The Daily Briefing Monday, May 15, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The DB has thought that current helmet technology is a mixed game with hard shells dealing out punishment even as they absorb it. Jared Dubin of CBSSports.com with a report on a new style of helmet coming soon:
Player safety is one of the biggest issues facing football at all levels right now.
The NFL obviously has the most high-profile bout with figuring out a way to make the game safer for players, and the league may be on the verge of making a drastic shift thanks to new helmets. According to Inc.com, 25 NFL teams purchased the new ZERO1 helmet from the Seattle-based startup company Vicis and will distribute them in practices this spring.
The ZERO1 “features a pliable outer layer and an impact-absorbing core layer that cushions the wearer’s head against violent collisions — all, for the most part, while maintaining the look and shape of a classic helmet.”
Here’s a more detailed description from the company’s website (which also features testimonials from several people that have used the helmet):
The ZERO1’s multiple layers work together to slow impact forces. The helmet features a soft outer shell and an underlying layer of columns designed to mitigate collisions from multiple directions.
The ZERO1 delivers breakthroughs in safety based on current, state of the art testing protocols. It also elevates performance, featuring the industry’s widest ﬁeld of peripheral view and low aerodynamic drag. Our tagline is Protect the Athlete/Elevate the Game™ – and that’s what we’ve done with the ZERO1.
In testing against 33 other helmets to measure which best reduces the severity of impact to the head, the Vicis ZERO1 finished first. Included in the study were helmets from Schutt and Riddell, which currently account for approximately 90 percent of helmet sales.
Vicis was founded by neurosurgeon Sam Browd and Dave Marver, former CEO of the Cardiac Science Corporation, with the goal of reducing the high rate of concussions in football. While it would take years of play and further studies to conclusively prove that they’ve been successful, the studies show that they’re on their way to making an impact.
And as it turns out, we may see the ZERO1 on the field pretty soon. “I’m quite confident you’ll see this on several NFL players this season,” Marver told Inc.com, though he refused to say which players might do so.”It’s up to them to reveal that.”
It’s worth noting that several current and former NFL players are part of Vicis’ “coalition.” Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Bobby Wagner, Alex Smith, Jerry Rice, Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, and more are members of the advisory team.
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Which teams added the most talent in the draft? Using Gil Brandt’s top 150 rankings as a basis, Dan Parr at NFL.com does a study and names his top 8:
Which teams did the best job of adding talent in the 2017 NFL Draft?
We set out to answer that question using NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt’s Hot 150 prospect rankings as the unit of measurement.
Points were assigned to each draftee based on where he ranked in Brandt’s Hot 150. The No. 1-rated prospect received 150 points, the No. 2 prospect received 149 points, etc.
Here’s how the teams stacked up, using Brandt’s rankings as the guide.
1. Cleveland Browns
Score: 665 points (9 players)
The skinny: It’s no surprise to see the Browns atop this list given that they picked three players in Round 1, but they found value in later rounds, as well, helping them to this landslide victory. They added nine players from the Hot 150 — no other team had more than six.
No. 1: Myles Garrett (150)
No. 21: Jabrill Peppers (130)
No. 29: David Njoku (122)
No. 33: DeShone Kizer (118)
No. 92: Roderick Johnson (59)
No. 132: Howard Wilson (19)
No. 139: Larry Ogunjobi (12)
No. 146: Zane Gonzalez (5)
2. New Orleans Saints
Score: 522 points (5 players)
The skinny: The Saints finish a distant second, but they did very well for themselves, joining the Browns and Steelers as the only teams to add five prospects from Brandt’s top 100.
No. 4: Marshon Lattimore (147)
No. 19 Ryan Ramczyk (132)
No. 38: Marcus Williams (113)
No. 79: Alvin Kamara (72)
No. 93: Alex Anzalone (58)
3. New York Jets
Score: 453 points (5 players)
The skinny: The Jets’ investment in its secondary and pass-catching corps paid off handsomely.
No. 5: Jamal Adams (146)
No. 44: Marcus Maye (107)
No. 71: ArDarius Stewart (80)
No. 74: Jordan Leggett (77)
No. 108: Chad Hansen (43)
4. Washington Redskins
Score: 443 points (5 players)
The skinny: The Redskins found great value in Allen, taking him 17th overall (he was Brandt’s No. 7-ranked prospect), and doubled-down on Alabama defenders with the selection of Anderson in Round 2.
No. 7: Jonathan Allen (144)
No. 49: Ryan Anderson (102)
No. 65: Samaje Perine (86)
No. 87: Jeremy Sprinkle (64)
No. 104: Fabian Moreau (47)
5. Baltimore Ravens
Score: 438 points (5 players)
The skinny: While it might not have the star power of some other top classes, the Ravens join the Browns, Saints and Chargers as the only teams to land at least three players from Brandt’s top 50. Like the Redskins, they also opted to double-down on Crimson Tide defenders (Humphrey and Williams).
No. 43: Marlon Humphrey (108)
No. 47: Tim Williams (104)
No. 48: Chris Wormley (103)
No. 68: Tyus Bowser (83)
No. 111: Nico Siragusa (40)
6 (tie). Jacksonville Jaguars
Score: 420 points (5 players)
The skinny: Jacksonville addressed most of its top needs and landed a great value in Robinson (who went 34th overall), who can help clear holes for top pick Fournette.
No. 2: Leonard Fournette (149)
No. 15: Cam Robinson (136)
No. 75: Dawuane Smoot (76)
No. 98: Dede Westbrook (53)
No. 145: Jalen Myrick (6)
6 (tie). Los Angeles Chargers
Score: 420 points (4 players)
The skinny: The Chargers are one of four teams to land at least three players from Brandt’s top 50, with King in Round 5 serving as a potential steal.
No. 23: Mike Williams (128)
No. 41: Forrest Lamp (110)
No. 50: Dan Feeney (101)
No. 70: Desmond King (81)
8. Seattle Seahawks
Score: 419 points (6 players)
The skinny: Seattle cracks the top 8 despite not picking in Round 1, and they are the highest-ranked team of those who made the playoffs last season. They made six picks in Rounds 2-3, and all but one of those selections cracked Brandt’s Hot 150.
