging the 49ers to try to hurt Mahomes. Here is Andy Nesbitt of USA TODAY:
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been absolutely ridiculous thus far in the playoffs and all of Kansas City is hoping that he can continue that type of play when they face the 49ers in Super Bowl 54.
How should a defense try to slow him down? Your guess is as good as mine, because right now it looks like he can’t be stopped.
But Mike Florio, the owner/founder of ProFootball Talk, offered his thoughts on how to defend Mahomes and he took it to a pretty careless level. While talking with Peter King, Florio suggested the 49ers “send a message” with some late hits either while he’s near the sideline are already in his slide.
Florio started off by saying, “I want to be careful here, because I’m not suggesting they try to knock him out of the game. That’s not what I’m saying.”
That is just rich, because he then immediately went to being the opposite of careful:
At a certain point you trade the risk of 15 yards if you can send a message. And football is still a physical, violent game. If you can hit him – even if it’s close to sideline, even if he’s started his slide – when the championship is riding on it I think it’s a different analysis. And yeah, we may give up 15 yards or half the distance to the goal line. I mean, that’s the thing Peter, if somebody had blown up Patrick Mahomes inside the 5, OK, it goes from the 4 to the 2, big deal. So again, I’m not saying that should be part of the deliberate effort but the Super Bowl is riding on it. And if this guy’s going to think he can just run through the defense without any physical consquence, they need to dispel him of that notion the first time he tries.
Hitting quarterbacks is fine and part of the game, but suggesting the 49ers take some late hits to “send a message” is pretty silly and dangerous.
Florio felt compelled to defend his remarks:
The specific background resides in quotes that didn’t make their way to the limited comments that were clipped and posted on Twitter. The quote that landed on social media — the precise language of which is being, for whatever reason, twisted and warped into something that it wasn’t and isn’t — omits the broader context. So in order to ensure that there is no confusion regarding my views on the situation, here’s the exchange that was sparked by the poor effort from the Tennessee defense to tackle Mahomes once he used a head fake for the ages to get past Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans and sprint down the sideline late in the first half of the AFC Championship.
“One thing that I think we will see from the 49ers, if Patrick Mahomes decides to take off as a runner, I don’t think we will see that tentative quality that we see from too many defensive players who get scared of what happens if I hit the quarterback,” I said to Peter King. “And you know that’s in the brains of these guys, and it needs to be. If they’re near the sideline, you can’t blow ‘em up. If they slide you can’t blow ‘em up. And you can never dip your helmet and cram it into them. But some defensive players I think, Peter, are coached far differently. Patriots defenders, Seahawks defenders, and my guess is that Robert Saleh, the defensive coordinator of the 49ers, is going to spend the next two weeks telling his guys, ‘If this guy runs, you go hit him.’ And the Titans players, especially inside the five, I don’t know what the hell those guys were doing, but they weren’t hitting Patrick Mahomes. I think it will be a different experience for him if he tries to run against the 49ers.”
Here’s Peter’s response, in full: “Yeah, I mean, clearly Tramaine Brock made a stupid play at the five yard line. He kept trying to strip the ball. You’ve got to tackle him. You’ve just got to tackle him. And too many people now in the NFL in general, I’ve had so many defensive coordinators over the last couple of years, like when I visit training camp and everything, I’ve had this pet peeve, and I’ll say, ‘Why is there such an emphasis on the strip when so many running backs and quarterbacks’ — I mean, obviously you’re gonna get some of them, but you give up so many yards doing that, right? And that is, look, I’m not saying the Chiefs wouldn’t have scored. But I think, Mike, one of the other things that I think Robert Saleh’s gonna do here, is he’s basically gonna say to his defense — you know, you’re absolutely right — when he is a runner, you treat him like a runner. You don’t treat him like a quarterback. You hit him, and you hit him hard.”
Then came the quote that has become, for reasons that I still can’t comprehend, characterized as urging 49ers players to try to injure Mahomes if he runs, even if I said multiple times that this isn’t what I was saying. (The key words are in italics.)
