AROUND THE NFL

Interesting that the Colts and Patriots never materialized in the GERALD McCOY derby.  Reuters on the final stages:

 

After finishing his latest free-agent visit with Carolina on Friday, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will reportedly decide on his 2019 team among three final suitors: the Panthers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.

 

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star will mull over his final three options this weekend.

 

Several media outlets reported Thursday that McCoy, 31, finished up a two-day visit with Baltimore after having also visited the Browns last week, days after his release by the Tampa Buccaneers. The Tampa Bay Times reported McCoy has drawn bids from 10 teams with an offer as high as $11 million annually.

 

McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, was released by the Buccaneers on May 20 with three years left on his contract. The deal called for him to make $13 million in base pay this season. The original contract was for six years and $95.2 million.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Surgery for TE TREY BURTON.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Chicago Bears tight end Trey Burton is recovering from offseason surgery.

 

Coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday that Burton is not participating in OTAs after undergoing sports hernia surgery a couple of months prior. The team hopes to have him full-go by training camp.

 

Burton missed the Bears’ playoff tilt due to a groin injury that he said back in January “locked up” the day before the game. Presumably, the offseason surgery helped fix the issue that ailed the tight end at the time.

 

In his first season with the Bears, the 27-year-old compiled career highs with 54 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns, but had just three tilts out of 16 over the 50-yard mark. Assuming he’s full-go for the start of the season, Burton could be in for a bigger role in 2019.

 

 

DETROIT

The Lions want to repair their fractured relationship with WR CALVIN JOHNSON.  Ron Birkett in the Detroit Free Press:

 

Rod Wood wants Calvin Johnson back in the Detroit Lions family, and the greatest wide receiver in the organization’s history is open to that idea under one condition.

 

“They already know what they got to do,” Johnson told the Free Press at the annual camp he runs for local high school students Saturday in metro Detroit. “The only way they’re going to get me back is they put that money back in my pocket. Nah, you don’t do that. I don’t care what they say. They can put it back, then they can have me back. That’s the bottom line.”

 

Wood, the Lions president, said in May that re-establishing a relationship with Johnson is “a very high priority” for the organization, three years after the sides parted ways on bad terms.

 

Johnson retired unexpectedly after the 2015 season, and when he made his retirement official, the Lions forced him to repay a seven-figure portion of the $16 million signing bonus he received four years earlier.

 

Wood said at the team’s Taste of the Lions event he hoped to have a Barry Sanders-like relationship with Johnson, and hoped to bring Johnson back into the fold before he’s eligible to go into the Hall of Fame in 2021.

 

Sanders, like Johnson, was forced to repay a seven-figure portion of his signing bonus when he retired abruptly before the 1999 season.

 

The Lions and Sanders had a strained relationship for years, but Sanders now works as a paid ambassador for the team.

 

“I want to kind of try and find a way to do something similar to what we’ve been doing with Barry if Calvin would be interested,” Wood said. “So that’s on my agenda to get to him and talk about it.”

 

Johnson said he hasn’t heard from Wood or the organization yet, though receiver Marvin Jones, offensive lineman Leo Koloamatangi and several rookies helped out at his football camp Saturday.

 

“I ain’t talked to Rod. I don’t even want to talk about that,” Johnson said. “I don’t have no reason to talk about that. I don’t even talk about the Lions. I mean, I talk to my Lions that came out here to help me out today. Had the rookies, Marv came out, they did a great job with the kids. I appreciate them so much for that. Just hope to keep those kind of relationships rolling for in the future because these kids, man, they take so much from that.”

 

In retirement, Johnson has continued to run free football camps in Michigan and his native Georgia, and provides scholarships through his foundation, which hosts its annual Catching Dreams gala later in June.

 

Johnson also is heavily involved in real estate and other business in the area, and received preliminary approval for a license to open a medical marijuana dispensary in February.

 

The Lions are expected to honor some of their all-time great players as part of the NFL’s 100th season celebration this fall, and could formally retire several uniform numbers at that time.

 

 

GREEN BAY

The dangers of pick-up basketball as Coach Matt LaFleur goes down. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Even coaches can get injured during the offseason.

 

NFL Network’s Mike Silver reported that Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon while playing a game of Knockout on a Lambeau basketball court on Wednesday night.

 

LaFleur will undergo surgery Sunday and will coach the rest of OTAs and mandatory minicamp in June (11-13) from a cart, Silver added.