No. 45: Malik McDowell (106)
No. 54: Ethan Pocic (97)
No. 59: Tedric Thompson (92)
No. 94: Shaquill Griffin (57)
No. 110: Nazair Jones (41)
No. 125: Amara Darboh (26)
John Fox says all is well with QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY. Patrick Finley in the Chicago Sun-Times:
John Fox said No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky had a “great camp” in his first stint with the Bears — three days of rookie practices at Halas Hall.
The Bears coach then went about defining Trubisky’s offseason goals. The Bears will hold OTAs for veterans and rookies alike later this month and mandatory minicamp in the middle of June.
“You’ve got to get him up to speed in your offense,” Fox said. “So I think a guy, regardless of position, has to get comfortable and know what to do — and how to do it — and then just really cut loose and play.”
Rick Gosselin in the Dallas Morning News wants you to get to know undrafted QB COOPER RUSH from the Chippewas:
It’s time for the Cowboys to find the next Tony Romo.
No, not the Tony Romo who went to four Pro Bowls and won an NFL passing title in 2014. That was the finished-product Tony Romo. The Cowboys are hoping they’ve already found that guy in Dak Prescott.
It’s time for the Cowboys to find another unfinished Tony Romo — the undrafted college free agent signed in 2003 who spent three years in a quarterbacking incubator watching and learning how the position should be played.
It’s time for the Cowboys to invest in another project worth developing.
Which is why Cooper Rush intrigues me.
During the years I spent researching the draft as the NFL columnist for this newspaper, I learned several position traits that the pros find attractive.
Left tackle is all about arm length. The longer the arms, the easier to steer speed rushers. Blockers with short arms get moved inside to guard.
On both sides of the ball, interior linemen with wrestling backgrounds are safe investments because of their hand and foot speed.
Hand size is important for wide receivers. The bigger the hands, the more secure the hands.
Quarterbacks who started four years in college and threw at least 1,300 career passes are worthy of long looks because they already have been exposed to everything the college game has to offer. It’s a much smaller step from NCAA Saturdays to NFL Sundays for them.
Cooper Rush fits that profile. The Cowboys signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, where he was a four-year starter who threw 1,648 passes. He started 50 games and passed for 12,891 yards and 90 touchdowns. He sits ahead of NFLers Ben Roethlisberger, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich on the all-time Mid-American Conference passing list.
Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton were four-year starters in college who threw more than 1,300 career passes. All five have been to the Pro Bowl, and Manning and Wilson have won Super Bowls. Manning, Wilson and Rivers have won NFL passing titles.
Drew Brees, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan and Derek Carr were three-year starters who threw more than 1,300 college passes. All have been to the Pro Bowl. Brees, Roethlisberger and Manning have won Super Bowls, and Ryan took his team to a Super Bowl. Brees and Ryan have been NFL MVPs and have won passing titles.
But four years as a college starter do not guarantee success. Kyle Boller, David Greene and Brady Quinn are proof of that. Neither does that 1,300-pass minimum. Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb and Chris Redman are proof of that.
Fewer starts and fewer passes do not doom a quarterback, either. Romo (941 college passes), Tom Brady (710) and Aaron Rodgers (665) are proof of that. But they spent time in that quarterbacking incubator before ever hitting an NFL field. Brady sat for a year, and Rodgers and Romo three years apiece. They were exposed to defensive trickery on NFL tape that they never saw on college game fields.
Which brings us back to Rush. His talent may be worth the patience, worth the wait.
Rush does not arrive in Dallas from a “power five” conference. The MAC will never be confused with the Big Ten. But this is a conference that has produced Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Khalil Mack, Eric Fisher and Corey Davis. Fisher was the first overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft and Davis the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft.
Rush has been exposed to power five competition, though. He started against Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue from the Big Ten, Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, and North Carolina State, Syracuse and Virginia from the Atlantic Coast Conference. He passed for 430 yards against Syracuse, 402 yards against Virginia, and 368 yards and four touchdowns in a stunning road upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State in 2016.
But it was the 2014 Bahamas Bowl that probably punched his ticket to the NFL. Rush completed 28 of 45 passes for 493 yards and an NCAA bowl-record seven touchdowns in a 49-48 loss to Western Kentucky. He showed more than his arm in that game. He showed his competitiveness and leadership, rallying his team from a 49-14 fourth-quarter deficit with 34 points in wildly entertaining game.
“Pressure brings out the best in Cooper,” said Central Michigan coach John Bonamego, who spent 16 seasons in the NFL coaching special teams before returning to his alma mater in 2015. “Look at him in the fourth quarter. Look at him in Hail Mary situations. When the game is on the line, he finds a way. I would never count him out any time at anything.”
Will Rush be the next Tony Romo? Who knows, but his quarterbacking profile says he’s worth a look, and his talent may be worth the wait.
The Saints are hopeful that C MAX UNGER will not miss any of the regular season after his recent foot surgery. Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
A shroud of mystery surrounded New Orleans Saints center Max Unger, who recently underwent foot surgery.
While there are various reports speculating on Unger’s road to recovery, the Saints have their sights set on before the start of the regular season.
“We anticipate probably early August,” coach Sean Payton said Saturday on Day Two of rookie minicamp. “I see him possibly being able to get into the preseason. Our goal would be Week 3 (of the preseason), so that’s where he’s at.”
Payton confirmed two key areas on Unger’s situation – the foot surgery and the procedure was performed on the same foot that caused Unger to miss one game in 2016.
While questions could linger as to why the Saints waited until May to have Unger undergo surgery, Payton points out the team hoped rest after the regular season would work.
“At the end of the season, on the X-ray he had a little bit of a space there, where you would call the Lisfranc,” Payton said. “And you make one of two decisions. Dr. (Robert) Anderson, who we think is one of the best foot guys in football, felt like, ‘Hey, let’s rest it. No need for a procedure.'”
The Saints, however, noticed at the start of the offseason workout program in April that the problem needed further evaluation with Anderson.