“At a certain level I think that,” I said, “and I want to be careful here because I’m not suggesting that they try to knock him out of the game. That’s not what I’m saying. But at a certain point, you trade the risk of 15 yards, if you can send a message. And football is still a physical, violent game. If you can hit him, even if it’s close to the sideline, even if he’s maybe started into his slide. When the championship is riding on it, I think it’s a different analysis. And yeah we may give up 15 yards or half the distance to the goal line. I mean, that’s the thing, Peter. If someone had blown up Patrick Mahomes inside the five, big deal. If goes from the four to the two. Big deal. So, again, I’m not saying that that should be part of the deliberate effort. But the Super Bowl is riding on it. And if this guy’s gonna think he can run through the defense without any physical consequence, they need to dispel him of that notion the first time he tries.”
This is an accurate explanation of how football works. It’s not about trying to injure Mahomes. It’s about treating a quarterback who becomes a running back like a running back, applying the kind of hit that will make him think twice about becoming a running back again. Or, as in the case of the 27-yard touchdown run, about not cutting back inside at the 10 and squirting past a couple of defensive backs who may have expected Mahomes to eventually run out of bounds even though he never did.
Quarterbacks have been doing just that in recent years, using movement along the boundary to lull defenders who fear drawing a 15-yard penalty into slowing up or bracing to the step out of bounds while the quarterback just keeps going. (Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did that to the Vikings in Week One, for example, running to the sideline, inducing the defenders to pull up, and running for another 10 yards before finally getting out of bounds.)
That’s why I included this specific line, as it specifically was uttered: “If you can hit him, even if it’s close to the sideline, even if he’s maybe started into his slide. When the championship is riding on it, I think it’s a different analysis.” Read that again. And again. I did not say they should hit him after he’s out of bounds. I did not say they should hit him when he’s clearly into his slide. I said that, if it’s close to the sideline or maybe he has started into his slide, they shouldn’t pull up, not with a world championship riding on the outcome. If they slow down or hesitate because it’s a quarterback running the ball, he’ll do what he did to the Titans. And when he did it to the Titans, it was as a practical matter season over.
Look at what Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen did later in the same game when Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill ran the ball on Sunday. Sorensen squared up and hit him, even though Tannehill, seeing it coming, could have started into a slide before Sorensen struck him, possibly prompting an official to throw a flag and give Tennessee 15 yards of field position. That possibility of a late effort by Tannehill to didn’t deter Sorensen from hitting a quarterback like a running back.
As Peter King eventually explained, Mahomes has an innate ability to avoid taking big hits, which likely will keep him from getting injured even if the 49ers choose to hit him near the sideline or maybe at the front end of an attempted slide. Regardless, the broader point was, is, and always will be that defensive players shouldn’t hesitate to hit a quarterback who becomes a running back. In those cases, they should hit him like a running back. And with a Super Bowl on the line, they shouldn’t obsess over the possibility that he may be close to the sideline or he may be starting into a slide. If they do, there’s a good chance he’ll make them look as inept as he made Brock, Amani Hooker, and the rest of the Tennessee defense look on Sunday.
That’s the analysis. That’s what (we think) you come here for. It’s not advocating dirty play. It’s not, as I’ve said as many times as I possibly can and will say once more, urging an attempt to injure Mahomes. It’s about playing within the rules and not obsessing over the gray areas that can arise when a quarterback chooses to run. Because as the defensive players obsess over those gray areas, the quarterback quite often will continues to run right by them, maybe into the end zone.
Is this the first transaction by the Las Vegas Raiders?
The Las Vegas Raiders signed CB Nevin Lawson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Thursday.
Lawson first joined the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent last season after playing five years with the Detroit Lions (2014-18). A fourth-round selection (133rd overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft, Lawson has appeared in 74 contests and made 59 starts over his career, tallying 217 tackles (181 solo), one sack, 30 passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In one postseason appearance with the Lions in 2016, he registered seven stops (five) as a starter on defense.