 

The Packers hired LaFleur after 13 seasons under Mike McCarthy. The injury is the first obstacle the first-time coach must overcome. Despite not necessarily needing full mobility to teach his new offense, for a hands-on coach like LaFleur it’s an issue he must weather this offseason.

 

LaFleur’s injury is a reminder of why teams fret incessantly about activities players participate in during the offseason. If the coach’s Achilles is the only tendon to pop in Green Bay this spring and summer, however, the Packers would consider themselves fortunate.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

TAMPA BAY

DT GERALD McCOY, despite his six Pro Bowls, was never as loved by Buccaneers fans as he is now that he is gone.

 

Coach Bruce Arians has more to say on why McCoy was cast adrift.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Buccaneers swapped defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and his $13 million salary for defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and his $9.25 million salary. So why did they essentially trade the third pick in the 2010 draft for the second pick in the 2010 draft.

 

“It just wasn’t a fit,” coach Bruce Arians said Friday in an appearance on ESPN, via JoeBucsFan.com. “Whether it was financial, whatever, on the field, you know, it just didn’t fit. I’ve been through this a number of times with guys and great players and it just comes a time when they have to separate the organization. You go back to Franco Harris not being a Steeler. This has happened for a long, long time.”

 

Arians is right, but in the case of McCoy versus Suh, the Bucs actually replaced an older player with someone who is more than a year older. Arians attributed the desire to embrace Suh over McCoy to “consistency.”

 

“He never misses a game, very seldom ever misses a practice,” Arians said of Suh. “Plays extremely hard the way I like to play. He fits our three-man scheme a lot better in terms of his versatility up and down the front.”

 

Since missing 10 games due to injury in his second season, McCoy has missed only eight games in seven season. But Suh has missed only two during his entire career — and that was due to suspension not injury.

 

The scheme-fit issue makes sense. If the Bucs’ coaching staff believes Suh will perform better in Todd Bowles’ defense, so be it. Regardless, people will be closely comparing the respective performances in 2019 of Suh and McCoy, who will choose next week from among the Browns, Ravens, and Panthers.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com spoke with QB JARED GOFF about the Super Bowl loss.

 

Some players and coaches treat a Super Bowl loss like it never happened and figuratively bury the result like a dead body. Others try to confront the setback at every turn, making it a talking point that they won’t avoid the past.

 

Jared Goff, in the aftermath of Super Bowl LIII, did neither.

 

The Rams scored three points in the game. Goff threw a devastating fourth-quarter interception, saw half his throws fall incomplete and posted a 57.9 rating. And the offense that 33-year-old coach Sean McVay had turned into the NFL’s most dangerous over the last two years in L.A. was rendered a speed bump on Bill Belichick’s path to a sixth title.

 

So how did Goff process the Super Bowl? How did he deal with it in the aftermath?

 

By treating it like any other loss. Or win, for that matter.

 

“Oh yeah. I went back and watched it the day after,” Goff said on Friday, after wrapping up the Rams’ third week of OTAs. “Postgame, tried to treat it like any other game where you’re evaluating yourself. Obviously, there were much bigger implications, but you just go through it like you would, and evaluate what you think you did well and what you didn’t do well, and move on.

 

“And yeah, it took longer than a regular game to move on from, because there wasn’t a game after it to fix what you’d done in the previous game. But it’s part of the process. Every year there’s a team that goes through this. This year it’s us.”

 

Goff then pointed out that losing the Super Bowl isn’t the curse it used to be.

 

He’s right, too. Eight of nine teams this decade to fall on the biggest stage made the playoffs the next year, six of those got through to the divisional round, five won at least one playoff game, and the last team in that spot, last year’s Patriots, bounced back to win it all the following season.

 

“It’s something we’re able to look forward to—you’ve seen teams come off losing it and win it the following year,” Goff said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen just because the Patriots did it—it’s not like, ‘OK, they lost two years ago and last year they beat us, so that’s our track.’ That’s not how it works, and we understand that.”

 

But, he continued, if the Rams follow the road that they have for the last 29 months or so, there’s no reason he, and the team, can’t bounce back quickly. For the quarterback, the first steps were taken that next day at the team facility, confronting what stood between him and the Lombardi Trophy.

