The Daily Briefing Friday, June 9, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

Kelly Kleine is a female on the fast track in the Vikings scouting department.  Alex Marvez of The Sporting News:

 

The list of responsibilities handled by the Minnesota Vikings’ new college scouting coordinator is extensive.

 

It also has made Kelly Kleine one of the most preeminent members of the 14 women who work for NFL teams in football operations.

 

Sporting News has learned that Kleine was promoted earlier this week from her role as a college scouting assistant. Based on how much Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has asked Kleine to handle, the bump was well earned.

 

“She does about 1,000 different things to say the least,” Spielman told Sporting News in a telephone interview. “She basically has her hands in all day-to-day operations on the personnel side.”

 

Among Kleine’s duties:

 

— Evaluate the Vikings’ current roster and college prospects. That includes attending meetings and delivering presentations to the personnel department and coaching staff.

 

— Scout talent at college pro days.

 

— Manage the grading system from the reports given by college scouts.

 

— Serve as coordinator for Minnesota’s trip to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

 

— Book travel arrangements and organize details for the 30 college prospects invited to pre-draft meetings at team headquarters through contact with the players and their agents.

 

— Compile advance scouting reports that are given to coaches with a close eye on special teams. Those duties extend to working with special teams coaches in practice. Assignments there include clocking hang-times on punts and kickoffs.

 

While other college scouting coordinators are given similar tasks, Kleine does stand out in a predominantly male profession. Her advancement in five years with the Vikings — she began with an internship in public relations before transitioning to one in scouting prior to the 2013 draft — is especially impressive considering Kleine had never played or coached football previously.

 

Spielman said that was never a detriment.

 

“The biggest thing when you’re trying to bring anyone up through an organization is to educate and train them,” Spielman said. “One thing we always try to identify are self-starters who have the work ethic and attention to detail where you can trust them to carry out whatever assignment is given them.

 

“In our eyes, it’s not about being a man or woman or what religion or race you are. It’s who is the most qualified regardless.”

 

Spielman did add that the Vikings had male scouting interns while Kleine was coming through the ranks who had played football “and she was twice as good.”

 

“I know she’s going to get things done and in the right way,” he said.

 

Kleine, who will continue to work under college scouting director Jamaal Stephenson, is just one example of female employees given a chance to advance through the ranks in the Vikings organization. The team promoted three women to vice president positions on the business side of operations last year and is hiring a female intern (Stephanie Jackson) who will spend time in the business, legal and personnel departments.

 

Anne Doepner also was promoted last year to director of football administration after 11 seasons in the front office. She handled negotiations with Minnesota’s nine 2017 draft picks and got them all signed despite objections from the NFL Players Association about contract language.

 

“She’s on top of all the compliance issues with the (NFL) management council for all collective bargaining maters,” Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski told Sporting News. “She’s smart, diligent and has great people skills. She’s an integral part of our football operations and an astute resource for me, Rick and Zim (i.e. head coach Mike Zimmer) on a daily basis.”

 

The NFL has placed a heavy emphasis on trying to push opportunities for women at the league and club level. Sporting News first reported Wednesday that Phoebe Schecter will become the fourth female coach in league history when she serves an internship this summer with the Buffalo Bills.

 

Spielman said the respect Kleine receives from her co-workers is a good sign of the progress being made.

 

“When she’s in (meetings) with the coaches and scouts, they consider her one of the group,” he said. “No one looks at her any differently.”

 

Kleine’s first stop with the Vikings was in the P.R. department as an intern from the University of Minnesota.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com thinks the Giants will end up signing WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. on their terms.  He also talks about DT AARON DONALD of the Rams:

 

Odell Beckham Jr. wants a new deal. Odell Beckham Jr. deserves a new deal, given that he will be the 64th-highest paid wide receiver in football at $1.8 million this season. He’s not the only one from the class of 2014 facing a similar situation.

 

Aaron Donald might be the best defensive tackle in football, but this year, he will also take home just $1.8 million in actual cash. For comparison, Kawann Short, who will earn $26 million this season as part of his new extension, will make nearly that much per game. You don’t have to be a Rams fan to see how that might be considered inequitable.

 

Players such as Taylor Lewan, C.J. Mosley and Zack Martin also have delivered on their potential after being selected outside of the top 10 picks of the first round of the 2014 draft and are in line for massive contracts. On merit, they all deserve to be paid like players at the top of their respective positions. In reality, they might find it difficult to command the contracts they would hope for.

 

The problem? Their current contracts. Players such as Beckham and Donald have gotten so good in such a short period of time that they’ve outgrown their rookie deals with years to go. Meanwhile, the perennially rising cap is leading to players making massive amounts of money in free agency or as they approach the free market. As a result, the economics of an extension for Beckham or Donald this offseason are difficult to square up.

 

Let’s start with the Giants’ star receiver. Beckham is entering the fourth year of a four-year deal that was worth just $10.4 million (all guaranteed) at the time of signing. He’s due the $1.8 million that I mentioned earlier for 2017. Because he was a first-round pick, though, the Giants can (and have chosen to) lock Beckham up for a fifth season. If Beckham were a top-10 pick, he would receive a fifth-year salary in 2018 equivalent to the average of the top 10 players at his position, which would be $13.3 million. Instead, because he fell to the 12th pick, Beckham will make the average of the third through 25th players at wide receiver, which is just $8.5 million.