Last season, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound corner out of Utah State appeared in 11 contests and made five starts for the Silver and Black. Lawson logged 23 tackles (18) and registered five passes defensed.
Duke Tobin declares the Bengals are planning on the return of WR A.J. GREEN. Nick Manchester of CincyJungle.com:
With the Bengals in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, there is a lot of thought going toward adding pieces to the team next year.
One key piece of the puzzle won’t be playing in the Senior Bowl. While the Bengals are focusing some effort on players coming out of college, they are also focusing on re-signing A.J. Green.
“We are going to talk to him,” said Duke Tobin, via the Enquirer. “All options are on the table. I don’t have anything to announce. But he’s a guy that we plan on having next year. Hopefully we will be able to get something done.”
Tobin, the Bengals’ Director of Player Personnel, and the rest of the front office have been in contract talks with Green for quite some time. The veteran wide receiver has also expressed interest in re-signing with the Bengals.
It seems like if both sides want a deal to get done, they will get it done.
If not, then the Bengals’ have already said they will apply the franchise tag. Green will probably be around for another year at least, even if they don’t agree to a new contract.
Adam Wells of Bleacher Report has some comments from Green:
As A.J. Green heads into an uncertain free agency this offseason, the seven-time Pro Bowler has mixed feelings about the possibility of receiving the franchise tag from the Cincinnati Bengals.
Speaking to WLWT’s Elise Jesse, Green admitted he wouldn’t necessarily turn down $18 million for one year, but said the “franchise tag is not the best thing” because it indicates the team only wants you for a single season.
Green has been consistent about his desire to find a long-term contract this offseason, whether it’s from the Bengals or another team.
He told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com in December that sitting out a full season wouldn’t be his approach if Cincinnati does tag him:
“I wouldn’t sit out [the season], but you have to understand that the franchise tag means you’re not committed to the long term so the off-season workouts, training camp, stuff like that would be questionable. I don’t know about training camp, because I still have to get in football shape. Definitely not OTAs.”
Per Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Green doesn’t necessarily want the same extension the Atlanta Falcons gave Julio Jones (three years, $66 million fully guaranteed), but wants to be paid in line with other top receivers.
The Bengals have a huge offseason ahead of them coming off a 2-14 record in 2019. They own the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and have to decide if they want to keep Green, who has only played nine games over the past two seasons due to injuries. He missed this season after tearing ligaments in his ankle during the team’s first training camp practice.
The NFL has yet to officially announce 2020 values for the franchise tenders, but Over the Cap estimates the wide receiver tag will be worth $18,491,000.
T LAREMY TUNSIL wants to re-up with the Texans. Nick Shook of ESPN.com:
Laremy Tunsil’s world changed plenty in 2019 when he was traded from Miami to Houston.
The deal netted the Dolphins a haul of assets, while it provided the Texans with another pass-catching option in receiver Kenny Stills and a cornerstone left tackle the franchise has lacked since the departure of veteran Duane Brown. Tunsil’s play helped Houston return to the playoffs and earn a postseason win. It also earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl.
With Houston now having answered the question at left tackle and Tunsil entering the final year of his rookie contract, it seems as if all there is left to do — other than attempt to continue the success that the organization enjoyed in 2019 — is to secure Tunsil’s services for many years beyond 2020. With Tunsil under team control for one more campaign, he’s not spending much time thinking about it, but if he does receive a long-term offer, he’d be content.
“I’m cool with it,” Tunsil said of a potential extension when speaking with NFL.com Thursday. “Whatever coach decides to do, I’m happy. I’d be happy to stay there with Deshaun (Watson) and help win games.”
Tunsil had to adjust on the fly in 2019, going from a struggling team in Miami to a contending one in Houston. That required learning a whole new offense and developing a familiarity with Watson and his fellow linemen. It also called for developing an understanding of a new coaching staff, locker room and city, something Tunsil described as “a long journey but a smooth process” with which Tunsil said Stills helped plenty.
An unfortunate product of being part of a new offense was a jump in Tunsil’s false start penalties, which Tunsil didn’t avoid acknowledging when asked about his struggles that drew yellow flags.