 

And this:

 

Sean McVay has been pretty vocal about how disappointed he was in himself in the Super Bowl—and rest assured, Goff felt the loss same as his coach. He hasn’t been as outward about it, but he did beat himself up over how a stellar 18-game body of work to get the Rams to Atlanta somehow didn’t carry over once they got there.

 

And as he saw, it wasn’t just the opportunity that felt wasted in the aftermath. Moreso, it was a defensive effort against Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense that probably would’ve stood up as historic if he and the offense had played even an average game.

 

“The fact that our defense played the game they did, and Wade [Phillips] coached the way he did, all the plays we made—we got an interception on the first play of the game—and offensively, and me personally, we weren’t able to hold up our end, that’s what really bothered me,” Goff said. “At this point, late May, early June, I’m able to move past that, and you’re on to the next step of your career and your life.

 

“But for a while there, that was the big sticking point in my head.”

 

What he wasn’t going to waste was the experience, and the lessons that playing against a Belichick defense presented him. It was all there for him when he fired up the tape the next day.

 

Back in February, we detailed the Patriots’ defensive game plan in both the day-after and week-after MMQBs, first from the locker room and then with the McCourty twins. In each case, the overriding theme was New England not wanting to give McVay, Goff or anyone on the Rams roster any sort of tell into what they were doing—which meant playing differently than they had, and disguising everything.

 

It worked, and Goff concedes now that the Super Bowl experience illuminates where the L.A.’s high-powered attack still has room to grow.

 

“They’re so unique in that they change weekly in what they’re doing,” Goff said of the Patriots. “I think for me personally, if we were play them again, or any team that’s similar to them that can do that, you have to be able to adjust on the fly a little bit quicker.

 

“As opposed to waiting for something to happen, you have to actively adjust to what they’re doing, and adjust to what a team is trying to present to you, whether it’s something they showed on film or not.”

 

And this:

 

This year is different from last year. And for really good reasons.

 

“Way different. Way different,” Goff said. “Last year, being in that first round of the playoffs, playing the Falcons, the previous season we were 4-12, so you’re thinking, ‘OK, this is kind of fun, I like the playoffs, this is cool.’ And you go through it and you lose, and you’re like, ‘Wait, wait, I want to go back to that. That was fun, I shouldn’t have taken that for granted.’ This past season, you’re like, ‘OK, we belong.’”

 

Which brings us to the question of sustainability. Goff is 24, Todd Gurley is 24 (even with questions on his health), Cooks is 25, Aaron Donald is 28, and the Rams have become the kind of place where veterans (Ndamukong Suh last year, Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews this year) come to make a run at a ring. And it’s through those guys that Goff has gotten an appreciation for what’s going on.

 

“For me, personally, the best example is when we sign free agents, and we’ll talk to them about where they been, and the culture [in those places], and they’re like, ‘Dude, it’s nothing like this. It’s not even close,’” Goff said. “That’s where we sort of take a step back and try not to take it for granted. I understand I’m in a very fortunate situation, and I’m going to try and take full advantage of it.”

 

The Rams broke through in 2017, and took a major leap forward last year. Now, how they process the memory of Feb. 3 will play a big part in whether they take the next major step. “When you have that last game and you don’t get a chance to redeem yourself, there’s not a next week’s storyline. It’s like, ‘Alright, this is the story of the whole offseason.’ And now you have to deal with it.”

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders final season in Oakland will be in the Ring Central Coliseum.  Bay City News:

 

There will be a new ring to the aging Oakland Coliseum’s name, as the board that oversees the Coliseum complex’s operations voted unanimously on Friday to approve an agreement calling it the Ring Central Coliseum.

 

The deal approved by the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority calls for Ring Central, a communications firm based in Belmont, to pay $1 million a year for the next three years and gives it the option to renew the deal for a fourth year.

 

The Coliseum, which is the home of the Oakland A’s and the Oakland Raiders, has been without a corporate name since Overstock.com, an online retailer, ended its naming rights deal with the Coliseum in 2016.

 

Overstock.com had the naming rights for the stadium for five years, during which it was called the O.Co Coliseum.

 

The Raiders plan to move to a new stadium in Las Vegas in the next few years, but the stadium hasn’t been completed yet.

 

In March the Raiders signed a new lease agreement with the Coliseum Authority, which calls for them to play nine home games in Oakland during the 2019 season and to have the option to renew the deal for the 2020 season if the new stadium in Las Vegas isn’t ready.