“When we got back started in the offseason program, it had increased a little bit,” Payton said. “So he felt like putting a screw in it now was going allow him plenty of time to rehab.”
Given the recovery timeline, Unger will miss 10 days of organized activities (OTAs) and the mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June before the Saints break for training camp, which is expected to start in late July.
With Unger out, the Saints are likely to turn to versatile offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, who can play all position along the front five. The Saints also have Jack Allen, who spent time on the practice squad in 2016, and undrafted rookie free agent Cameron Tom.
Nevertheless, the Saints appear confident the offense won’t need to rely on a center to start the regular season other than Unger, especially when considering the team elected to address the injury now.
“It wasn’t anything new, and yet we were hoping the rest would help it out,” Payton said. “And we’re getting ahead of it.”
LOS ANGELES RAMS
The new coaching staff is heaping praise on QB JARED GOFF as he tries to overcome a listless rookie season. Alec Nathan at BleacherReport.com:
Jared Goff’s rookie season may not have gone as planned, but if early indications from spring workouts are any indication, the 2016 No. 1 overall pick appears primed for improvement next season.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said he’s been impressed by Goff’s drive throughout the offseason workout program.
“He wants to be great,” LaFleur said, according to ESPN.com‘s Alden Gonzalez. “He’s doing everything that we’ve asked him to do, and then some. He’s working hard every day. I think he’s getting better every day.
“… He’s coming in early and staying late. He’s really grasped the offense surprisingly fast, especially for a new guy. When you get a new guy in an offense, there is a transition period with that, but he’s doing a nice job of picking it up at a surprisingly quick pace.”
Goff was brought along slowly under former head coach Jeff Fisher last season, and he wasn’t particularly impressive during his half-season under center. Over the course of seven starts—all of which were losses—Goff completed 54.6 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
But now that LaFleur and head coach Sean McVay have arrived in Hollywood ready to overhaul the Rams offense, Goff appears to be in the right hands.
And with new weapons such as Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp at his disposal, Goff has the personnel necessary to make a sophomore leap.
Browns coach Hue Jackson expects second-year man CODY KESSLER to be his quarterback in 2017. Mary Kay Cabot in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Cody Kessler is the man to beat in an open quarterback competition ‘and they’ve got to take it from him,’ Hue Jackson said Saturday.
He said Kessler will be his starting quarterback in organized team activities and that Brock Osweiler, Kevin Hogan and rookie DeShone Kizer will have to beat him out.
“Obviously Cody will start this out,” said Jackson. “He deserves the opportunity to.”
He stressed that “this thing’s open, it really is” but that it’s Kessler’s job to lose.
He said the starter for the mandatory minicamp in June will be determined when the time comes, but for now, it’s Kessler’s job.
“Cody has done a great job and that’s the reason why I brought his name up first,” said Jackson. “He’s really improved, he’s worked his tail off and he deserves the right and the opportunity to walk in this building and walk out there first. And they’ve got to take it from him. You know, they better take it from him because I know him and he’s not going to give it up.
“So it’ll be fun. That’s what competition’s all about. So until someone takes something from someone and shows that they can do it at a high level play in and play out we’ve got to keep going in the direction we’re traveling.”
Jackson noted that “they’ll all get reps. Brock is here and Kevin too. But this young man [Kizer] is going to get reps. The only way he’s going to get better is to get reps, so I’ll find a way. I’ve been through this before a few times. so we’ll get these guys reps and he has to take some, cause I’ve got to continue to evaluate him.”
DeShone Kizer aims to start as fast as he can, ‘not sit around and watch’
Jackson said Osweiler, acquired in a trade with the Texans during the free agency frenzy largely so the Browns could add the extra second-round pick, has a chance to compete just like the others.
“He’s here, and as I said from the beginning, if a guy’s in our locker room we’re going to treat him like any of our other players,” said Jackson. “In this league we all know you can’t have enough good quarterbacks, enough guys to train at the position. You never know how it’s going to unfold and things do happen. But he’s competing, he’s done a good job, he’s been great in the room with the guys. He’s been as good a person in the building.”
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The Browns have lost a fourth round rookie in CB HOWARD WILSON. Wilson broke his kneecap in practice on Friday and will undergo surgery soon. He’ll be out a significant amount of time, possibly the entire season,
The Texans claim their plan is to bring along QB DeSHAUN WATSON slowly – even though TOM SAVAGE is the alternative. Charles Robinson at YahooSports.com:
Deshaun Watson was still manning the podium in pre-draft campaign mode. Saying all the right things. Talking about working hard in his first days as a Houston Texan. Remaining soft-spoken and aligning his compass with actions over words. Above all else, he kept the conversation focused on learning, not achieving.
“It’s going to take the hard work and the grind,” Watson said on Saturday, in between work during the Texans’ rookie minicamp. “You can expect a lot of stuff and want to be great and want to be successful, especially early, but it’s a process. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
This is pretty standard cue-card reading for rookie quarterbacks, particularly in May minicamps. But given the circumstances that got Watson into a Texans uniform in the first place, slow and steady is probably the right place to start. The reality is that Watson is expected to eventually be the ninth quarterback to start a game under head coach Bill O’Brien. Considering O’Brien is entering his fourth season, that isn’t a great stat.
So, yeah. How this whole Deshaun Watson thing progresses is of vital importance to this regime. If that means starting out with a workmanlike yawn in May, it’s probably not the worst approach.
After watching the Brock Oswelier era scuttled in a matter of months, it’s fair to suspect there is a methodology in gently putting this next quarterback out to sea. Expect the Texans to be as measured and deliberate as possible about Watson’s timeline. Given hindsight, the situation screams for it. To the point where despite skeptical media opinion, Tom Savage may indeed be the starting quarterback for Houston when the season begins. Partially because the staff and front office sees some short-term reliability in him, and partially because Watson might be the last chance this regime gets to secure a cornerstone quarterback.