 

All of this means the Giants have massive amounts of leverage in negotiating an extension. They know they have Beckham under contract for the next two seasons at just $10.3 million combined, which is a bargain. Even further, they can use the franchise tag to keep Beckham around in the years to come. My estimate is that the franchise tag for wideouts in 2019 will come in at $18.3 million.

 

That brings the Giants’ potential three-year outlay to $28.6 million. Several organizations around the NFL use a player’s earnings over the first three years of a contract extension as a measure of the contract’s “true” value, given the likelihood a player will either sign a new deal or be released after those three seasons.

 

That $28.6 million figure is a fraction of Beckham’s true value. Compare Beckham to A.J. Green, who signed his first contract extension before the 2015 season, as he was entering the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. Green racked up $47.3 million over the first three years of his pact. Julio Jones, who signed the same offseason under the same circumstances, hit $47.5 million. Pierre Garcon netted $29 million over the first three years of his free-agent deal with the 49ers this offseason. Garcon is a useful player, but he’s not Beckham.

 

Antonio Brown serves as a useful warning case for a Beckham deal. Like Beckham now, Brown was two years away from unrestricted free agency when he ended up signing a five-year, $42 million extension. That deal wound up being one of the biggest veteran bargains in all of football. When Brown finally signed his new contract this offseason, he ended up netting $68 million over four years as an extension to his old deal.

 

Brown’s new contract guarantees the superstar just his $19 million signing bonus, although he’ll likely earn a minimum of $48.9 million over the next three years before the Steelers would ever seriously consider moving on, given the cap structure of the contract. Consider that the Giants could franchise Beckham twice and hold onto him for the next four years at a total of $50.6 million, a far cry from that $68 million Brown figure. In other words, the Giants hold all of the cards in a Beckham deal right now.

 

The same is true for Donald, who will make just $8.7 million over the next two seasons before his rookie deal expires. Using the same logic for Donald, the Rams could go year-to-year and pay him $15.6 million in 2019 for a three-year total of $24.3 million, then pull the same feat off again in 2020 for a four-year total of $43.0 million.

 

Those figures are even larger bargains, given how much it costs to lock up dominant interior disruptors in this market. Short, who was set to play under the franchise tag, will earn $51.5 million over the first three years of his new deal, more than double Donald’s earnings without a new deal. Fletcher Cox racked up $47.8 million to stick around in Philly. And forget the stratospheric heights of Von Miller, whose contract Donald will try to top. Miller is making $61 million over the first three years of his extension and $78.5 million over its first four seasons, figures that Donald wouldn’t be able to come close to matching this offseason, two years away from free agency.

 

The economics are unfair, but they are what they are. Rookie salaries were rising to astronomical heights before they were capped as part of the negotiations in the most recent collective bargaining agreement. From here, one of three things can happen with players such as Beckham and Donald:

 

1. Their teams give in and hand them massive deals anyway. It’s hardly out of the question that the Giants and Rams just ignore their leverage and hand out full-freight contracts in the hopes of keeping their superstar players happy and focused. They’ll attach language about wanting to reward their players, which isn’t how the NFL works, when you consider just how many players bust their behinds and don’t get large contracts. The Rams are just one year removed from handing an inexplicable deal to Tavon Austin, who will make a shade under $15 million fully guaranteed American dollars this season. Take a look around the league at the NFL’s perennial contenders — the Patriots, Seahawks and Packers come to mind — and note how rarely they hand out extensions with multiple years to go just to keep players happy.

 

2. The players wait a year and sign their extensions before the fifth-year option approaches. Just four members of the first-round class of 2013 — Austin, Lane Johnson, Kyle Long and Travis Frederick — signed new deals before the fourth season of their rookie contract began. Of those four, Johnson was the only one who signed before August, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $56 million extension with the Eagles in January 2016. It’s also fair to note that Johnson signed what would be considered a below-market deal for left tackle, the position he will eventually play in Philadelphia: He’ll make just $31.6 million over the first three years of that extension, less than what Matt Kalil ($32.8 million) earned from the Panthers this offseason.

 

The leverage situation changes dramatically if these stars wait one more season, which is why most rookie first-rounders end up signing extensions after Year 4. I mentioned earlier how the Giants could control Beckham for $28.6 million over the next three seasons under his current deal. If we’re looking at this same question one year from now, the Giants would need to pony up $48.8 million over the ensuing three years to keep Beckham on board with his fifth-year option and two franchise tags. Suddenly, the math in giving Beckham an Antonio Brown-sized extension makes way more sense. Donald would still be a bargain at $36.4 million, but it’s certainly more defensible to hand him a contract similar to Short’s a year from now.