 

As part of the new lease agreement with the Raiders, the Coliseum Authority gets the full $1 million from Ring Central. Under previous deals, the naming rights revenue was split between the Raiders and the authority and the A’s didn’t get anything.

 

Ring Central will have its name for as long as the A’s continue playing at the Coliseum. The A’s currently are negotiating a contract to build a privately financed waterfront ballpark at Howard Terminal, near Jack London Square, and hope to be playing there in 2023.

 

Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid, who’s the Coliseum Authority’s vice chair, said temporary Ring Central signs will be placed at the Coliseum next week and permanent signs will be placed there later.

 

Gary Peterson of BayAreaNewsgroup with a little history:

 

RingCentral Coliseum would be the stadium’s fifth corporate moniker. Network Associates purchased naming rights in 1998. Ultimately the company changed its name to McAfee. The McAfee Coliseum was a thing from 2004-08. Three blessed years passed during which the original name — the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — returned. Overstock.com struck a deal in 2011. The name evolved into O.co and in 2016 the company terminated its agreement.

 

Now this.

 

For comparison purposes, the Giants recently sold the name of their waterfront park to Oracle for $200 million over 20 years.

 

A highly unscientific survey found that reaction to the change was decidedly understated.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The Ravens haven’t seen WR MARQUISE BROWN on the field yet.  Maybe for the start of training camp.  This from Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic:

 

As for injured guys, 1st-round WR Marquise Brown still recovering from Lisfranc surgery. Training camp remains the hope for his return. Third-round WR Miles Boykin has been sidelined with hamstring strain. He should be getting closer to return.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

We missed this on Draft Weekend, and now TE RYAN GRIFFIN is missing from the Texans roster:

 

Charges against former Houston Texans tight end Ryan Griffin were dismissed, two weeks after the team released him following his arrest in Nashville, Tenn.

 

Griffin, 29, was charged with vandalism and public intoxication on April 27 during the NFL draft, which was held in Nashville. He allegedly punched a hotel window and sustained a bloody left hand in the incident.

 

He was released a day later on $1,750 bond, with a court date set for Friday. The Houston Chronicle reported the charges were dismissed at a settlement conference. Griffin was assessed $195 in court costs. Griffin was entering the final year of a three-year, $9 million extension signed in March 2017.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Thursday, June 6 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  It’s also the day the Patriots, current and recent past, will get their Super Bowl rings.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

This was the invitation that members of the 2018 Super Bowl champions were waiting for, and when it was delivered to each of them in a classy box, the tip-off was the shiny Lombardi Trophy on the cover.

 

The RSVPs are in, and it should be a packed Kraft house this Thursday when Super Bowl rings are issued, a highly anticipated private event that brings the champions together one final time.

 

Defensive end Trey Flowers, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Lions as a free agent in March, relayed to me that he wouldn’t miss it. His presence Thursday, along with several others now playing elsewhere, serves as a reminder that while members of the 2018 Patriots are now scattered across the NFL, they still have great affection for one another and appreciation for what they accomplished together.

 

Defensive playcaller Brian Flores, now in his first year as Miami Dolphins head coach, is also among those scheduled to attend.

 

A division rival crossing back into Patriots territory?

 

Indeed, which speaks to the power of unity that a Super Bowl ring represents.

– – –

Rumors are swirling that TE ROB GRONKOWSKI will eventually return to the Patriots.  Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com:

 

When a high-profile player retires, everyone just assumes they’re coming back. There are probably folks who believe Tony Romo will play again.

 

So when Rob Gronkowski retired from the New England Patriots before his 30th birthday, we were going to get a lot of comeback talk. And who knows, maybe Gronk will feel good during the season and entertain the idea.

 

But it doesn’t sound like he’s planning on playing again.

 

Gronk not fueling comeback talk

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald caught up with Gronkowski at Gillette Stadium on Sunday when the former tight end participated in a charity event, One Mission’s “Buzz Off For Kids With Cancer.”

 

Guregian asked Gronk if he could put the comeback speculation to rest.

 

“Oh man … whatever I say, it doesn’t matter,” Gronkowski told Guregian. “It will always be crazy out there. You can put them to rest.”

 

The Herald asked Gronk again to clarify if he’d put the comeback speculation to rest.

 

“I just did … yes [I’ll put them to rest],” Gronkowski said. “I’m feeling good, I’m in a good place. It’s great to be back [at Gillette], though.”

 

Rob Gronkowski just turned 30

While Gronkowski doesn’t seem keen on the idea of playing again right now, the allure will be strong.