“I don’t know if that’s something that I can work on,” Tunsil said with a chuckle. “It’s just something that’s mental, you know, you have to lock in a little bit more. New quarterback, new cadence, but everybody don’t look at that. But it’s cool.”
Despite that small problem, Tunsil was still a massive upgrade for a line in need of one. Houston’s offense improved with him anchoring the left side of the line, culminating in the Texans’ wild-card win over the Buffalo Bills.
Tunsil is ready to run it back in 2020, and if that includes a firm commitment to the Texans beyond the new year, he’d be pleased to remain in Houston. We’ll see if that happens any time soon.
– – –
CB GAREON CLOWNEY has been de-screwed. John McClain in the Houston Chronicle reports:
Houston Texans cornerback Gareon Conley underwent surgery to remove a screw from his right ankle according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.
The procedure is said to be “minor” and McClain reports that Conley should be fully recovered by the time OTAs start this spring. The No.24-overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Ohio State by the Raiders, Conley was considered a bust in Oakland but seemed to fare better after he arrived in Houston in a midseason trade. He compiled 27 tackles in eight games for the Texans and earned solid coverage marks from Pro Football Focus.
THIS AND THAT
THE BIGGEST “MOVES” OF 2019
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com:
Hindsight is the most wondrous of evaluation tools. Just look back on all the “best offseason moves” lists from last summer if you’re looking for a laugh. Almost none of what we expected came true. But that’s the essence of sports anyway, so it’s fine.
With only one game left in the 2019-20 NFL season, we have the luxury of looking back on the 2019 offseason and knowing which moves were the best, worst, most underrated, etc. This isn’t an I-told-you-so exercise, because I didn’t. Like almost everyone else, I didn’t see much of this — or at least the extent of it — coming.
So enjoy this hindsight-driven look back on the 2019 offseason, and please keep it in mind when you read those preseason pieces this summer. The moves that look the best or the worst at the time they’re made often turn out much differently than you expect.
THE FIVE BEST MOVES OF LAST OFFSEASON
The Chiefs’ defensive makeover
I was skeptical of the move to hire Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator. His track record has many more bad years than good ones. I grew even more skeptical as the Chiefs overhauled their defense on the fly and in ways Spagnuolo clearly had a hand in directing.
But after a bit of a sluggish start, Spags & Co. proved me wrong. The Tyrann Mathieu signing was a difference-maker. Replacing Dee Ford with Frank Clark worked out (though one could argue the Ford thing worked out for the 49ers as well). Chris Jones managed to continue to thrive as a pass-rusher in spite of Spagnuolo’s history of not asking his defensive tackles to be that.
And now the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl after holding Derrick Henry to 69 yards in the AFC Championship Game. With Patrick Mahomes and all those speedsters on offense, the Chiefs only needed their defense to elevate from terrible to OK in order to go further than last year’s Chiefs did. And that defense has been better than OK.
The Ravens’ offensive makeover
They won a bunch of games and made the playoffs when they threw Lamar Jackson into the starting job and retooled the offense around him on the fly in 2018. But offensive coordinator Greg Roman really took things to a new level with what he built for Jackson in the 2019 offseason.
Not only did the Baltimore coaching staff iron out Jackson’s rookie-year turnover issues, they made him the centerpiece of the league’s most dynamic scoring attack, earned the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and almost certainly won Jackson the MVP award in his second NFL season. In a year with the usual number of head coach openings, Roman might have been snatched up by another team for the big job — and another season averaging 33 points per game with Jackson could make him the hottest candidate for 2021.
The Titans’ trade for Ryan Tannehill
This was a straight-up dump by the Dolphins, who were through with Tannehill and picked up a large chunk of his salary as part of the deal. But when Marcus Mariota faltered early in the season and Tennessee replaced him with Tannehill as its starting quarterback, things turned around in spectacular fashion. The Titans went 7-3 to close out the regular season with Tannehill as their QB, ranking third in the league in both points per game (30.4) and yards per game (406.2) before advancing to the AFC Championship Game.