 

3. Find a middle ground. All contracts are compromises, of course, and it’s not out of the question that these players and teams will find a way to make everyone happy. It’s just a lot harder than it would have been before. The Giants would rather not go year-to-year with Beckham, but there’s an enormous gap between the $28.6 million three-year cap figure he would be owed now and the $50 million he would seek to be in the stratosphere ahead of Green, Jones and Brown. Is he willing to settle for a contract that won’t set records? Are the Giants willing to pay another massive signing bonus this year after shelling out for several free agents last offseason and giving Jason Pierre-Paul $20 million up front earlier this year?

 

The Rams have to ask themselves the same question. Defensive tackle is about as risky as positions get in terms of injuries; knee problems have derailed stars on a temporary (Geno Atkins) and permanent (Tommie Harris) basis. The Rams unquestionably want to build around Donald — he’s too good not to keep around and pay. But do they want to make a long-term commitment to him two years before even needing to slap him with the franchise tag? Is Donald willing to take a small percentage of what Miller picked up after winning the Super Bowl? Compromises are there, but when the gap between sides is as wide as it is for Beckham and Donald with their organizations, those compromises can be nearly impossible to find.

 

 

WASHINGTON

A name to know for your Fantasy draft is WR JAMISON CROWDER who seems to be on the upswing.  John Keim at ESPN.com:

 

Crowder is one reason the Redskins have remained upbeat about their receiving corps, despite the loss of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency.

 

Crowder will start, playing on the outside in two-receiver sets and inside when they add a third. He’ll also return punts. Redskins coach Jay Gruden joked that Crowder “can play running back if he wanted to.” Gruden likes that Crowder, despite being only 5-foot-9, 177 pounds, is a willing blocker. Jackson, safe to say, was not.

 

But the Redskins also like Crowder’s versatility as a route runner.

 

“We’ll utilize Jamison and try to get him more involved,” Gruden said. “He’s an excellent player, dynamic player. He just continues to prove every day, why we like him so much. He can run just about anything you ask him to run… He gets himself open because he’s got a great feel. He’s got quickness in and out of his breaks.”

 

That speed has been on full display this spring. While the bulk of the Redskins’ focus this offseason has centered on new acquisition Terrelle Pryor and second-year Josh Doctson, it’s clear that Crowder remains dangerous.

 

“Crowder, that boy will be really good,” Redskins corner Josh Norman said. “His routes are clean and crisp. I enjoy watching him out there.”

 

And he’s tough to cover for a taller corner.

 

“He’s so shifty and crafty, and he’s really starting to come into where he can take this offense and skyrocket,” Norman said. “Catch the ball, get upfield fast. I like Crowder.”

 

There’s a reason Crowder averaged 5.60 yards after the catch last season, tops by a Redskins receiver (Jackson followed at No. 2 with 4.93 yards). That goes back to Norman’s description of Crowder’s shiftiness. It’s what makes him an effective punt returner — he averaged 12.14 yards per return last season.

 

That puts pressure on a corner to try to stay tight. Or else.

 

“A corner has to be more aware of a receiver at all times and has to play technique to perfection,” Norman said. “If you don’t break down … once you lose him, you’re out of luck. You have to be keen on every technique you play. If not, he’ll beat you, and that happened pretty much all year last year.”

 

Gruden said size doesn’t matter for Crowder, who is the Redskins’ shortest receiver by at least two inches.

 

“He plays a lot longer than his size,” Gruden said. “He has got really long arms. He goes up and gets balls. Sometime he plays bigger than a taller receiver because he uses his height, [and] he’s got great jumping ability and times the jumps extremely well. Some tall guys, you see, they misjudge it and they don’t jump. But Jamison, he times them perfect and makes big plays.”

 

Crowder must show he can handle a bigger load, if that’s what the Redskins want. In the last two seasons, he has caught a combined 126 passes. Seventy-eight of those receptions have come in the first half of the season. Sometimes it’s a matter of others being targeted more often. As a rookie, Crowder admitted he wore down, but said he did not feel the same way after his sophomore campaign.

 

For now, he’s just adjusting to a little more time on the outside.

 

“I’m doing the same things,” Crowder said. “Pretty much the same thing for me; much hasn’t changed.”

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

The 49ers have taken a flyer on aging pass rusher ELVIS DUMERVIL.  Curtis Crabtree at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Newly signed San Francisco 49ers defensive end Elvis Dumervil insists he still has plenty of tread left on his tires.

 

Dumervil signed with the 49ers on Thursday after working out for the team within the last week. Despite being able to manage just nine sacks over the last two years while dealing with an ailing Achilles, Dumervil believes he still has plenty left to give at this stage in his career.

 

“If it was a situation where I felt it was my last year, that’s all I have left, I just want to win the Super Bowl (because) I just got one year left on my body, I could have gone about it different,” Dumervil said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Bay Area,

 

“A lot of people are confused about where I’m at physically and mentally. . . Mentally and physically, I feel great. I know I have a few years left, for sure.”

 

Dumervil had just three sacks in eight games played for Baltimore last year. The injuries have plagued him each of the last two seasons and limited his production.

 

“The last two years, I really didn’t play because I was dealing with an Achilles injury.,” Dumervil said. “Sometimes you don’t know if you’re hurt or injured. It was a situation where I thought I was hurt. You play through hurt. But I was really injured.”