 

He turned 30 last month, so he’s obviously not too old. He has dealt with a lot of injuries, but might feel good late in the season with no wear and tear on his body. Coming back late would allow him to miss out on things like training camp, too.

 

Gronkowski was right in that whatever he says probably doesn’t matter, because the rumors will go on regardless. The Patriots will be good again and at some point there will be more chatter late in the season about them possibly adding an all-time great tight end out of retirement. Wouldn’t that be fun?

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Greg Joyce of the New York Post updates us on the Jets’ GM search:

 

After completing an interview with a second candidate to become their next general manager, the Jets took a third executive, who is considered to be the favorite, out to dinner Saturday night in New Jersey.

 

The Jets announced they interviewed Saints director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot on Saturday. They were later set to dine with Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, ESPN reported. Douglas’ meeting was expected to continue Sunday as the Jets’ search for Mike Maccagnan’s replacement entered full swing.

 

The 38-year-old Fontenot has spent 16 years with New Orleans, the past six in his current role. He is responsible for managing the pro personnel department with tasks that include “recommending player acquisitions by evaluating players from all professional leagues, including the Saints roster, monitoring the waiver wire and supervising advance scouting of upcoming opponents,” according to the Saints’ website.

 

Since Maccagnan was fired May 15, Douglas has been widely tabbed as the favorite to succeed him. He overlapped with Jets head coach and interim GM Adam Gase in Chicago in 2015, when Douglas was the Bears’ director of college scouting and Gase was their offensive coordinator. Gase is assisting in the GM search.

 

League sources told The Post’s Brian Costello that Douglas had already reached out to people about joining him with the Jets more than two weeks before his interview.

 

Prior to his stints with the Eagles and Bears, Douglas rose up the ranks with the Ravens — working in their personnel department for 16 years, most of them as a scout.

 

On Friday, the Jets kicked off the interview process by speaking with Scott Fitterer, the Seahawks’ co-director of player personnel.

 

The Jets are also expected to interview Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly early next week. They are still waiting to hear back from Vikings assistant general manager George Paton on whether or not he will accept an interview as well.

– – –

Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says even though he was drafted by Mike Mccagnan, QB SAM DARNOLD is a favorite of Adam Gase. 

 

Contrary to popular belief, Adam Gase and Mike Maccagnan didn’t disagree on everything during their brief, ill-fated partnership as the football leaders of the New York Jets. There was a large swath of common ground between them: Sam Darnold.

 

Amid the tension of their failed coach-general manager marriage, even as cracks within the organization began to form in March and April, Gase and Maccagnan were united in their enthusiasm about Darnold’s long-term potential. Maccagnan entrusted Gase with the raw but gifted player who will be the GM’s legacy. (Oh, the irony.) Gase took the gig because he saw Darnold as the first legitimate quarterback project of his coaching career.

 

Now, as the Jets attempt to resolve the chaos in the aftermath of Maccagnan’s ouster, they turn their “help us” eyes to Darnold, hoping he can make everybody forget about the dysfunction. Frankly, it’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on a 21-year-old with a 4-9 career record, but they believe Gase can make him part of the recent trend of quarterbacks who blossomed in their second year — e.g., Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky.

 

“I hope so,” Darnold said. “The expectations are always to produce and score points. If that happens, awesome. We don’t plan on it being any other way.”

 

But is it realistic? Let’s peel back the layers.

 

No doubt, Darnold is in a better situation than last season, when he played for the defensive-minded Todd Bowles and an offensive coordinator (Jeremy Bates) who seemed overwhelmed by the job. Like his aforementioned peers, Darnold has an offensive coach who will handle the playcalling duties. There was a glimpse of the new dynamic in last week’s open practice, with Gase using a walkie-talkie to radio plays directly to Darnold. As a result, the tempo was quick, as they seemed to be running plays faster than usual.

 

But this doesn’t mean Darnold will have a Goff-like improvement in Year 2. There are so many other variables.

 

“Listen, I love the guy — I’ve been so outspoken about him — but I don’t know if the situation is great,” said former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, who played under Gase with the Detroit Lions (2005-07). “Find me a guy that’s been really good in the NFL over the last 10 years who’s had in his first two years a new head coach, a new GM and two new offenses — all in 13 months. That’s very difficult for a guy to handle. And this isn’t a team that has a bunch of really good players on it, offensively, a bunch of superstar weapons.