The 49ers drafting Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick
San Francisco never wavered during the draft process, rejecting offers to trade up and staying the course with Bosa, whom they correctly envisioned as the final Infinity Stone in their gauntlet of first-round defensive linemen. Watching Bosa and his fellow first-rounders dominate the Vikings and the Packers in the playoff games that landed the Niners in the Super Bowl validates the importance of drafting an exceptional edge rusher when you have the chance to do it. Bosa is the star of a stellar group, and he helped elevate that group to the game’s grandest stage.
The Buccaneers signing Shaquil Barrett
Tampa Bay’s signing of the former Broncos linebacker to a one-year, $4 million contract generated barely a ripple on the free-agent market, but it may have been the steal of the season. Barrett needed 10 sacks to trigger a $1 million incentive clause, and he got nine in the Bucs’ first four games. He ended up leading the league with 19.5 sacks on the season and should fare considerably better in free agency this time around.
THE FIVE WORST MOVES OF LAST OFFSEASON
The Browns hiring Freddie Kitchens as coach
All of the hope and hype that accompanied the Browns into the 2019 season was alloyed by the question of whether first-year head coach Kitchens could bring everything together and manage his talented group into the playoffs. He could not.
The Browns were a mess from training camp, when Odell Beckham Jr. got hurt and Baker Mayfield had too many conflicting voices in his ear. They were a factory of the wrong kind of headlines all year. Kitchens continually sounded the wrong note publicly whenever he was dealing with a crisis, and the team’s performance indicates he wasn’t sounding too many right notes in private, either. The Browns fired Kitchens after only one year and hired Kevin Stefanski, who was their other finalist for the job last January, to replace him.
Everything involving Antonio Brown
The Raiders’ trade for Brown, hailed as a coup when it happened due to the low price, ended up a total bust. He spent training camp feuding with the league about his helmet, freezing his foot in a cryotherapy chamber and arguing publicly with GM Mike Mayock over fine money for workdays he missed. The last bit got him cut right before the season started, and he never played a down for the Raiders.
The Patriots’ move to sign him hours after the Raiders cut him doesn’t look great either, as they’re stuck with $10.5 million in dead money and likely will have to pay Brown his $9 million signing bonus if he wins his grievance against them. (But at least he played a game for them.)
And to top it all off, Pittsburgh really could have used help at receiver this year. Would all of this have been different if he and the Steelers had found a way to patch things up? Probably not. Brown’s spectacular NFL career appears to have imploded due to his self-destructive off-field and social media behavior.
The Jaguars signing Nick Foles
Believing themselves to be a quarterback away from the kind of successful season they’d had in 2017, the Jags signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract with $42.125 million fully guaranteed in the first two years. But the season turned out to be a disaster.
Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey forced a trade due to his relationship with executive VP Tom Coughlin, and then Coughlin was fired late in the season after the NFLPA won a grievance against the Jaguars and ripped the team for the number of player complaints it had received during Coughlin’s time there. The Foles deal looks like it might be a massive mistake too, as he missed eight games due to injury and then four more due to a late-season benching in favor of sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew II, who may have already taken the 2020 starting QB job away from him.
The Jaguars owe Foles $15.125 million in fully guaranteed salary for 2020, and a $5 million 2021 roster bonus becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on their roster on the third day of the 2020 league year. They’d absorb a dead-money hit of about $34 million if they cut him and about $19 million if they trade him.
The Giants signing Golden Tate
Giants apologists will point to Cleveland’s bad year and Beckham Jr.’s embarrassing behavior at the National Championship Game as evidence that GM Dave Gettleman was right to trade his star wideout. But even if you viewed the Beckham deal as addition by subtraction for the Giants, you can’t be thrilled with their plan for replacing him.
They signed Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million contract even though he’s a very similar receiver to Sterling Shepard, whom they’d just signed to a four-year, $41 million contract. Tate began the season on a four-game drug suspension and ended it with 49 catches for 676 yards and six touchdowns, while fifth-round rookie Darius Slayton looks like the real deal. The Giants still owe Tate $7.975 million in guaranteed salary for 2020.