 

Dumervil is one sack shy of 100 for his career. By the sounds of it, he intends to play long enough to reach that milestone and well beyond.

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

With JEREMY MACLIN gone, the Chiefs have cleared out reps on offense for WR TYREEK HILL.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Tyreek Hill burst onto the scene in Kansas City last season as a jack of all trades who was a threat to score as a receiver, running back, punt returner or kickoff returner. This year his role will be a little different.

 

After the Chiefs cut Jeremy Maclin, Hill is expected to be their No. 1 receiver. But that will come with a diminished role on special teams, according to special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

 

“We can’t have him on kickoff return,” Toub said of Hill, who returned 14 kickoffs for 384 yards and one touchdown.

 

Toub said he hopes to keep Hill on punt returns, but head coach Andy Reid will make that decision.

 

“We’d really like him to be our punt returner. I know Andy has a plan for him and we’ll just follow Andy’s plan,” Toub said.

 

There’s always a risk when a player coming off a great rookie year gets a new role that you’re changing what made him great as a rookie. But the Chiefs sound confident they know what to do with Hill, who showed last year that he’s one of the most talented playmakers in football.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

S CALVIN PRYOR is happy to be a Brown.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Safety Calvin Pryor came into the NFL as a first-round pick of the Jets and as the subject of grand predictions about the kind of impact he’d have on the team from then-coach Rex Ryan.

 

Pryor spent most of the last three seasons in the starting lineup for the Jets, but flashes of promise in 2015 were all but erased by a poor 2016 season that turned out to be his last one in New Jersey. Pryor was traded to the Browns for linebacker Demario Davis and was more interested in talking about the future than the past on Thursday.

 

Pryor was demoted to the third team before the trade, something that he says didn’t sap his confidence — “I can play football” — moving to what he hopes is the “right situation.”

 

“I feel like it was a great opportunity — have a fresh start, learn a new system and buy into a new culture,” Pryor said, via Cleveland.com. “I had a feeling [with the Jets] drafting two safeties, but I can’t control that. I’m excited. I can’t thank (the Browns) enough.”

 

Pryor didn’t share any insight as to how the Browns plan to use him this season, but having plans to use him looks like a big improvement over his lot with the Jets.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on WR JULIAN EDELMAN not maxing out his potential pay day:

 

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a leader on the field and, when it comes to taking less money than he’s worth, off it, too.

 

Receiver Julian Edelman’s new contract — originally leaked as a multi-year! extension — tacks two new seasons onto the existing one, at a payout of $14 million through 2019.

 

Via Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, the two-year extension has a value of $11 million with $7 million fully guaranteed. Chances are that fully-guaranteed amount absorbed the $3 million non-guaranteed salary Edelman was due to earn this season.

 

For a guy who never leaves much on the field, he likely left plenty on the table. Last year, Edelman had 98 catches for a career-high 1,106 yards, and he continues to be a key cog in the team’s offense, a reliable option in the slot on whom Brady can always rely.

 

That said, Edelman is 31 — and some believe that newcomer Brandin Cooks eventually will become the new Edelman in the offense. And so by next year Edelman may start doing the annual Amendola exercise, taking even less for the privilege of continuing to pursue championships.

 

On one hand, it’s admirable. On the other, those glory days that will have long passed him by won’t be paying the bills when Edelman is 85.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Did the Jets value Jay Cutler more than QB JOSH McCOWN.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jay Cutler is trading in his jersey and helmet for a suit and a microphone this year, but his decision to make the jump to a FOX broadcast booth wasn’t preordained when he was first released by the Bears.

 

During an appearance on a podcast with Adam Schefter of ESPN, Cutler said that the Jets reached out to him shortly after the Bears cut him loose. Cutler said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to keep playing, so nothing materialized right away. They stayed in touch, but had a hard time finding a date that worked for a visit and it ultimately became a moot issue when the Jets signed Josh McCown.

 

“The stars didn’t really align for me to get out there,” Cutler said. “By the time I was scheduled to get out there, my buddy Josh had taken a visit and they worked something out with him. It all worked out. I’m happy for him.”

 

Cutler said he has “no idea” if the Jets would have offered him a contract and whether an offer would have been enough for him to return to the field for another year, but sitting up high and commenting on the Jets’ rebuilding effort seems like a gig less likely to result in physical pain than playing quarterback for it so there probably won’t be too much second guessing about how he played things out.

– – –

QB CHRISTIAN HACKENBERG is making the wrong kind of impact at Jets OTAs according to headlines that talk about beaned reporters.  Connor Hughes at NJ.com:

 

THE REALLY BAD

When Hackenberg misses… he really misses. He threw just two interceptions in team drills, but nearly tossed six others. And I’m not talking about a receiver falling down. I’m saying the defender just dropped the ball.

 

Other times, the wideout/running back/tight end was wide open, and Hackenberg sailed it over his head or bounced it to him. That can’t happen. In the three media-open OTAs, Hackenberg hit reporters with passes twice.

 

This comes from a longer evaluation by Hughes that does contain some more optimistic elements.

 

How’d Hackenberg look overall? Here’s the OTA overview.

 

WHERE DID HE WORK?