 

“Sam will be better and he’ll make guys better, but Gase has to prove he can be a really good offensive coach without a Hall of Famer, without Peyton [Manning],” Orlovsky added. “That has to be proven. … I don’t want to pretend here. He’s not the playcaller that Andy Reid or Sean McVay has shown to be, or Matt Nagy. He has not shown to be that.”

 

Since serving as the Denver Broncos’ coordinator in 2013 and 2014, when Manning & Co. set league scoring records, Gase has yet to preside over an offense that has cracked the top 20 in scoring or total yards. So, in a sense, he has something to prove with the Jets. He is known as a quarterback whisperer, but unless you count Tim Tebow’s improbable/inexplicable season with the Broncos in 2011, Gase hasn’t been around a young quarterback who has benefited from his whispers.

 

From all indications, Gase and Darnold are hitting it off. Gase loves Darnold’s work ethic, the way he shows up early, stays late and pays attention to every detail. Theirs is the most important relationship in the organization. If it goes south, the way Gase and Maccagnan did, the Jets have no shot at winning games.

 

“He’s just natural,” Gase said of Darnold. “He rolls out of bed and he can sling that thing. It’s fun to be around how intense he is every day, trying to make sure he gets better.”

 

Darnold called Gase a “normal dude” who likes to clown around on occasion, but maintains his game face most of the time.

 

“It’s tough to find anyone better than him,” Darnold said. “It’s been awesome to be able to build that relationship with him.”

 

By every statistical measure, Darnold didn’t have an impressive rookie season (31st in passer rating at 77.6 percent), but a closer look reveals some difficult circumstances. For instance: Nearly 20 percent of his attempts were “tight-window” throws, the third-highest percentage in the league, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. (A tight window is when the separation between the receiver and nearest defender is less than 1 yard at pass arrival.)

 

That’s tough for any quarterback, let alone a rookie. Much of that can be attributed to the receivers’ inability to gain consistent separation, but Darnold has to take some responsibility. A quarterback with more experience has better field vision and can make quick reads, allowing him to find receivers when they’re open. Does anybody think Tom Brady’s tight-window percentage (13.9) is so low because his receivers are blowing past defenders?

 

The addition of wide receiver Jamison Crowder, known for his short-area quickness, should help Darnold in that respect. Running back Le’Veon Bell could be a valuable “chess piece,” Orlovsky believes, because he will help Darnold with his pre-snap reads. How so? Orlovsky said Gase can deploy Bell in different places in an attempt to make the defense declare its coverage — i.e., man or zone. If Darnold has that information before the snap, it increases his chances of success.

 

“Can Le’Veon Bell be Patrick Mahomes’ Travis Kelce or Mitch Trubisky’s Trey Burton?” asked Orlovsky, comparing Bell to a pair of tight ends because of his versatility.

 

While Orlovsky has doubts about whether Darnold can take a giant leap in his second year, he does believe Gase can help him cut down on negative plays (15 interceptions in 13 starts). He described Gase’s scheme as rhythmic and structured for the quarterback and, in theory, that should help Darnold when the play breaks down. It’s a delicate balance, though, because his improvisational ability is one of his best traits. You don’t want to stifle that creativity — the “magical sloppiness,” as Orlovsky calls it.

 

“With Gase, the [bad] plays might become a throwaway or a short completion because he’s playing in that rhythm, he’s playing in that tempo, he’s playing to the metronome beat of the offense,” Orlovsky said. “That’s where Gase can have his greatest impact on Sam.”

 

A multibillion-dollar corporation is counting on that to happen.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

MUHAMMAD WILKERSON

The former Jets and Packers player didn’t help his cause for a new deal over the weekend.  The AP:

 

Former New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is charged with driving while intoxicated after his arrest in New York City.

 

A police spokesman says the 29-year-old was arraigned Saturday in Manhattan Criminal Court and released on his own recognizance.

 

In addition to DWI, he’s accused of ignoring a stop sign and driving while ability-impaired.

 

Police say he was pulled over in the Washington Heights neighborhood before dawn with a blood-alcohol level of .09. The legal limit is .08.

 

His attorney, Alex Spiro, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

It was not clear when the Linden, New Jersey, resident is to appear in court again.

 

Wilkerson played for the Jets from 2011 to 2017, and with the Green Bay Packers last year. He’s now a free agent.