Washington alienating Trent Williams
This was a doozy. Williams, the Pro Bowl left tackle, stayed away all season after making it clear he didn’t want to play for Washington anymore. (He actually reported on the day of the trade deadline, so as not to lose a year of service time, but he was there one day and did not return after the team put him on the non-football injury list.) Williams was upset with the team’s medical staff for misdiagnosing a cancerous growth on his scalp, and he was upset with the front office for not offering to rework his contract after the guarantees ran out.
Washington overhauled its front office and medical staff this offseason, getting rid of a couple of the people with whom Williams was upset. It remains to be seen whether he’ll return there, but in the meantime a lot of damage was done. And the quarterbacks the team used, including rookie Dwayne Haskins Jr., had far less of a chance to succeed with Williams sitting out.
THE FIVE MOST UNDERRATED MOVES OF LAST OFFSEASON
The Titans promoting Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator
They lost Matt LaFleur to a head-coaching job after LaFleur spent only one year as their offensive coordinator. But instead of hiring from the outside, Titans coach Mike Vrabel elevated his tight ends coach to the coordinator job. Smith proved more than capable, designing a Titans offense that, yes, used a ton of Henry but also ranked among the most efficient passing attacks in the league behind Tannehill and rookie receiver A.J. Brown. The Titans may have unearthed a coaching star.
The Bills’ offensive makeover
None of Buffalo’s offseason moves made major waves on its own. But collectively, they rebuilt an offense that helped deliver the Bills’ second playoff appearance in three years. Wide receiver John Brown served as a reliable deep threat for second-year QB Josh Allen, while wide receiver Cole Beasley was a great safety blanket. Veteran Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary formed a strong run game. And the retooled offensive line kept Allen clean enough for him to advance as a playmaker.
Coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane are earning leaguewide praise for their approach to team-building, and you can bet we’ll be watching their 2020 offseason more closely.
Houston’s trade for Carlos Hyde
This looked like a throwaway deal at the time. The Chiefs were about to cut Hyde at the end of training camp when the Texans, who’d just lost Lamar Miller to a season-ending injury, stepped in and offered backup guard Martinas Rankin. Hyde picked up the Texans’ offense instantly and delivered the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career as Houston won the AFC South for the fourth time in five years.
The Vikings hiring Gary Kubiak
He was not the offensive coordinator, but Kubiak (as well as run game coordinator Rick Dennison and QBs coach Klint Kubiak, who came with him) helped evolve Stefanski’s offense into one that played more to QB Kirk Cousins’ strengths. A zone running scheme and an emphasis on play-action helped revitalize the Minnesota offense and propel the Vikings into the postseason.
Stefanski, who’s now off to Cleveland as a head coach, credited Kubiak as an invaluable sounding board and a helpful-but-not-intrusive influence on the offense, which performed at a high level for most of the season.
The Dolphins signing Ryan Fitzpatrick
The preseason talk was that the Dolphins were “tanking” to try to get the top pick in the draft. This, as it turns out, was not true. What the Dolphins were actually doing was trading assets in an effort to stockpile as many early-round picks as they could in the next couple of drafts, which makes a lot more sense in the NFL than “tanking” for a specific pick.
Along the way they signed Fitzpatrick, the well-traveled veteran QB, even though they’d traded for Josh Rosen. And by the time they got halfway through the season, they realized Rosen wasn’t going to be their guy for the long term so they made Fitzpatrick the starter and ended up winning five of their last nine games, including the Week 17 victory over the Patriots that cost New England a first-round bye.
The Dolphins still have the No. 5 pick in the draft, and because of the Minkah Fitzpatrick and Laremy Tunsil trades, they also have the 18th and 26th picks. They’re set up better than fine draft-wise, and in the meantime they have a group of young players who got to feel and enjoy what it’s like to compete for and win something. That should help down the road with whoever ends up staying for the rebuild.