 

It’s actually a pretty smart move by coach Todd Bowles. It’s something he learned from Cardinals coach Bruce Arians. In OTAs, the Jets use two fields. On one (closest to media), the starters and significant backups work. On the other, rookies, undrafted free agents and roster-bubble players. By doing it this way, the young guys get double and triple the reps they normally would. It helps them get acclimated.

 

In the three media-open OTAs, Hackenberg worked on the far field once, split time on the far and near field once, and then, because the Jets worked inside due to weather, practiced entirely on the main field.

 

WHAT HE SAID

 

The Jets split the quarterbacks up in the three media-open OTAs. Josh McCown spoke first (May 23), then Bryce Petty (May 30), and finally Hackenberg (Tuesday).

 

Here were some of the highlights of his chat:

 

On working with Jeremy Bates:

“Jeremy has been great, and I think ultimately with all of us, he’s just been working on consistency and building muscle memory. Like our warm-ups (are) the same every day, and we’re doing the same type of movements, but all of it goes back to just consistency with our feet and our base and delivering the football. So for me, and I think for everyone in the room, that’s kind of where he harps on.”

 

On his critics believing he can’t play

“That’s their opinions. I can’t really, like, speak for them, it’s whoever it is, but I know what I can do, I know what my coaching staff feels I can do, so, I’m just confident in my abilities. When I get my opportunity to play, I’m going to do that… I’m confident I can play at this level and play at a high level, so I’m going to go, when I get my opportunity, take advantage of that.”

 

On his redshirt season

“I really can’t change it. You know what I mean? It was in the past. It is what it is. But I think if you’re a negative person, you kind of think about it negatively and you say, ‘Dang, I wish I had a chance. I don’t want to fill my mind with that type of negativity. I’d rather focus on the positive of it and take what I learned from it and the good from it. And that’s how I kind of look at last year, I try and take the positives out of it and go from there.”

 

THE STATS

NJ Advance Media kept a close eye on Hackenberg in the three media-open OTAs. While these statistics aren’t official, they provide a glimpse into Hackenberg’s play during team drills. Note: the Jets held seven other OTAs closed to the media.

 

21 of 36 passing (58 percent) | TD | 2 INTs | Fumble | 4 sacks

 

THE GOOD

Hackenberg is noticeably improved from his rookie season. His footwork — which was a point of emphasis in the offseason — is more consistent, and he’s missing less throws than he used to. Hackenberg also doesn’t appear afraid of dumping it off anymore.

 

Last year, he wanted to show off his cannon arm, which caused him to force passes to places they shouldn’t be. Now, he’s dropping the ball off to the running back much more. That’s a positive.

 

“I think that’s an area where I can improve on and that’s something that I want to focus on,” Hackenberg said. “I think it’s not being the gunslinger in terms of, like, I own that. But I want to be able to frame the game and understand, like what I was saying, understand when you can take those risks and when you can’t.”

 

THE BAD

While improved, Hackenberg still doesn’t look good. He just looks better than he did as a rookie. He still has very real accuracy issues. An errant pass in individual drills may not seem like a big deal now, but when playing a live defense, it makes all the difference.

 

There’s such a fine line between a good quarterback and a bad one. Hackenberg needs to be more accurate, especially when there’s no defense. He misses far too many passes against air. There’s no excuse for that. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I’d say a safe estimate is he completed just 60-65 percent of his passes in quarterback-receiver drills. That’s not good.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s too early to tell if John Morton’s west coast offense is a good fit for Hackenberg, but the immediate return at least warrants more observation. Hackenberg is learning a brand-new offense for the first time. Some of these hiccups and struggles are expected.

 

The Jets begin minicamp next week. Players then have a month off before training camp starts July 31.

 

It may be a bit premature to say fans should be optimistic about Hackenberg, but at the minimum, he does look better than he did last year.

 

“Better” from Hackenberg or anyone else may not be what the Jets want this year.  Gary Myers in the New York Daily News makes a prophecy:

 

The Jets could make this the Sweet Sixteen season.

 

It might be even harder to finish 0-16 than 16-0. There’s been only one of each. The 2008 Lions were winless one season after the Patriots were undefeated. By mistake, a team usually wins one game. With a bad bounce, even the great teams manage to lose a game.

 

The Jets need to secure the first pick in the draft, which is expected to be quarterback Sam Darnold of USC unless Josh Allen of Wyoming or Josh Rosen of UCLA jump ahead by next April.

 

Considering the Browns and 49ers are also going to be really awful, the only way to guarantee the No. 1 pick is to finish 0-16, which would include a loss to the Browns, and hope the 49ers win a game along the way. It would just be another sad chapter in the Jets history if they finish 0-16 and so do the 49ers and then the Jets lose the strength-of-schedule tie-breaker for the first pick.

 

How can the Jets put together the first winless season in the history of New York sports?

 

Here’s the week-by-week roadmap. Hang on tight.