Watson’s spotlight will be drastically different than the one that hovered over Osweiler a year ago. As it should be, considering Osweiler arrived with a heap of starting quarterback money and inescapable expectations. Lest we forget, this time last May, Osweiler was already shaping his own commercial campaigns for local Houston businesses. He was an instant celebrity. And when offseason practices began, there was no shortage of gushing. Even Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins called him a “pro’s pro” and a “natural leader” who “demands the best out of everybody.” Ten months later, the only thing being demanded was the second-round pick that the Cleveland Browns required to take Osweiler and his bloated salary off Houston’s roster.
Again, hindsight: A temperate downshift in quarterback expectations seems appropriate for the month of May.
That’s not to say the Texans are downplaying their hopes for Watson. It’s simply a different kind of conversation. One that flows out of Watson arriving with a clean NFL slate, modest quarterback money and someone above him on the depth chart. Unlike Osweiler, whose paycheck anointed him a chosen status, Watson has the luxury of some patient cover for at least the next few months. Maybe that all changes when the games start. But for now, the design for him is simple.
“Show up every day and get better,” O’Brien said. “Simple as that. Every single day, improve on the things that you need to improve on – every single day. There’s always going to be something, whether it’s a playcall or footwork or some type of decision at the line of scrimmage … or answered a question wrong in the meeting or whatever it is – let’s fix that. Let’s get better every single day. It’s a progress league.”
What that means for Watson now is the most basic of essentials. Learn the playbook. Become acquainted with teammates. Watch Savage work. Figure out how to stand in the proper place in the huddle (yes, this was an actual lesson this weekend). And of course, recite the verbiage of the offense and how to call a play, which is probably the most common shared staple of rookie quarterback learning every single spring.
“It’s a whole different terminology,” Watson said. “It’s like learning Spanish if you don’t know Spanish. You’ve got to flip everything you’ve learned before and turn the page and learn something brand new.”
Watson gaining that familiarity is also acutely important for O’Brien, who will be taking a commanding seat in all facets of the offense this season after the departure (“mutual parting”) of offensive coordinator George Godsey in January. That makes Watson a revelation of sorts. For the first time in his career, O’Brien has a first-round quarterback to mold from Day 1 in his offense. Not a veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brock Osweiler, who need reprogramming. And not a mid or late-round rookie who fit snugly under “project” status. In Watson, he has a proven first-round winner with a wealth of upside. And he has full control to take that talent wherever he wants.
“I’ve been probably doing more coaching myself in the last four or five weeks than I’ve done in the three years that I’ve been here,” O’Brien said. “I’m really involved with the offense. I’m having a lot of fun. Relative to this rookie camp right here – whether it’s the quarterback, who I’m spending a lot of time with, or any other position – you have to figure out the ways that they learn.”
So that’s how this latest effort begins. With less spotlight and expectation. Hopeful, yes. But also a little more subdued than things were a year ago. The quarterback questions are still there, but the demands of instant gratification have been drawn back a bit.
It’s May. Deshaun Watson just arrived. Learning overachieving is an acceptable storyline. Especially after last season’s flop. Patience and perspective reign.
The new regime in Jacksonville says it can see improvement in QB BLAKE BORTLES. Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:
The Jaguars picked up Blake Bortles‘ option for the 2018 season, but Bortles’ return to the team for a fifth season is far from guaranteed because the contract isn’t guaranteed unless Bortles is unable to pass a physical at the start of the league year.
That makes it incumbent on Bortles to have a strong season if he is going to remain the quarterback in Jacksonville and he spent the early part of the offseason working on his mechanics in hopes of bouncing back from a rough 2016 campaign. Jaguars coach Doug Marrone gave a thumbs up to that work on Saturday, saying there was “no doubt” that Bortles has made progress.
“There are certain things, as far as his elbow and his arm, that are much improved,” Marrone said, via the team’s website. “I think there are still other things we’re still working on as well as everyone else at this stage. … If we’re throwing 100 footballs to 150 — if we throw 150 he’ll be better. If we throw 200 he’ll be better – 250, he’ll be better. What we’re doing now is trying to build him up and build the arm strength and all the other things along with all of our quarterbacks to get there. The more he throws the better he’ll be.”
At some point down the road, the team will have to be more clear-eyed, but there’s nothing to lose from accentuating the positive at this juncture of a crucial year for Bortles.
Peter King has a Q&A with Buffalo’s new dynamic duo of GM Brandon Beane and HC Sean McDermott:
MMQB: How did you two meet?
McDermott: We met one of my first days down in Carolina in 2011, and then I started to better understand his background in the league, similar to mine—starting off at one of the lower levels of the organization. I started off as an intern in several departments and worked my way up. It wasn’t always fun or glamorous, but I developed a solid background.
Beane: I had mad respect for him from afar when he was coaching in Philadelphia, and so, you always have your pictures of who these people are, and when Sean came into the building, he was so humble and hardworking. I researched him and just it’s amazing how mirrored our backgrounds were to get to the positions that we are in today. We had great conversations. I would go back into his office and he had the depth chart of the defense up. We would talk about the strengths of the defense, the weaknesses. Sometimes he’d tell me stuff that I didn’t know. Hey, this player, he’s a pain in the butt in the meeting room.
McDermott: I just was reminded of something. I knew after our first interview here it was going to take some effort to convince him to leave Carolina—he’s lived there his whole life, and his wife’s from there. I took a picture of a book that I am currently reading. It’s called “Chase the Lion” and the subtitle is, “If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small.” And I took a picture of it and I sent it to Brandon and that was kind of my recruiting approach to convince him that this is a chance for him and his career and what he and his family have sacrificed over the years.
Beane: When I got it, I was laying in bed, watching TV with my wife. I was like, This is so Sean.
McDermott: It was a recruiting ploy.
Beane: When I saw that picture, I laughed, but there is a lot of truth behind that. It did help. There were a lot of reasons to go back for that second interview and I am so glad I did. I’m excited to get going with you [talking to McDermott].
McDermott: It’s a little bit surreal. I’m sitting here across from Brandon, and honestly, when I left Carolina, I thought, This might be the last time we ever work together.
MMQB: Describe a time you worked together, the way you’ll have to here, to change the Carolina defensive roster.
