AROUND THE NFL

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

Jason Garrett does not have a contract beyond this year, and that looks like the way it is going to stay.  Jason Reed of Sportsnaut:

 

Jason Garrett is set to play out the final year of his current contract. Rather than offer him an extension, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no interest in taking that lame-duck status away from his head coach.

 

Speaking on the matter Tuesday on the “Rich Eisen Show,” Jones said, “I’m satisfied with where we are with his contract right now… We all know that we need to get out here and win ball games.”

 

Dallas is entering some potentially choppy waters — it’s a make-or-break year not only for Garrett, but the organization as a whole.

 

Dak Prescott is set to ink a long-term contract that will reportedly be worth $30 million-plus per year. We’re not sold on him being anywhere near worth that kind of financial commitment.

 

Ezekiel Elliott will need to be extended soon as well, along with high-profile receiver Amari Cooper. The Cowboys already paid defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence this offseason, too.

 

Dallas hasn’t gotten past the Divisional Round of the playoffs since 1995, when the team won its last Super Bowl. Since then, the Cowboys have won just four total playoff games, and Garrett’s personal coaching record in the postseason is 2-3.

 

Needless to say, there is a lot riding on the current roster. And with those huge expectations comes a ton of pressure for Garrett to get something out of the talent Jones has provided him.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Donovan McNabb is playing defense.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb took some criticism last month for saying current Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz would become a former Eagles quarterback if he doesn’t at least get to the NFC Championship Game within the next two years. McNabb thinks that criticism is unfair.

 

McNabb said on 97.5 The Fanatic that when he makes media appearances he’s acting as an objective analyst, and he shouldn’t be expected to talk up the Eagles.

 

“If I’m an analyst and a question is presented to me, I’m supposed to answer the way I see fit,” McNabb said, via Philly.com. “Sometimes when its certain people, we want to judge it or we want to have a different type of emotional feel to their answer because of who it is. And that’s unfair.”

 

McNabb also declared himself an “Eagle for life,” even though his last two seasons were in Washington and Minnesota. His relationship with Eagles fans, however, has been strained in retirement.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has an anonymous pack of rival personnel folks look at the Panthers’ draft:

 

In February, Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight unveiled a quarterback projection model suggesting Kyler Murray and Will Grier were the 2019 draft-eligible quarterbacks with the best pro prospects based on completion percentage above expectation.

 

When the Panthers selected Grier in the third round, I asked NFL analytics directors what they thought of the pick. One analyst whose model differed from Hermsmeyer’s on some other prospects agreed with the optimistic assessment for Grier. Carolina selected the West Virginia quarterback 100th overall — not early enough to directly threaten Cam Newton, but early enough to make Grier potentially relevant down the line.

 

“I don’t read anything into it with Cam Newton,” an evaluator with NFC South ties said. “They like the guy [Grier], so they bring him in and develop him, and who knows down the road? With Cam’s injury, they felt they needed to take a quarterback, but if they were going to replace him, they would have taken one much earlier than that.”

 

First-round pass-rusher Brian Burns and second-round tackle Greg Little are the draft choices from whom Carolina needs contributions this season.

 

“I am a little hesitant on their tackle and might have taken one with their first-round pick, and then tried to get multiple second-tier rushers later,” an evaluator said. “But Norv [Turner] did a great job last year scheming protection when they really did not have any tackles. Maybe they are confident Norv can scheme around it, and getting pressure is more important.”

 

The Panthers needed youth on defense and will get that from Burns, but with their second- and third-round picks going for Little and Grier, respectively, this was an offense-minded draft for a team whose offense was statistically elite before Newton’s injury. Carolina ranked fifth in ESPN’s offensive efficiency metric through 11 games and 24th thereafter.

 

“I do like Burns a lot,” an evaluator said. “He was a little raw among this pass-rush class but I would have taken him, too.”

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Sean McVay says he was too prepared for the Super Bowl.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Rams coach Sean McVay often gets credit for his encyclopedic memory of play-calls,.

 

But if he ever gets a chance to coach in another Super Bowl, he said he’d probably try to commit a lot less to memory.

 

In an interview with Sports Illustrated (via the Los Angeles Times), McVay said he went overboard by analyzing every game the Patriots played last season, including the playoffs, and their previous two Super Bowls — a total of 20 games.

 

“You see stuff that worked in, say, Week Three, but you forget about the amount of stuff that’s taken place since Week Three,” McVay said. “You can watch so much film that you lose perspective.”