 

Week 1 –  Final Score: Bills 20, Jets 3

The Bills defense is so fired up they no longer have to listen to the identical twin geniuses Rex and Rob that they play their best game since Bruce Smith and Cornelius Bennett. Josh McCown is 7-for-24 for 75 yards with two interceptions and three sacks. Todd Bowles says he didn’t considering putting in Christian Hackenberg. He says the second-year QB is still getting used to his uniform after dressing for only one game last season. Record: 0-1

 

Week 2 – Raiders 38, Jets 10

Derek Carr, the pre-season MVP favorite, lights up the Jets for 374 yards passing with two touchdowns to Amari Cooper. Marshawn Lynch scores from the one and immediately sends the tape to Pete Carroll. McCown is 15-for-30 for 125 yards and two more INTs. Bowles says he didn’t consider putting in Hackenberg.  Record 0-2

 

Week 3 – Dolphins 17, Jets 14

McCown throws an interception with 10 seconds left as the Jets were moving into field goal range. He spared the fans having to watch overtime in the home opener. Woody Johnson, assuming by now he is officially named Ambassador to the United Kingdom, returns from his London home at the Winfield House in Regent Park’s and wishes he hadn’t. He refuses all questions about the job security of Bowles and President Trump. Record: 0-3

 

Week 4 – Jaguars 10, Jets 9

Jags executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin makes a triumphant return to MetLife Stadium, blowing kisses to the crowd and inviting fans to kiss his Giants rings. McCown throws for just 60 yards and says he came out flat because the Jags were not one of his former teams. The Jets are his 10th. Bowles has Hackenberg warming up on the sidelines in the fourth quarter but leaves him there.  Record: 0-4

 

Week 5 – Browns 20, Jets 10

The Tank Bowl. This game has major draft implications. Browns second-round pick DeShone Kizer, in his first start, throws a 70-yard touchdown pass to Corey Coleman with 40 seconds remaining. McCown is given a standing ovation by Browns fans, who appreciate his 1-10 record in Cleveland during the 2015-16 seasons. Still no Hackenberg. LeBron James is at the game. Jets players taunt him with chants of “KD, KD, KD.”  Record 0-5

 

Week 6 – Patriots 42, Jets 17

Despite the offensive outburst – Bilal Powell runs for 175 yards and two touchdowns – the Jets can’t control Tom Brady, who throws a pair of 70-yard TDs to Brandin Cooks. McCown is bad once again, running his career record to 18-48. Bowles announces that Hackenberg will start next week in Miami.  Record: 0-6

 

Week 7 – Dolphins 31, Jets 7

Hackenberg picks up where he left off at Penn State and is bad. He throws three interceptions and the Jets only score is a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by rookie-of-the-year candidate Jamal Adams. As usual in Miami, there are more Jets fans than Dolphins fans. Jarvis Landry proposes to the goal post after his third touchdown, challenging his pal Odell Beckham Jr., to get to the altar first with the kicking net.  Record: 0-7

 

Week 8 – Falcons 31, Jets 17

For the first and what won’t be the last time, the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets chant is replaced by S-U-C-K Suck Suck Suck for Sam as Hackenberg throws three more interceptions. Johnson has remained in London, electing to save money on the cross-Atlantic flight.  Record: 0-8

 

Week 9 – Bills 27, Jets 26

Leonard Williams picks up Darron Lee and shoves him into the Gatorade bucket after he missed a tackle on Tyrod Taylor’s game-winning 5-yard touchdown run on the final play. It’s the third year in a row the Jets and Bills play on a Thursday night. It’s the Jets only national TV appearance of the season. Hackenberg has his best game: Two TD passes to Quincy Enunwa.  Record: 0-9

 

Week 10 – Bucs 31, Jets 21

DeSean Jackson has 175 yards receiving and backpedals into the end zone on each of his two TD scores. Jameis Winston throws for 325 yards. Jets fans argue with Bucs fans about Darrelle Revis: Was he worse in Tampa in 2013 or New York in 2016? 0-16 is looking real.  Record: 0-10

 

Week 11 – Bye

Whew

 

Week 12 – Panthers 24, Jets 14

Rookies Christian McCaffrey and Brooklyn’s Curtis Samuel rip apart the Jets defense, combining for 250 yards and three touchdowns. With the Giants off after having played on Thanksgiving night, Brandon Marshall shows up in the Jets locker room and picks a fight with Sheldon Richardson.  Record: 0-11

 

Week 13 – Chiefs 35, Jets 10

At the Saturday night team meeting, Todd Bowles displays a picture of ex-Chief Jeremy Maclin and warns his players not to invite Andy Reid if they are planning to get married. Rookie QB Patrick Mahomes comes off the bench and completes a 60-yard TD to Tyreek Hill, who created a 15-yard cushion on Buster Skrine. Jets fans starting chanting, “We Want Revis. We Want Revis.” Well, not really.  Record: 0-12

 

Week 14 – Broncos 30, Jets 10

Richardson Snapchats himself on bench in the fourth quarter eating a hot dog Bowles doesn’t fine him but warns hot dogs during games could cause indigestion. Peyton Manning tweets that after watching the Jets defense he wished he was still playing.  Record: 0-13

 

Week 15 – Saints 49, Jets 28

Hackenberg throws four touchdowns and four interceptions. Drew Brees throws for 480 yards – hey, it’s Drew Brees in the Superdome, he does that – and Adams, the rookie from nearby LSU, is embarrassed and says he may petition the NCAA to get his eligibility restored.  Record: 0-14