 

That’s a tough one – a DUI for .01 over the limit.

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Executive producer Fred Gaudelli, writing at NBCSports.com, tells us that his Sunday Night Football crew will string a second Skycam each week:

 

One of the things we’ve been discussing: expanding the use of the Skycam in live play-by-play situations during games. We might add a second Skycam to give viewers a totally different look this year. When NBC did the Notre Dame Blue and Gold Spring Game this year, the Skycam was moved from down the middle of the field to the sideline view, which is the view almost every play is now covered from. We wanted to see the impact of having the play-by-play camera on the line of scrimmage, from the sideline, via Skycam for every snap. We’ve studied the tape at length and hope to try this on our second preseason game in August, Pittsburgh at Tennessee. We’ll actually have two Skycams: the normal one that shoots from behind the offense in the middle of the field, and this new one, positioned on the line of scrimmage, on the sideline.

 

My initial reaction is this will make all fourth-and-one attempts better viewing experiences for the fans. But we’ll see how it works in Nashville in August for that game. If we like it, we’ll probably use it on live plays on fourth-and-short (and maybe others) in the first game of the NFL’s 100th season, Green Bay at Chicago, on NBC on Sept. 5. It’s new and fun—and it could make the viewing experience much more interesting.

 

 

SB CANDIDATES PER ADAM SCHEIN

If the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl in Miami, Adam Schein lists his candidates for teams to dethrone them:

 

It feels like an annual spring tradition. Yes, the Golden State Warriors are in the NBA Finals for the fifth straight year! It’s an incredible accomplishment, as they’re just the second team in league history to achieve the feat.

 

Their coach, Steve Kerr, is an absolute gem. The star power and togetherness of this group is amazing. In some ways, the Warriors, who have won three of the last four titles (including the last two), have become the NBA’s version of the New England Patriots. Sensational coach. Legendary players. There’s a culture of winning, the best players buy into the system and they’re stacking titles.

 

Yet, the Warriors’ opponent in the Finals, which begin on Thursday night, are the Toronto Raptors, led by three-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard. They have home-court advantage and a great opportunity to win this series. The Warriors can be had. I think. So can the reigning-champion Patriots in 2019. Maybe.

 

The NFL has never been deeper or better, in my opinion, so there is certainly no shortage of good candidates for my list of clubs that can keep New England from repeating. Heck, I don’t even have really good teams like the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks or Baltimore Ravens on this list. The Houston Texans didn’t make it, either. And I don’t have the guts to include the intriguing San Francisco 49ers. Not yet, at least.

 

So, here are the teams with the best chance to dethrone the Patriots in the upcoming season, Schein 9 style:

 

1) Kansas City Chiefs

We don’t have to go far to find evidence that this could be the club to usurp New England in the AFC hierarchy. Kansas City was this close (thank you, Dee Ford) to beating the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, and the Chiefs nearly knocked off the Pats at their place in Week 6 of the regular season, too. It all starts at QB, where Patrick Mahomes is the reigning MVP. It’s easy to forget that last season was his first as an NFL starter — he’s only going to get better. Travis Kelce is the league’s best tight end. We still don’t know the status of Tyreek Hill for next season, but I believe there’s enough depth and talent for this offense to be one of the league’s most potent, even if he’s not around.

 

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs made major and necessary changes, bringing in Steve Spagnuolo to run the defense and Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark (an upgrade over Ford) to make plays to get Mahomes the ball. They had to get better on defense, and the overhaul should serve them well.

 

2) Los Angeles Chargers

There’s reason to believe the Chargers are the best team in the NFL. Keep in mind: Pro Bowl DE Joey Bosa missed most of last season, and they still went 12-4 and finished second in the AFC West to the Chiefs. A healthy Bosa — he recently said he’s as fast and strong as ever — coupled with two dynamite defensive additions in rookies Jerry Tillery and Nasir Adderley could equal a division title and a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Oh, don’t forget about All-Pro Derwin James, who shined last season as a rookie. I’m already on record with the bold prediction that the Chargers’ defense will be the league’s best.

 

I haven’t even mentioned potential MVP candidate Philip Rivers, who will spearhead an offense that has a chance to be the league’s most balanced attack. Rivers could use better pass protection than he received against the Patriots in last season’s Divisional Round loss, but he has plenty of help at the skill positions with the RB trio of Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson and a talented array of pass catchers that includes Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and tight end Hunter Henry, who’ll be healthy after missing all but one game (the playoff loss to the Patriots) last season with an ACL tear.