 

With two weeks to prepare, saturation is normal, and McVay said he fell victim to that prior to heading to Atlanta.

 

“I operated knowing I had another week,” McVay said. “That urgency to completely finalize the game plan wasn’t quite there, and that led to me watching so much film that you can almost water down your thought process. . . .

 

“You have so much time that you can over-prepare and get away from some of the things that helped you get there.”

 

McVay admitted after the game that he was out-coached by Bill Belichick (and if that’s a sin, every coach in the league is guilty), and in hindsight he says he wishes he’d have spent more time soaking up the experience, instead of grinding through so much game film.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

WR MARQUISE BROWN is here only because his mother endured a dangerous pregnancy.  Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:

 

Marquise Brown believes he’ll become the next game-breaker despite being 5 feet 9, 166 pounds, and it goes beyond his passion and work ethic. He has defied the odds since he was born.

 

His mother, Shannon James, endured high-risk health complications while pregnant. Scary high blood pressure and failing kidneys, which later caused her to go on dialysis, caused James to give birth to Brown two weeks early.

 

But, to her relief, he was healthy.

 

“I was so happy knowing all I had been through,” James said. “He was a miracle baby.”

 

Brown was also 5 pounds, 6 ounces, starting on a path where he would had to overcome his small stature to achieve his big dreams.

 

At the age of 2, Brown put on a Dan Marino jersey and refused to take it off. The only way he would change clothes was if he could still don the jersey over them.

 

Growing up, Brown had only football on the television. He was either watching games and highlights or playing Madden on his PlayStation.

 

“From early on, we always knew that football was something he wanted to do,” said Shanice Brown, Marquise’s sister. “Never in our wildest dreams did we know it would go this far.”

 

It was difficult to envision Brown becoming the first wide receiver taken (25th overall) in the 2019 NFL draft when he initially couldn’t get on the field. His first pee wee coaches wouldn’t play him in fear he would get hurt.

 

Wherever Marquise Brown would go, the initial impression was about his lack of size. He arrived at his junior college at 140 pounds. By the time he went to Oklahoma, he had bulked up … to 144 pounds.

 

But when Brown put his hands on the ball, the conversation quickly changed to his speed, elusiveness and burst, even at an early age. During the Pee Wee Super Bowl, Brown’s team trailed 6-0 at halftime before he scored three times in the second half for the victory.

 

“He’s determined,” said Shaddrick Lowery, who was teammates with Brown from pee wee to junior college. “He always steps on the field with that chip on his shoulder because he’s small. After people get off the field playing against him, they’re like, ‘Yeah, that guy is the truth.’”

– – –

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has an anonymous pack of rival personnel folks look at the Ravens’ draft:

 

This Ravens draft was largely about adding speed and weaponry to the offense, but the big decision Baltimore made one year ago — trading up to select quarterback Lamar Jackson — affected what execs thought of the latest moves.

 

“The receiver they took in the first round, [Marquise] ‘Hollywood’ Brown, effectively replaces John Brown in their offense,” an evaluator said. “He is more dynamic, but if you look at John Brown’s stats, he put up big numbers with Joe Flacco, and then the moment Lamar Jackson became the quarterback, his numbers completely tanked.”

 

Indeed, Brown averaged 18.1 yards per catch and 1.9 yards per route when Flacco was the quarterback last season. Those figures plummeted to 13.2 yards per catch and 0.9 yards per route with Jackson behind center.

 

Can the Ravens get the most from Marquise Brown and raw third-round receiver Miles Boykin with Jackson throwing the passes?

 

“The comp for Hollywood Brown is Desean Jackson,” an exec said. “It is harder to get the ball in there to those guys, but the kid can track the ball well. What they are doing is trying to destroy the eight-man front. They are trying to get the outside speed to get the safeties out of there.”

 

Baltimore drafted four offensive players among its first five picks.

 

“They did get Jaylon Ferguson for their pass rush, but edge rush has gone from their strength last year to a weakness without [Terrell] Suggs and Za’Darius Smith,” an evaluator said.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Civil servant Florida prosecutors are saying that the out-of-state, hugely-compensated attorneys brought in by Robert Kraft are immoral liars.  Kraft’s lawyers respond that it is the prosecutors who are spewing lies. The AP:

 

Two of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s high-profile defense attorneys lied during his misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution case and falsely alleged a police officer admitted to fabricating a traffic violation to stop another massage parlor customer, prosecutors asserted Tuesday.