 

Week 16 –  Chargers 13, Jets 12

Only two to go to 0-16. Ho-ho-ho. The Jets set a record when only 12,874 fans show up at MetLife on Christmas Eve day. The Jets clinch the No. 1 pick. No other team has fewer than two victories. New kicker Roberto Aguayo, the Jets fifth kicker of the season, misses 30-yarder with no time left.  Record: 0-15

 

Week 17 – Patriots 35, Jets 0

The Pats have the No. 1 seed locked up, but Bill Belichick shows no mercy and plays Brady the entire game. It’s New Years’ Eve and Belichick is partying like it’s Jan. 4, 2000, the day he resigned as head coach of the NYJ. Johnson shows up for the first time in two months and announces Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan will return. “I’m pleased with the progress,” he says. “We didn’t have any butt fumbles.” Then he gets on a plane back to London.  Record: 0-16

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

FORMER PLAYERS

A sad end for James Hardy, a second round pick out of Indiana in 2008.  This from the Indianapolis Star:

 

The body of former IU football star and NFL draft pick James Hardy was found in the Maumee River Wednesday in Allen County.

 

According to the county coroner’s office, the body of the 31-year-old Fort Wayne native was found about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the Hosey Dam, at in the 800 block of North Anthony Boulevard in Fort Wayne.

 

Officer Mike Joyner of the Fort Wayne Police Department said Hardy’s mother reported him missing May 30.

 

An employee with the city’s water filtration plant made the discovery as he walked along the catwalk on his regular rounds.

 

A water rescue team rushed to the scene, but the strong current made recovery of the body difficult. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources was called in to assist.

 

Hardy’s body was recovered from a logjam and pulled free around 5 p.m., officials said. It appeared that the body had been in the water for some time.

– – –

In Ft. Lauderdale, an investigation of Hall of Fame WR Michael Irvin has closed and the findings sent to the state’s attorney.  Brandon George in the Dallas Morning News:

 

The Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Police Department has closed its sexual assault investigation into former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin and turned over its findings to the State Attorney’s office, a Fort Lauderdale PD spokesman said Thursday.

 

Broward County (Fla.) State Attorney Michael J. Satz will review the findings and determine whether there is enough evidence to charge Irvin.

 

The NFL Hall of Famer was investigated for allegedly drugging and raping a 27-year-old woman, whom Irvin had considered a longtime friend, at a Florida hotel in late March.

Irvin, 51, hasn’t been arrested and has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.

 

Late last month, Irvin told TMZ.com that his legal team has been informed the rape kit in the investigation came back negative.

 

Irvin recently told “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3) that he’s been informed by police officials that his name will be cleared and the Fort Lauderdale PD is planning to issue an announcement that would exonerate him.

 

However, two Fort Lauderdale PD officials said that isn’t true and that the department isn’t planning to make an announcement regarding the investigation.

 

 

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS TOP 50

Yesterday, we had Pete Prisco’s top 100.  Here is ProFootballFocus.com’s top 50 (we leave the commentary in for only the top 10 – and also compare the rankings of the top 20 in the PFF top 50 to Prisco’s top 100):

 

So for the first time, here is the PFF Top 50 (updated Thursday, June 8 with Nos. 10-1):

 

50. Fletcher Cox, DI, Philadelphia Eagles

49. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots

48. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

47. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Prisco – 13)

46. Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos

45. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Prisco – 14)

44. Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers

43. Geno Atkins, DI, Cincinnati Bengals

42. Kawann Short, DI, Carolina Panthers

41. Damon Harrison, DI, New York Giants

40. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

39. Brandon Graham, Edge, Philadelphia Eagles

38. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

37. Kelechi Osemele, G, Oakland Raiders

36. Andrew Whitworth, T, Los Angeles Rams

35. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

34. Zack Martin, G, Dallas Cowboys (Prisco – 18)

33. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

32. Ndamukong Suh, DI, Miami Dolphins

31. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

30. Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore Ravens

29. Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks

28. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (Prisco – 11)

27. Joe Thomas, T, Cleveland Browns (Prisco – 12)

26. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

25. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts

24. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants

23. Trent Williams, T, Washington Redskins

22. Calais Campbell, DI, Jacksonville Jaguars

21. Tyron Smith, T, Dallas Cowboys

20. Earl Thomas, S, Seattle Seahawks (Prisco – 58)

19. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (Prisco – 8)

18. Cameron Jordan, Edge, New Orleans Saints (Prisco – 26)

17. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants (Prisco – 22)

16. Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys (Prisco – 47)

15. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (Prisco – 15)

14. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos (Prisco – 17)

13. Joey Bosa, Edge, Los Angeles Chargers (Prisco – 21)

12. Marshal Yanda, G, Baltimore Ravens (Prisco – 19)

11. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Prisco – 20)

 

10. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers (Prisco – 16)

Concussions are beginning to become a worrying specter over the career of Luke Kuechly, with significant time robbed from each of his past two seasons, but when he is on the field, he is the league’s best and most complete linebacker. Kuechly can read offenses like few other defenders and make plays, particularly in coverage, that you don’t see often. Even missing time last season and playing just 656 snaps, Kuechly still totaled 42 defensive stops, good enough for 23rd among all linebackers, and more than many who played an entire season.