McDermott: Whether it was a corner or a safety or whatever position, as a defensive coordinator, I tried to look at the defense like I was the head coach of the defense, and thankfully [coach] Ron Rivera gave me that space to do that. As coaches sometimes, we forget that we have to deal with the money part of decisions at times. So Brandon had a good way of saying, Look, there are some other things at play once in awhile that we just need to keep in mind.
Beane: Sometimes we might talk down in the weight room, or on a jog. It would be an education for us both. Sometimes I would try to ease his mind, like, We realize we are weak at corner, and we have something in play, I can’t give you a firm answer on what it is going to be, but we agree with you and are working to get it better.
MMQB: Is Buffalo’s quarterback of the future on the roster now?
McDermott: He is, in Tyrod Taylor. And then when you look at the competition we have behind him. We’ve drafted Nathan Peterman, we’ve added T.J. Yates, and then Cardale Jones in the draft a year ago. I’m not sure there is a team out there that has the depth that we do at the quarterback position. So we feel good about that. We’re anxious to see how Tyrod develops in his third year as a starter in a new system, a system that he has some familiarity with in terms of [new Buffalo offensive coordinator] Rick Dennison’s system in Baltimore a few years back with Gary Kubiak.
Beane: We have open competition everywhere. Obviously it is a quarterback league, but with Tyrod … He has some tools, his speed, he is tough to game-plan for. He has some strengths and he is still a young starter in this league. It is going to be a competition for every position, to let them fight it out and earn the right to start on this team.
McDermott: I think that’s the key. Going back to your question, Can we guarantee he is on our roster right now? That remains to be seen and that is true at a lot of positions on our roster.
MMQB: Why should a beleaguered Bills fan believe in you both?
McDermott: We have to earn everything we are about to do here. That is no different than what Brandon and I have done over the course of our careers. That same approach is what we are going to ask of this football team and these players and the staff is to earn every minute of success that we are fortunate enough to get. There are a lot of good teams out there and a lot of good coaches, New England being one of them, with Bill Belichick. We have nothing but respect for them and how they do things.
Beane: We have to keep the same mindset we’ve had our whole career. Keep our head down, work on ourselves, learn our strengths, learn our weaknesses, and then obviously know our division. And then one of the first things you want to do for success is win your division. We feel bad for the city of Buffalo. These fans have had to endure a 17-year deal, but we’re focused on being part of the solution with the whole organization to get it right.
MMQB: You know the NFL—this might be your only shot at being a head coach, Sean, and the same for you as GM, Brandon. It’s sort of serendipitous, the coach-GM pairings in this league sometimes. How do you feel about being tied at the hip?
Beane: That was part of the attraction of the job. There were a lot of attractions, but I don’t have to get to know the guy I am going to be working side by side with personally, away from the office. I already know that. I have that box checked. I know that this guy is going to have my back and he knows I am going to have his back. And that’s a huge thing in this business. We know how important it is to trust each other. It’s so funny when people ask, Who’s got control? Who has the 53-man roster? Honestly, we don’t care about it. We are going to make decisions together and we are going to talk about everything that affects the roster, the staff, and that is what’s exciting. You don’t get that everywhere. You read about dysfunction in various organizations and that is part of the reason I am here. I did not want to leave Carolina for something I was unsure of. This seemed like as sure a thing as there can be in the NFL, to partner up with Sean.
McDermott: Sometimes you get a chance and you have to take it. I wanted him to know that there is a soft landing on this side because of his familiarity with me. If we are tied at the hip, there is no one I would rather be tied at the hip with than Brandon.
At the end of our conversation, Beane wanted to be sure he credited the man he felt did the most for him to get to this point—former Carolina GM Marty Hurney. It’s a story lots of new college graduates this spring should hear.
Beane: I did a training camp internship [in media relations] in 1998 with the Panthers. It was a four-week deal. Towards the end of my internship I had spoken to people in football and said, My passion would be on the football side, football ops and scouting, and if anything comes open, let me know. I got a call from [media relations official] Bruce Speight saying they have an opening for the season, a football ops intern. I said, ‘I’m in.’ He said he didn’t know what it pays. And I said, ‘I don’t care.’ So I worked that year as a minimum-wage intern. My wife was teaching for about $22,000 a year. I think she looked at me sideways that I was going to go do this for intern pay, but it was for the love of the game. Marty was there that year, and he hired me full time in ’99. I was a sponge to him and I never wanted to let him down and the more I was around him, I just grew. Every year he gave me more rope, and more things to do. He taught me the cap. We did CBA stuff. He let me do behind the scenes scouting, watching tape, whether it was college or pro or free agents and just be another sounding board with him along the way. I wouldn’t be here without him.
Peter King, who usually loves all things Massachusetts:
I think the vacated conviction of Aaron Hernandez is a gross miscarriage of justice. I don’t care if it follows existing Massachusetts law. The law is idiotic and should be changed. Yesterday.
THIS AND THAT
Another arrest for LB Rolando McClain. Anna Beahm of the Decatur Daily with the tale that if you drive in Morgan County, Alabama with excessive window tint bad things happen
Former University of Alabama and NFL linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested in Hartselle today on equipment violations, and firearm and drug charges…according to the Hartselle Police Department.
Officers conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle for an alleged window tint violation on Chestnut Street near the U.S. 31 and Alabama 36 junction, Hartselle police spokesman Lt. Justin Barley said.
As the officer approached the vehicle, he smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle and conducted a search, Barley said. McClain was found with marijuana and also was carrying a firearm without a permit, Barley said.
The stop occurred between 1 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Friday, police said.
McClain, 27, was charged with second-degree possession of marijuana, carrying a firearm without a permit and a misdemeanor equipment violation. He was released from the Morgan County Jail on $2,000 bail, McClain’s lawyer, Carl Cole said.
A Decatur native, McClain was coming to town to visit with his family when he was pulled over, Cole said.
“He had just got off the interstate and was in Morgan County for less than three minutes (before he was pulled over),” Cole said. “He was pulled over for the window tint, which led to the other stuff. I hate to quote Nick Saban, but it is what it is.”