 

The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office filed a motion asking Judge Leonard Hanser to hold attorneys Alex Spiro and William Burck in contempt and throw out their questioning of Jupiter police officer Scott Kimbark. While questioning Kimbark at a court hearing last week, Spiro accused him of telling other officers he would make up a reason to stop the customer who left the Orchids of Asia Day Spa directly before Kraft in January, using an obscenity to describe what he would do.

 

Prosecutors say Kimbark never did that.

 

“There are no rationalizations, justifications, or excuses for Spiro’s and Burck’s knowing presentation of false and misleading accusations directly affecting the credibility” of Kimbark, prosecutors Judith Arco, Greg Kridos and Craig Williams wrote.

 

Burck told The Associated Press by phone that he and Spiro “will not be intimidated.” He said they will provide evidence supporting their claims. Burck represented former White House Counsel Don McGahn during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Spiro also represents Jay-Z, Mick Jagger and other celebrities in various matters.

 

“They have made a series of false accusations against us,” Burck said. “This is all an obvious and desperate attempt to deflect attention away from the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the Jupiter Police Department and the state lawyers.”

 

Last week, Kraft’s attorneys asked the judge to throw out video recordings allegedly showing the 77-year-old owner twice paying for sex in January at Orchids of Asia. Kraft, who is worth $6 billion, is one of 25 men charged with paying between about $50 and $100 for sex. Kraft has pleaded not guilty but issued a public apology for his actions.

 

In court documents and proceedings, Jupiter police said that after receiving a tip from a neighboring county that Orchids of Asia might be a prostitution front, detectives placed it under surveillance in November and persuaded a judge in January to issue a warrant letting them install hidden cameras in the spa. Kraft’s attorneys accused them of lying to obtain the warrant, calling that a violation of the customers’ privacy rights.

 

According to testimony, if detectives monitoring the cameras saw a customer pay for sex, the suspect was tailed by Jupiter officers as he left the parking lot until he committed a traffic violation. He was then pulled over to obtain his identification so he could later be charged with solicitation. The men were not told immediately that they had been seen at Orchids of Asia. Police said they didn’t want to tip off the spa’s owner about the surveillance.

 

Kimbark pulled over Kraft’s chauffeur after one of his visits. During questioning last week, Spiro asked Kimbark about his recorded conversation with other officers about pulling over the previous customer. Spiro four times accused Kimbark of acknowledging he didn’t have probable cause to stop the man, but would “make some … up,” using a common obscenity.

 

Kimbark denied saying that, as did prosecutors Tuesday. Prosecutors said to avoid telling the man that his traffic violation had occurred in the spa’s parking lot, Kimbark was recorded telling another officer that if the man asked about its location he would “come up with something.”

 

Prosecutors said the wording of Spiro’s question “was designed to mislead (the judge) as to the lawfulness of the traffic stop.”

 

Burck and Spiro filed a rebuttal late Tuesday saying Spiro “had a good faith basis” to question the officer as he did, based on what he was told by the other man’s attorney. They said prosecutors didn’t give them Kimbark’s video before the hearing as requested.

 

Prosecutors also accused Spiro of trying to intimidate Kimbark during a lunch break, allegedly telling the officer he had video of Kimbark saying “stupid” things.

 

Burck in his phone interview laughed at the accusation, saying prosecutors were present during Spiro’s conversation with Kimbark.

 

“If they thought it was such a terrible thing, it is interesting that they decided to raise it a week later and not right after it happened in front of the judge,” he said.

 

David Weinstein, a Miami-based defense attorney and former prosecutor not involved in the case, said he understands the prosecutors’ frustration with “these big-time, out-of-town lawyers,” but added, “They went a little overboard by filing the motion.”

 

He said Judge Hanser will review the recording, but knows attorneys stretch their questions and arguments as far as they can. If Hanser finds Spiro and Burck crossed the line, he could kick them off the case, Weinstein said.

 

“The judge is probably really aggravated with both sides,” he said.

– – –

Mike Reiss of ESPN.com studies the drafting of QB JARRETT STIDHAM:

 

Within a few hours after the New England Patriots selected Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of the NFL draft, one of the players who could be most affected by the decision took the field at Gillette Stadium for some extra work.

 

Danny Etling, the former LSU quarterback selected in the seventh round in 2018, went through a warm-up for the first time since the competition at the backup spot to Tom Brady notably changed.

 

Stidham’s arrival as the 133rd overall pick locks him into a roster spot behind Brady barring an unexpected turn of events. The question is whether there will be a third quarterback joining Brady and Stidham, with Etling and veteran Brian Hoyer potentially battling it out for that one spot.