THE FIVE MOVES ON WHICH THE JURY IS STILL OUT
The Ezekiel Elliott contract extension
Elliott became the highest-paid running back in the league by holding out of training camp and forcing the Cowboys to confront life without him. The 2019 season was the first of his career in which Elliott did not lead the league in rushing yards per game. The Cowboys’ offense evolved and produced at an extremely high level behind quarterback Dak Prescott’s career season.
Elliott didn’t play poorly by any means — he still finished fourth in the league in rushing. But given the money involved, and the way the offense seemed to lean on him less after he got it, it’s fair to wonder whether Elliott’s deal will prove to be worth it or whether it will become just another data point for teams that fear overpaying at the running back position.
The Jets’ free-agent moves
Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley were the headliners, signing deals with a combined $70 million in full guarantees. The Jets had a mess of a season, with second-year quarterback Sam Darnold contracting mono in September and backup Trevor Siemian suffering a season-ending injury in his first start. But it’s likely they weren’t going to contend this year anyway.
If Mosley comes back healthy and the Jets find a way to integrate Bell into the offense more, these moves could pay off in 2020. But for comparison’s sake: The Jets got those two guys for $70 million guaranteed; the division rival Bills signed Gore, Brown, Beasley, Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe and Jon Feliciano for a combined total of $53.3 million guaranteed.
The Lions signing Trey Flowers
Detroit gave Flowers a five-year, $90 million deal with $50 million guaranteed at signing, reuniting him with former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in hopes of revitalizing the Lions’ pass rush. In turn, Miami was the only team that had fewer sacks than Detroit did this year. Flowers had seven of the Lions’ 28 sacks, which is right on his career average, but his first-year impact on the defense doesn’t seem to have been very much.
Washington signing Landon Collins
The Giants may have been nuts for letting Collins walk without franchising him (or trading him if he really wasn’t going to play on the franchise tag), but Washington may have been nuts-er for giving Collins a six-year, $84 million deal with $36.825 million fully guaranteed.
The safety market went through the roof, with Earl Thomas and Mathieu landing deals in the same per-year average range, but Collins’ deal was the plum from a player’s perspective, and Washington likely could have used the money elsewhere had it been more frugal. Perhaps the defense improves and Collins becomes its centerpiece, but we have to wait to find out.
The Browns’ trade for Odell Beckham Jr.
Obviously, this did not go the way Cleveland hoped it would go in the first year. But nothing did in 2019, and the Browns are hitting the reset button again on the coaching staff and in the front office. Beckham played hurt all year and just had surgery to correct a core muscle injury. He’s 27 years old, and it’s hard to believe he’s done being great. But if the Browns do keep him and don’t start winning, his deal will continue to be viewed as an albatross by those who don’t feel he’s worth the off-field headaches.
This update from Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Antonio Brown turned himself in to police in Broward County on Thursday night after an arrest warrant was issued for him on charges of burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief.
Brown didn’t have a comment for reporters on his way into the Broward County jail, but his attorney Eric Schwartzreich did confirm that his client would spend the night in custody before a bond hearing on Friday morning.
“I’ve advised him not to. He’s innocent of these charges. Hopefully we’ll get bond tomorrow and he’ll be acquitted of all charges,” Schwartzreich said to WFOR.
The arrest warrant was issued after an incident involving Brown, his trainer Glenn Holt and the driver of a moving truck. Brown allegedly threw rocks at the vehicle after refusing to pay the $4,000 charged by the driver, who left and then returned when his employers told him Brown would pay the charge plus $860 for damages to the truck.
Upon his return, Brown paid the original $4,000, but not the additional damages. At that point, the altercation allegedly moved from verbal to physical and Holt has also been arrested on a burglary with battery charge.
Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com offers his seven biggest winners from Senior Bowl practices:
7 biggest winners from the week of Senior Bowl practices
Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame. I really enjoyed watching Claypool on tape and couldn’t wait to see him perform in person on the Senior Bowl stage. I was not disappointed, and neither were the NFL evaluators in attendance. Not only does he look the part of a big, imposing receiver, he showed off how fluid and natural he is with his movement. He snatched the ball away from his frame with strong hands and created separation using his size and athleticism. The easy comparison for him is former teammate Miles Boykin, who had the same type of size and explosiveness, but Boykin went to the Baltimore Ravens at the end of the third round in last year’s draft. Claypool may not last that long now. I think he pushed himself into Round 2 this week.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma. Gallimore benefited from Oklahoma’s slanting, stemming defensive front that allowed him easier access to gaps and edges, but his production was still somewhat average. Personnel directors and scouts I spoke with worried about his ability to create disruption on his own. This week, Gallimore may have put some of those concerns to rest. He opened the door for teams to view him differently, at minimum. The former Sooner was able to translate his trademark high energy and athleticism into frequent pocket pressure in one-on-one drills. He also helped muddle lanes vs. the run. Gallimore might be a somewhat polarizing prospect, but this was a good week for him.
K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State. The Hill game tape that I watched was just OK. There weren’t a bunch of reps that allowed him to stand out as anything more than a solid slot receiver, but the Senior Bowl was a much different story for him. You know who was in a similar position at this same event in 2019? None other than Hill’s former teammate, Terry McLaurin, who burst onto the scene a year ago with a big Senior Bowl week before his fantastic rookie season with the Washington Redskins. Like McLaurin, Hill consistently put cornerbacks in the spin cycle with great releases and well-disguised routes. His footwork was crisp getting in and out of breaks. Hill doesn’t have McLaurin’s speed, so he may not see the exact same climb that McLaurin did, but he clearly put himself on the map.
Josh Jones, OT, Houston. There has been buzz building around Jones from the midpoint of the 2019 season, but this was going to be a big week for him. Would he continue the momentum or fall behind others at his position? Jones struggled to find his footwork and consistency on Day 1 here in Mobile, but he stood out on Day 2 with strong reps, stoning rushers in pass protection and sustaining run blocks on the second level. On the final day of practice, Jones had impressive victories over North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge — another big winner this week — including a pancake at the end of a one-on-one rep. He heads toward the NFL Scouting Combine with great momentum, and should only help his case even more with his athletic testing.
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina. Kinlaw shut it down after Wednesday’s practice in what appeared to be a precautionary measure, but he probably made money just by walking across the stage at the Senior Bowl weigh-in on Tuesday. His frame is well muscled and carries excellent lean mass along with the arm length of an offensive tackle. Showing up and looking good was the easy part, but he announced his presence with authority over his two days of participation with aggressive forward charges that overwhelmed most blockers in one-on-one drills. Kinlaw isn’t the most skilled rusher at this point, but it was hard to look at him operate and not start to see similarities with Kansas City Chiefs standout Chris Jones. Kinlaw always had the traits, but the way he dominated the competition here in Mobile likely propelled him into the middle of the first round.
Jason Strowbridge, DE, North Carolina. Strowbridge can be a challenging evaluation on tape because he has the long frame with growth potential that teams typically gravitate toward, but he is a bit of a tweener from a positional standpoint. This was an important week for Strowbridge to help teams visualize a role for him in their scheme. It looks like that’s exactly what he did. He played with skilled, strong hands at the point of attack and in activating finishing moves to get past pass protection in one-one-one drills. The Lions’ Matt Patricia, who is coaching Strowbridge’s North team this week, paid plenty of attention to the former Tar Heel, which makes sense considering his level of play in practice and the similarity of his build/skill set relative to guys like Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, whom Patricia coached in New England (as well as in Detroit, in Flowers’ case).
Tyler Bass, K, Georgia Southern. Yes, a kicker generated some buzz this week. Bass kicked with tremendous power during his college career, but sometimes his skyball trajectory took distance off his longer field goals tries. Well, those concerns are a thing of the past now. On Tuesday, Bass banged home all six of his field goal attempts at the end of practice, including a 54-yarder. On Thursday, he did miss a 58-yard try that smacked against the left upright, but the kick would have been good from well past 60 yards had he hit it about eight inches further to the right. That’s called helping your cause.