 

9. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (Prisco – 10)

Gronkowski is the league’s most unstoppable offensive force. In fact, the only thing really capable of slowing him down during his NFL career has been injuries. He already has as many career touchdowns as Art Monk, Rod Smith, and Raymond Berry, and it has taken him around half the time to get them. In 2016, if you move the qualifying threshold far enough, he led the league in yards per route run among all receivers, and has never ranked outside the top five among TEs in that category, leading the league in four of the last six seasons. Added to all of that, he is one of an ever-shrinking group of TEs that can ably block, making him a true matchup nightmare for a defense.

 

8. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (Prisco – 9)

When he has Ben Roethlisberger firing on all cylinders, Brown is unstoppable, but the past few seasons have also shown that he is impacted more than a player like Julio Jones when his quarterback either isn’t playing, or just playing at a below par level. Brown remains an elite route-runner, catcher of the football and is exceptionally dangerous after the catch, but he doesn’t have the same sheer physical dominance that Julio Jones has, which is the only thing that separates the two players.

 

7. Von Miller, Edge, Denver Broncos (Prisco – 5)

If Khalil Mack has been the slightly better player over the past two seasons, Miller has been right on his heels the entire way, and has a mind-blowing playoff run culminating in a Super Bowl victory that Mack has yet to achieve. That postseason run showed Miller at his unstoppable best, and he was arguably the single biggest reason behind Denver winning both the AFC Championship game and the Super Bowl that year. Miller may not have generated quite as much pressure as Mack, but he has got home more, and made more decisive and game changing plays over his career. The AFC West is not a happy place to play offensive tackle.

 

6. Khalil Mack, Edge, Oakland Raiders (Prisco – 7)

He doesn’t quite get the recognition of divisional rival Von Miller, but everything in the PFF grading and metrics suggest that Mack has been the better player as of late. Mack led the league in total pressures in 2016 with 96, and he also had the highest overall PFF grade among all edge rushers (93.9). Only Miller notched more defensive stops among edge rushers, and Mack was doing his work with considerably less defensive help than Miller or some other players were. There has been no more consistently dominant edge rusher in all facets of the game than Mack over the past couple of seasons.

 

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (Prisco – 1)

Rodgers had a slow start to the 2016 season, but from Week 7 onward he was the equal of Tom Brady, and displays the kind of ability outside of the pocket that no other QB in the game can match. Rodgers is a defensive nightmare because of his ability to break the pocket and make plays on the move, and he takes advantage of that by being able to endlessly manipulate the pass rush and pocket around him to buy time to throw. Only Tyrod Taylor had a higher average time to throw than Rodgers in 2016, and Rodgers threw 22 touchdowns — three more than any other QB — on plays that lasted for 2.6 seconds or longer.

 

4. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (Prisco – 6)

Jones is the toughest receiver to match up with in the game today. While other receivers have been as productive, none can match his combination of size, speed, strength, and freakish catching ability. Jones led the league in yards per route run in 2016, as the only receiver to gain more than three yards per route, and only one other receiver (A.J. Green) was even within sight of his production. If you include the playoffs, that figure only went up, and marks the second straight season he has led the league in that production metric.

 

3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (Prisco – 2)

At the ripe age of 39, Brady put together the greatest quarterback season PFF has graded over the past decade-plus. His PFF grade of 99.3 was comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, and didn’t leave a whole lot of room for improvement. Brady threw only two interceptions all season (albeit a 12-game season), but what is most remarkable is that he only threw three turnover-worthy passes all year, and was not merely the benefit of statistical luck or dropped interceptions from defenders.

 

2. J.J. Watt, DI, Houston Texans (Prisco – 4)

The injury-marred 2016 from Watt harms his case, but even his 2015 season was a slight step back from the three previous years of unparalleled dominance, and that’s why he is pipped to the No. 1 spot by Donald. Watt at his best is the best player in the game, and utterly dominant as both a pass-rusher and run defender playing inside and on the edge for the Houston defense. He has notched 440 total pressures over his NFL career and 319 defensive stops, and has the PFF record for total pressures over a season, with a ludicrous 119 in 2014.

 

1. Aaron Donald, DI, Los Angeles Rams (Prisco – 3)

With J.J. Watt injured in 2016, there has been no more consistently dominant force in the NFL over the past couple of seasons than Donald. The Rams defensive lineman has been a one-man wrecking crew inside whether against the run or as a pass-rusher. He has tallied a ridiculous 161 total pressures over the past two seasons, and 90 defensive stops, generating both pressure, and decisive pressure, at a completely different rate to any other defensive tackle.

 

The two lists are pretty much in synch, sharing 9 of the top 10.  The biggest discrepencies – Prisco likes MATT RYAN and DREW BREES better than PFF, PFF likes EARL THOMAS better than Prisco.  Both like JOEY BOSA better than most of us might.