 

The altered outlook at quarterback is a good example of the immediate trickle-down effect that a draft pick has on those already on the team.

 

As for what the Patriots do this season, history in the coach Bill Belichick era can serve as a helpful guide. In years when they don’t draft a quarterback in Rounds 3-4, they usually keep just two quarterbacks on their final roster. But when they have drafted a quarterback in the third or fourth round, the club has always kept three signal-callers on their initial 53-man roster.

 

In 2002, it was rookie Rohan Davey (fourth round) and veteran Damon Huard. In 2008, rookie Kevin O’Connell (third round) joined four-year veteran Matt Cassel. In 2011, it was rookie Ryan Mallett (third round) and Hoyer (then in his third season). And in 2016, rookie Jacoby Brissett (third round) joined third-year man Jimmy Garoppolo.

 

Belichick, of course, might also point out 2000, when the Patriots took the unconventional step of keeping a fourth quarterback, because there was a sense that rookie Tom Brady (sixth round) might turn into something special.

 

As for 2019, if Stidham shows he is a quick study, there remains a chance the club could keep just him and Brady.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Herbie Teope of NFL.com is buying the contention of S JAMAL ADAMS that, at long last, the Jets are ready to challenge for the postseason:

 

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams is ready for a culture change.

 

Since entering the league in 2017 as the sixth overall pick of the draft, Adams has endured being part of the Jets’ 9-23 record. But he believes the approach to altering the team’s course starts during the offseason workout program.

 

“Obviously we’re in New York. This is a win-now type of mentality and that’s how we’re taking it,” Adams said, via Eric Allen of the Jets’ official website. “We have to keep stacking the days and keep working out and I think we’ll be fine.”

 

The Jets have plenty of reason to be optimistic for a quick turnaround after posting losing records in four of the last five seasons.

 

For one, the team has a new head coach in Adam Gase. But more important, Gase has a roster that has been built for success on both sides of the football through the draft and free agency in the past two years since Adams arrived.

 

Sam Darnold, the third overall pick of the 2018 draft, is the franchise quarterback the team desperately needed before he arrived, and the signal-caller is surrounded by talent. Wide receiver Robby Anderson returns, and the Jets added two-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Jamison Crowder in free agency.

 

On defense, Adams has more than held his own and broke out last year with 115 tackles, 3.5 sacks, an interception and 12 passes defensed en route to a Pro Bowl selection. He anchors the back end of coverage, and the Jets injected big-time talent at the linebacker position with C.J. Mosley, a four-time Pro Bowler. New York then used the 2019 draft to select defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick.

 

Given the pieces now in place, don’t discount the Jets’ “win-now mentality.”

 

Sure, the New England Patriots remain the team to beat in the AFC East until further notice and the Buffalo Bills are building a solid roster.

 

But the Jets appear primed to make the division race quite interesting with a more than adequate foundation on both sides of the ball.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Mike Renner of ProFootballFocus, writing at ESPN.com, provides us with a list of later round draft picks that he thinks are home runs.

 

Anyone who watched Quinnen Williams during the 2018 college football season could tell you that he will be good in the NFL. Those types of players are no-brainers on Day 1 of the draft.

 

It’s Days 2 and 3, though, where NFL front offices have to dig deep to show off their scouting chops. Getting not only roster depth but also impact starters from those picks is what builds championship-caliber teams.

 

These are the players drafted in the third round or later during the 2019 NFL draft who the crew at Pro Football Focus thinks deserve more attention.

 

Pick No. 66: Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Johnson was one of the college football’s most electric players, leading the nation with a 19.9-yard punt return average his last two seasons. The Toledo product had some drop issues this past season (eight drops on 57 catchable targets), but in 2017, when Logan Woodside was throwing him the football, Johnson had the fourth-highest receiving grade in college football. He’s a precise route runner and one of the best after-the-catch threats in the draft.

 

Pick No. 75: Jace Sternberger, TE, Green Bay Packers

Sternberger played just 49 snaps in his college career before last season at Texas A&M, and it’s safe to say he was worth the wait. After transferring from Kansas to A&M, the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder earned the highest receiving grade among all tight ends in FBS. He had seven more big-time catches than any other tight end last season. Sternberger might not be a great athlete, but he makes up for it with fantastic ball skills and crisp routes.

 

Pick No. 79: David Long, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Long was arguably the best press-man cornerback in the draft. He fell a bit after he measured at under 5-foot-11, but we don’t see that mattering all that much in the NFL. Long gave up just 18 catches during his entire college career at Michigan. Of those 18, only three resulted in first downs, and just one in a touchdown.