Cole said McClain has a compelling story to tell. He also said most people from the area recognize his truck when he comes into town.
Cole said the firearm McClain was carrying Friday was “just a run of the mill handgun” that was registered to McClain.
After McClain was released from jail Friday, he went to pick up his kids from school, Cole said. “That was his priority,” he said.
Cole noted the charges from Friday’s arrest are misdemeanors. “It was a small amount of marijuana and it was a misdemeanor,” Cole said. “He’ll have an appearance to make in July and hopefully we’ll handle it then.”
McClain, who starred in football and basketball at Decatur High, most recently played for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014-15.
He was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in December after missing the 2016 season. The Cowboys said he was suspended “without pay for violating the NFL policy and program for substances of abuse.”
McClain missed a test, which is considered a positive test by the NFL, and had appealed it. The league’s announcement meant the appeals process had been completed.
In this point-by-point verbal powerpoint, Peter King seems to be carrying a message from the camp of COLIN KAEPERNICK:
I think these are my reasons why Colin Kaepernick should sign with Seattle:
a. The backups to Russell Wilson are Trevone Boykin (who has been arrested twice this offseason), Jake Heaps, Skyler Howard and Michael Birdsong.
b. If you’ve watched the Seattle offensive line, you know that backup quarterback is one of the 12 most important spots on the 2017 Seahawks. Wilson was a punching bag last year.
c. Coach Pete Carroll leads the sports universe in free spirits/distractions on the roster.
d. GM John Schneider is open-minded enough to bring in the best players he can find and figure if they fit. Kaepernick is a perfect test case for this approach.
e. Owner Paul Allen—unlike most arch-conservative NFL owners—is not going to forbid Schneider from signing a player who knelt for the National Anthem last year, enraging some in football and some fans. He is more likely to ask this question: “Is having this guy on our bench worth the potential fan anger he might engender?”
f. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has taken an unconventional quarterback and reveled in coaching Russell Wilson. I don’t know if Kaepernick will be a good fit with Bevell. But it’s worth a look. Bevel and the coaches may determine that Kaepernick isn’t a good fit, either because he’d chafe being a clear and decisive backup to Wilson. But it’s pretty hard to discover that without investigating, and without bringing in Kaepernick, or at least spending time talking to him.
g. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You employ Kaepernick for 16 weeks (the time between today and final cuts) and you get a free look at a quarterback whose tools are unique, has 75 NFL starts, and is only 29.
h. Did I mention Boykin, Heaps, Howard and Birdsong?
i. There is not a quarterback on the Seattle roster other than Wilson who has started an NFL game. Total completions by all other QBs on the roster: 13.
j. The city’s not going to rebel. I know Seattle enough to know that.
k. I will give you a few more reasons Tuesday, in a column here at The MMQB. But I spent time speaking with the New York City man who has spent the past five months getting Kaepernick’s body and mind right for his next shot. If you read that column and don’t think that Kaepernick is worth at least a phone call or a visit to judge his fitness and readiness and eagerness to play, then we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. And I will have to question your open-mindedness.
2. I think, regarding Kaepernick, there’s a time when you have to think for yourself, rather than engage in group-think. And Seattle and Buffalo and Dallas and Indianapolis and the Chargers and the Rams, now’s that time.
If indeed King’s thesis is aligned with Kaepernick thinking, we see in Seattle and the other teams mentioned at the end a willingness to sign as a back-up.
Meanwhile, Jeffri Chadiha at NFL.com has his doubts about Kaep ever taking another snap:
It’s about time to start seriously wondering if we’ll ever see Colin Kaepernick playing in the NFL again.
The free agency signing period opened two months ago. The draft has come and gone. Even the possibility that a team could lose a compensatory pick by signing Kaepernick as a free agent has been dismissed — the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s restructured contract eliminated compensation from the equation — which means we’re running out of excuses to explain his unemployment today.
Kaepernick’s future has been a hot topic throughout the offseason. It’s about to become even more of a discussion, especially with the retirement of Jay Cutler making him the best available quarterback left on the free-agent market. This is no longer about teams trying to figure out their QB situations or whether Kaepernick is holding out for a chance to compete for a starting job. It’s about whether he remains too toxic for any franchise to take a chance on him this fall.
Think about it. Matt Barkley signed a two-year deal with the 49ers in March and he threw 10 more interceptions than Kaepernick last season while appearing in five fewer games. Blaine Gabbert also just landed a one-year contract as a backup in Arizona after being benched in favor of Kaepernick in San Francisco last season. The Chicago Bears used the second overall pick on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but they also gave Mike Glennon — a player whose teams won five of the 18 games he started in Tampa Bay — a three-year, $45 million deal earlier this spring.
Given that these middling talents have been finding work since the offseason began, Kaepernick better start worrying about where this all might lead.
Kaepernick had to know his decision to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem would create some kind of blowback. What we’re witnessing these days is how brutal it could become for him. The talk of franchises avoiding Kaepernick because of his baggage — reported by Bleacher Report in March — seems more valid the longer this goes on.
There have been no visits or meetings arranged for Kaepernick and his high asking price apparently scared off one team that viewed him as a backup option. The only person to say Kaepernick has generated any other interest is Dr. Harry Edwards, a Professor Emeritus at Cal-Berkeley who has advised Kaepernick in the past and recently told USA Today three teams have asked him about Kaepernick since March. As one 49ers front office member said, “Anyone who thinks [Kaepernick’s] stance doesn’t factor into this has never had a talk with one of these general managers or head coaches.”
“Kaepernick is more talented than [Barkley, Glennon and Gabbert],” one AFC personnel director told me. “The issue is that this crosses over into social issues. I would hope that some coach or some owner would get back to their respective professions and field the best team that helps them win football games.”
The idea that talent would eventually win the day used to be the primary belief for those who remained optimistic that Kaepernick wouldn’t be a casualty of his own politics. The problem is that his options become less promising the deeper we move into the offseason. Kaepernick already has taken his own steps to allay some fears, both by hiring new agents and making it publicly known that he won’t be kneeling during the anthem anymore. He also has no criminal history, no drug problems and the 49ers awarded him the Len Eshmont Award last season, which is given to the player who best exemplifies “inspirational and courageous play.”