 

3) Dallas Cowboys

Yes, there is legit dethroning ability here. Dallas can run the ball and play defense as well as any team in the league. Heck, they might even be the best at it. Ezekiel Elliott is a star. The linebacker core is excellent, with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee capable of dominating. DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the league’s top pass rushers, and the defensive backfield is underrated. With a full season of having Amari Cooper at his disposal, Dak Prescott could have the best year of his career. Jason Witten and Randall Cobb should help, even though they’re past their primes. Plus, don’t sleep on the impact Kellen Moore could have after being promoted from QBs coach to offensive coordinator. I’m really excited about his potential in that role.

 

4) Los Angeles Rams

If Todd Gurley is healthy and returns to his All-Pro form, the Rams can beat anyone, including New England. If the knee issues that plagued him down the stretch last season persist, they can lose to anyone, including the New York Giants. OK, maybe that’s a stretch. The good news is, the Rams say they’re pleased with Gurley’s progress, and there’s no denying the they still ooze amazing talent across the board, led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Sean McVay is a fabulous coach with a great staff, and I’m not expecting the infamous “Super Bowl hangover” to keep this club from being right back in the thick of the NFC race.

 

5) Philadelphia Eagles

I’m fully on board with those expecting big things from Carson Wentz in 2019. His health and participation at OTAs was a welcome development as he returns from the back injury that sidelined him late last season. He was well on his way to getting my MVP vote two years ago before tearing his ACL during a Week 14 visit to the Rams. It won’t shock me if he’s back in the hunt for the award this year. The running back depth chart is vastly improved, thanks to the acquisition of Jordan Howard and selection of Miles Sanders in Round 2 of this year’s draft. I can say the same for the receiver position, which should benefit from the return of DeSean Jackson and the addition of rookie jump-ball dynamo J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. This franchise has dethroned the Patriots before and could do it again.

 

6) Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck proved last season that he’s back and better than ever under head coach Frank Reich. He’s a bona fide stud with an offensive line that transformed into one of the NFL’s best last season after hanging out at the opposite end of the spectrum for a while. There’s rightfully a lot of optimism about this team. Why? Look no further than general manager Chris Ballard, who deserves so much credit for stockpiling gems like Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard via the draft. The signing of Justin Houston could pay big dividends in 2019, and no one should be surprised if Ballard strikes gold again with rookies like Rock Ya-Sin (CB) and Parris Campbell (WR).

 

7) Cleveland Browns

General manager John Dorsey has done an incredible job of infusing this roster with talent. I’ve been banging the drum for Baker Mayfield as a 2019 MVP candidate all offseason, and I’m not about to stop. They’ve loaded up at the skill positions, with Odell Beckham Jr. teaming with Jarvis Landry at receiver, while Kareem Hunt will join Nick Chubb at running back after serving an eight-game suspension. Don’t overlook David Njoku at tight end, either. There’s a lot to like on this Cleveland defense, too. Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon have been added to a D-line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi. Greedy Williams was a nice find in Round 2 and gives the Browns a very promising young tandem at corner, with Denzel Ward coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season.

 

8) Green Bay Packers

I could dazzle you with the names GM Brian Gutekunst brought in via free agency and the draft to truly make this roster better. Or I can tell you that Aaron Rodgers is healthy and ready to dominate with Matt LaFleur at the helm. I’ll stick with that. … OK, fine. Green Bay fans should be excited about Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Adrian Amos, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage, too. Yeah, the defense figures to be much, much better.

 

9) Chicago Bears

Chicago’s talent on defense is off the charts, which outweighs my fears about not having Vic Fangio coaching it up, now that the defensive mastermind has moved on to Denver. Khalil Mack is a stud, and there is Pro Bowl talent at every level of this D, from DE Akiem Hicks to LB Roquan Smith to S Eddie Jackson. Perhaps most importantly, I think Mitch Trubisky takes a major step forward in Year 3 after a really strong Year 2 under head coach Matt Nagy. Playmakers like Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson and Trey Burton (assuming everything goes smoothly in his recovery from sports-hernia surgery) will facilitate that effort.

 

The DB feels there are better candidates than the Packers for this list.  If you will notice, no Saints!  And we would probably bet on the Texans, Vikings and Seahawks to win more games that Green Bay.  Maybe, Atlanta as well.