 

Pick No. 83: Justin Layne, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Layne is long (6-foot-1, with 33-inch arms), explosive (an 11-foot-4 broad jump), productive (12 pass breakups in 2018) and has exceptional zone instincts. Layne’s 89.5 coverage grade as a junior this past season was terrific, considering he switched from wide receiver to cornerback midway through his freshman season at Michigan State.

 

Pick 100: Will Grier, QB, Carolina Panthers

The most projectable trait for quarterbacks going from college to pro we’ve found in our five years of college data is accuracy. Grier has as much of that as any quarterback in this class. Only 5.5 percent of his throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage were deemed “uncatchably off target,” the lowest percentage in the country.

 

Pick No. 103: Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Butler has his shortcomings (12 drops last season), but he can do things physically others in this class cannot. His 19 receptions targeted 20-plus yards downfield were the most in the draft class, and he led the same group in receiving yards on such targets. At 6-foot-5, 227 pounds with 35¼-inch arms, Butler will be a matchup weapon in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

 

Pick No. 105: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB/S, New Orleans Saints

Gardner-Johnson is one of the best underneath zone defenders in the draft. Whether at slot corner or safety, the Florida defender was exceptional at breaking on and passing off routes underneath this past season. His 21 coverage stops were the most of any secondary defender in the country last year.

 

Pick No. 106: Maxx Crosby, Edge, Oakland Raiders

Crosby ticks both the production box (90.5 overall grade in 2017, 88.2 overall grade in 2018) and the athleticism box (4.66-second 40-yard dash, 6.89 three-cone drill, 36-inch vertical at 255 pounds). That’s a good combination for any edge player. Add in the fact that he’s nearly 6-foot-5 and only 21 years old, and you’ve got ideal traits for projecting to the NFL.

 

Pick No. 107: Anthony Nelson, Edge, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At 6-foot-7, 271 pounds, with 34⅞-inch arms, Nelson is a physically imposing defensive end, and also an extremely productive one. Over his last two seasons, Nelson’s 91.2 pass-rushing grade ranked behind only Nick Bosa and Josh Allen among Power 5 edge defenders in the draft class. Nelson also put up a freakish 6.95 three-cone drill in his pre-draft testing.

 

Pick No. 108: Julian Love, CB, New York Giants

What a string of picks to start the fourth round it was. Love capped off a run of PFF favorites, as he checked in at 45th on our final draft board. Love is a gamer who excels with his physical style of play. His 38 forced incompletions over his last two seasons were the second most in college football.

 

Pick No. 116: Amani Hooker, S, Tennessee Titans

Hooker has great size for the position (5-foot-11, 210 pounds), plus athleticism (4.48 40-yard dash, 6.81 three-cone drill and 4.10 shuttle) and elite production (91.1 coverage grade in 2018, 87.0 in 2017), and he isn’t even 21 years old. That’s the definition of a steal.

 

Pick No. 118: Hjalte Froholdt, G/C, New England Patriots

The data indicates consistently getting the job done on the offensive line is far more valuable for draft prospects than highlight-reel blocks or prodigious traits. Froholdt possesses fantastic athleticism for an interior offensive lineman, and he was better in pass protection than any other guard in the SEC last season. He allowed five total pressures for the season.

 

Pick No. 146: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Detroit Lions

You simply can’t teach 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerbacks to flip their hips the way Oruwariye does. He ran a 6.82 three-cone drill at the combine, and that athleticism very much showed up on game tape. He had the highest win rate in one-on-ones of any cornerback at the Senior Bowl.

 

Pick No. 150: Kingsley Keke, DL, Green Bay Packers

The Senior Bowl was made for players like Keke. He’d flashed talent at Texas A&M, but he played a role there that likely wasn’t going to best suit his talents at the NFL level. Over 60 percent of Keke’s snaps last season came outside the tackle. At 288 pounds, he’s far more suited for the 3-technique defensive tackle in the NFL. Rushing from that position at the Senior Bowl, Keke had the highest win rate and grade of any player in the pass-rushing one-on-ones.

 

Pick No. 227: Jimmy Moreland, CB, Washington Redskins

Drafting a 5-foot-9, 179-pound cornerback any higher than this is difficult to justify. Moreland isn’t the average 5-foot-9, 179-pound corner, though. His 18 college interceptions are a James Madison record, and he is as physical a corner as you’ll see. Moreland has the skills to project immediately into the starting slot position.