None of those factors have helped him land a job. Sure, the man has obvious flaws — including accuracy problems and overall consistency — but Denver Broncos general manager John Elway also saw enough potential to consider trading for Kaepernick last offseason (a deal that never materialized, largely because Kaepernick was reluctant to take a pay cut). That’s why it’s starting to feel as if Kaepernick might end up like Josh Freeman, the 17th overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. Freeman went from being the franchise quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to being a player who got so sideways with former head coach Greg Schiano that Schiano waived him four games into the 2013 season.
Freeman has played two games in the NFL since that time. There were rumors about drug problems — which Freeman vehemently denied — but the real issue was perception. Somehow Freeman became known as a quarterback who simply wasn’t worth the investment. Just like that, he went from being a rising star with an exciting future to being a player who signed with the Brooklyn Bolts of the Fall Experimental Football League in 2015.
Like Kaepernick, Freeman is still only 29, blessed with plenty of physical ability and the possessor of some impressive feats in the NFL (Freeman still holds 12 Bucs franchise records). He continues to work out in hopes of getting another shot.
“It’s the business side of football,” said Ron Freeman, who is both an agent and Freeman’s father. “You’d like to think talent is the key to getting on the field, but that isn’t always the case … In some ways, you are flying in the dark. You don’t know what teams are thinking. And you’re seeing other guys getting signed and you don’t know why they’re getting those shots.”
Kaepernick’s best opportunity for employment might be one that is similar to what Freeman experienced. It was in Dec. 29, 2015 that the Indianapolis Colts signed Freeman after a series of injuries plagued their quarterback position. Freeman wound up playing against the Tennessee Titans six days later and helped lead the Colts to a season-ending win. Indianapolis then released him two months later before signing former Green Bay Packer Scott Tolzien to back up Andrew Luck.
The point here is that it’s not that difficult to wind up in a place where somebody like Scott Tolzien can be considered more attractive to a franchise than somebody who has actually done something in the NFL. It’s starting to feel very much like Kaepernick is heading directly for that type of existence. Anybody with reliable eyesight can see that he still has ability (and a Super Bowl appearance, as well). The bigger question is whether he can find somebody who will believe that honing that talent makes him worthy of a commitment.
It’s hard to believe that’s going to happen anytime soon, even with a handful of teams still trying to make sense of their quarterback situations. In fact, the last big-name quarterback who found himself in this position and turned things around was a guy named Michael Vick. He went to federal prison in 2007 for his role in a dog-fighting ring and returned to the NFL in 2009, solely because then-Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid was willing to give him a shot.
Vick made the most of that opportunity — he refined his game and became the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 — but what’s easy to forget is that he started off as the Eagles’ third-string quarterback. He became a harder worker, a humbler teammate and his skill set evolved as the uproar surrounding him diminished. Vick certainly can relate to Kaepernick’s situation on many levels. However, Vick told me in a conversation this week that he was still playing at a high level when he went to jail while Kaepernick’s decline in productivity has hurt his stock.
The reality Kaepernick is facing is one Vick had to accept: If he wants to continue his career, he’ll likely have to take an opportunity that may not be that appealing and make the most of it.
“I think he’ll get another shot, but it might not happen until after September or when somebody gets hurt,” Vick said. “Nobody has forgotten about Colin Kaepernick. They’ve just moved on.”
Vick also raised another important point when he said what Kaepernick did “wasn’t that big of a deal.”
Kaepernick spoke his mind, tried to use his platform to help others and there are plenty of other players who have jobs today after doing the same things. He knew there would be a heavy price to pay for those choices last fall, primarily because he was the first to start that movement.
Now we’re all learning how steep that cost could be, as Kaepernick waits to see what he’ll be doing come September.
It’s been a long time since a woman called play-by-play for an NFL game. Richard Dietsch of Sports Illustrated:
The last woman to call play by play for an NFL regular season game was Gayle Sierens, who retired in 2015 after a long career as a news anchor in Tampa, Fla. For those too young to remember, Sierens was assigned by NBC Sports to call the Seahawks-Chiefs game on Dec. 27, 1987, a game played on the final week of the regular season that year. Following that broadcast and good reviews, then-NBC Sports executive producer Mike Weisman offered Sierens six more games for the following season. But Sierens’ local NBC station did not want her to call more games and miss work. So Sierens never called another NFL game.
You are now officially updated on all the women who have served as game-callers for an NFL regular season game.
That is about to change, according to multiple sources. ESPN broadcaster Beth Mowins will be given the play by play assignment for the Sept. 11 game between Chargers and Broncos in Denver, the late game of the Monday Night Football opening week doubleheader. Former Bills and Jets head coach Rex Ryan is likely to be her game analyst. Ryan was hired by ESPN in April and the Monday Night Football assignment would be his debut as an NFL color commentator. Mowins and Ryan called the Florida State spring game together last April.
For the past two seasons Mowins has called the Raiders’ exhibition games in addition to her college football schedule. This gives her a ton more full-time NFL game-calling experience than two broadcasters ESPN previously assigned to call the back end of the MNF doubleheader: Mike Greenberg and Chris Berman.
“Beth Mowins has excelled as play by play announcer for the Raiders’ preseason football, demonstrating unmatched professionalism, work ethic and passion for her craft,” said Vittorio De Bartolo, the executive producer of broadcasting for the Oakland Raiders and the team official who recruited Mowins for the Oakland broadcasting job. “As executive producer I appreciated Beth’s enthusiasm for studying and preparing for each game. She took advantage of every opportunity during training camp to watch practice and chat with Raiders players, coaches and personnel in the days leading up to kickoff, all of which helped make for a better Raiders Preseason broadcast.” It’s no coincidence that in her first year as play by play announcer in 2015, the Raiders’ preseason football broadcast received a Northern California Area Emmy nomination. “I am more than confident Beth can call an NFL game for a national audience. Her resume and body of work speaks for itself in addition to the seamless transition she made from the college game to the NFL game.”
Last November, during a symposium on the future of sports television at the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, NFL Network correspondent Andrea Kremer, who was one of the panelists and a former ESPN employee, asked ESPN president John Skipper why a women had not cracked the glass ceiling of calling NFL play-by-play.
“I think we will get there,” said Skipper. “We are committed to it. Look, we have women calling NBA games, we have women calling college football games, and we look for opportunities to put women in the booth. . . There is no reason not to do it now. It is one of things where people are making progress and that would be seen as there is no limit.”
That seemed to indicate ESPN would finally walk the walk on such talk. To its credit ESPN is the only sports network/division among those that air NFL games (CBS, Fox, NFL Network, NBC, and ESPN) showing any full-time commitment to assigning women to on-air positions for men’s sports. Doris Burke, Kara Lawson, Jessica Mendoza and Mowins are the most prominent of that group. That CBS and Fox have multiple NFL teams, and the fact that we’ve never seen a woman get any kind of shot in the booth tells you something.
There will be those who consider the Mowins assignment a stunt. They will be wrong. This is an easy prediction: She will call a quality game.
“Beth will show up and do a game and do as good a job as any of the men,” NBC Sports announcer Mike Tirico said on the SI Media Podcast last January, predicting she would get an NFL game assignment in the future. “She is a ceiling-breaker, a pioneer and there will be more women [calling the NFL] going forward.”
Former NFL scout Greg Gabriel tries to put some breaks on the JOSH ALLEN hype express.
Over the past six months, there has been much written about Wyoming junior Josh Allen being the next great quarterback to enter the NFL. Some are saying that he could be the best since Andrew Luck. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying the hype, it’s more myth than fact. Should Allen choose to enter the NFL Draft following the 2017 season, he will be a very good quarterback prospect, but hardly the best since Luck!
First, let’s take a look at Allen’s history. He played his high school football at Firebaugh High School in California and was not highly recruited. Because of that he enrolled at a two-year school (Reedley College) in the hopes of improving his game. At Reedley he led an offense that put up a total of 452 yards a game and threw 26 touchdowns, but he still wasn’t recruited by any FBS-level schools. In fact, after that one season at Reedley, he had offers from only two FBS schools (Wyoming and Eastern Michigan).
Allen accepted the offer from Wyoming and enrolled in the spring semester of 2015. Going into the 2015 season, he was not listed as the starter and only got a few snaps in that opening game. He was given the start the following week but didn’t make it out of the first quarter, as he suffered a fractured collarbone and missed the rest of the season.
He became the starter for the 2016 season and put up good but not great numbers. For the season, Allen completed 209 of 373 throws for 3203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He completed only 56 percent of his attempts — which is poor for the style of offense he plays in and against a lower level of FBS competition.
What also jumps out is that he lost four of the last five games he played and played his worst against the best competition. In game two versus Nebraska, he threw five interceptions and against BYU and San Diego State, he threw two each.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to like about Allen. He has excellent size at about 6-5, 225 —and has the frame to carry 230+. He is a very good athlete with quick feet, speed and change of direction. I would estimate he will run the 40 in the high 4.6’s. He also can throw the ball very well when on the run. Allen is a bit of a rhythm thrower who can get hot and complete everything.
Allen has excellent arm strength and a very quick delivery. He also gets good velocity on his throws and can easily throw the ball 55-60 yards in the air. While he shows he can make all the required NFL-type throws, he also has some bad habits.
Too often, Allen doesn’t set his feet before he throws. That causes the ball to sail on him. While he makes some great throws, he also can be way off with his accuracy and ball placement. Much of the time this has to do with his footwork. He also has a tendency to trust his arm too much and force some throws. When that happens, the results usually aren’t good. With four of the five interceptions he threw against Nebraska, Allen was at fault for the turnover. At this time he is not a great decision-maker on the field.
I like the poise and demeanor Allen shows on the field. He has control of the offense and is in charge. Teammates look up to him and respect his talent. At the quarterback position that is extremely important.
Because Allen sustained his shoulder injury in game two of the 2015 season, he still has two years of eligibility left. That said, he will most likely enter the Draft next year, as he almost entered the 2017 Draft.
If Allen wants to be a top 5 or top 10 type pick, he has to improve his overall game by developing his footwork and accuracy and decision-making. It’s a fact that quarterbacks who have accuracy problems in college don’t become accurate as NFL passers. Because of his lack of college experience, he is still a work in progress. Yes, there is loads of talent to work with, but that talent needs to be refined. It’s up to him to make those improvements in his game.
If Allen is NOT the best QB prospect since Luck as Gabriel says – the DB wonders who is/was? Here are the QBs drafted in the first round since 2012 when Luck went first overall:
2017 1-2 Mitchell Trubisky North Carolina/Chicago Bears
2017 1-10 Patrick Mahomes II Texas Tech/Kansas City Chiefs
2017 1-12 Deshaun Watson Clemson/Houston Texans
2016 1-1 Jared Goff California/Los Angeles Rams
2016 1-2 Carson Wentz North Dakota State/Philadelphia Eagles
2016 1-26 Paxton Lynch Memphis/Denver Broncos
2015 1-1 Jameis Winston Florida State/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 1-2 Marcus Mariota Oregon/Tennessee Titans
2014 1-3 Blake Bortles UCF/Jacksonville Jaguars
2014 1-22 Johnny Manziel Texas A&M/Cleveland Browns
2014 1-32 Teddy Bridgewater Louisville/Minnesota Vikings
2013 1-16 EJ Manuel Florida State/Buffalo Bills
The best prospect since Luck was/is probably Winston, but he had character concerns.
Mariota had questions about whether or not he was a true NFL QB.
Neither of the QBs taken 1-2 in ’16, nor Trubisky, were thought to be in Winston’s league in terms of talent and all three had questions (Goff in general, Wentz in terms of college competition and Trubisky lack of college experience).
So the DB would say, if a clean prospect further emerges this year, he or they will be the best since Luck – and it still could be Allen with a strong 2017.