The Daily Briefing Thursday, August 3, 2017

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com grills Bears GM Ryan Pace on moving up one spot to draft QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY:

 

Ryan Pace knows how stunned you were. And the Bears GM is aware of how Chicago fans reacted to his trade of third-round and fourth-round picks to move up one spot and draft North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, seven weeks after he signed 27-year-old ex-Buccaneer QB Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal.

 

It’s OK. He gets how you might feel, and he’ll even concede he feels a little differently about it now than he did in April.

 

 “I was just thinking about that. In fact, it actually just feels better now,” Pace said, sitting in the atrium of the athletic building at Olivet Nazarene, where the Bears hold training camp. “I go to bed at night with a smile on my face. I just feel better. We all do. I think every thought we had, we’re seeing it now. The good thing, let’s face it, that can be tough for those guys. But they’ve all handled it awesome. And that’s really good to see.”

 

What are we seeing? Well, this isn’t just about the Bears. It’s about the Eagles too, and a trend that may well take off in the years to come among teams that are wandering around in the wilderness looking for their next franchise quarterback.

– – –

In a roundabout way, Wentz—and more specifically the way Philly acquired him—became a Bears story this offseason, Or, at least, that should’ve been the story once people got past the initial shock of Pace and his group moving aggressively for a rookie quarterback soon after handsomely rewarding a veteran at the position.

 

You may have forgotten, but the Eagles signed Sam Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal and Chase Daniel to a three-year, $21 million deal last March before trading up twice in the first round to land Wentz. A year later, Wentz is the only one left. And if he’s what Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson think he is, no one will remember the rest.

 

Pace has proof, too. “I grew up in Dallas, and when they acquired (Troy) Aikman, they also brought in Steve Walsh.” The Cowboys got Walsh, as no one remembers, with a first-rounder in the 1989 supplemental draft. That wound up costing Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones the first pick in the 1990 draft. Aikman won three Super Bowls, made the Hall of Fame, and Dallas hasn’t heard much about Walsh or the forfeited pick since.

 

The point? If an over-the-top investment solves a team’s quarterback problem, no one will ask if it was worth it.  There’s no price too high for that.

 

“For us, it went back to that original thought—it’s just too important a position to mess around with,” Pace says now. “And god, if we’re able to create a scenario—and we always say ‘competition everywhere’, but this is bigger—where it works out where we have two good quarterbacks, that’s a great thing, coming off a situation where we really wanted to upgrade that position.

 

“And then as you start talking about it, we have an environment where we can handle it the right way, you don’t have to throw this guy out there right away.”

 

That brings us to where the Bears quarterbacks are now. On most days, they’ll split the reps up 4-4-4, Glennon with the 1s, Mark Sanchez with the 2s, and Trubisky with the 3s. On Wednesday, for the first time, Trubisky took some snaps with the 2s. The idea here is entrench Glennon with the starters, and pace the development of Trubisky, who literally needed to learn to take a snap and call a play in the huddle.

 

But if it sounds like all of this worked out as Pace and Co. saw it back in January, as the Bears prepared to cut ties with Jay Cutler, that wouldn’t be quite right either.

 

Glennon was a target from the start. Pace had a high grade on him before the 2013 draft, and got to see him play for two years while working for the Bucs’ NFC South rivals in New Orleans. The Bears saw Glennon as a starting-quality quarterback who just needed a chance to play. Chicago would give it to him on a contract that would allow the club to bail after a year if the match didn’t work.

 

Meanwhile, Pace knew his own feelings on Trubisky—after the fall, Pace felt like the first-year UNC starter was the best prospect in the class—but guarded them. Then, his colleague’s evaluations started pouring in.

 

“The area scout, the over-the-top scout, the director of player personnel, the college director—it was unanimous that he was the No. 1 quarterback in this year’s class,” Pace said. “And then to sit back quietly, and see our coaches come to the same conclusion, it gives you conviction. Because now, without me making them biased, and everyone on board like that, we can be aggressive and just go get it done.”

 

And part of his decision to be aggressive was, indeed, inspired by Philly.

 

“We liked Wentz too and to see a team aggressively go do that at a position of need? Hell yeah,” Pace said.” You’ve heard stories of ‘God, there’s a player right in front of them, and they don’t do it, and he goes and it deflates the room.’ I was in New Orleans when we traded up for Brandin Cooks, and last year when we traded up a couple spots for Leonard Floyd. If the room has conviction on a player, go get him.”

 

Another thing played into it, too. A couple days before the draft, the Bears started getting calls about their pick. They knew they were at the mercy of the Browns, who they worried would take Trubisky at 1, and they were confident the Niners wouldn’t take a quarterback at 2. But, Pace says, “people are calling, wanting to come up to our spot, and we had a pretty good idea of who it was for. So if they’re calling us …”

 

He figured they were calling the Niners, too, and that was enough to push him to fork over the two mid-round picks to move up one spot. He recovered one by moving back in the second round, and the truth is that if Trubisky is who Pace believes he can become, none of it will matter.

 

Pace saw Drew Brees up close for nine seasons in New Orleans. Pace told me that it taught him, first, to value traits like accuracy, an ability to process, and work ethic over arm strength and size. And it also drove home to him how much it means to have an elite quarterback.

 

“You could call them erasers, these top quarterbacks in the league that can erase flaws on your roster, make people around them better,” Pace said. “I feel like when you don’t have a quarterback, you almost have to be perfect in every personnel decision you make. When you have a quarterback, he can raise boats, there’s a little bit more margin for error.

 

“So now to look at the room, to have Mike Glennon, a guy we’ve liked since he came out of N.C. State, and to see him in a starting opportunity is awesome. And then go to Sanchez, a guy that we’ve always valued and I think he’s perfect in this role. And to get the top quarterback in the draft, what the quarterback room of the Chicago Bears looks like now compared to what it looked like not very long ago, it’s exciting.”

 

Time will tell if he’s right about Glennon. We probably won’t know for a couple years what the Bears have in Trubisky.

 

But the truth is, for how the Bears were criticized, and the Eagles took some heat last year, a trend rooted in common sense may well be emerging. Would anyone argue there’s a price too high to get it right at quarterback?

 

“I do think it could easily become a trend,” Pace said. “It’s just too important of a position, and you can increase your odds of success doing it this way.”

 

Hard to argue with that.

 

 

MINNESOTA

The DB thinks it sounds like RB DALVIN COOK will give the Vikings more in 2017 than they could have hoped for from ADRIAN PETERSON.  Cody Benjamin of CBSSports.com:

 

Cook sure looks like the real deal

Walkthrough lineups had Cook, Minnesota’s second-round pick out of Florida State, commanding all but a few looks as the team’s starting back, and that trend continued later, when he was regularly positioned behind Bradford in full pads. In between a playful pat on his own back, Jerick McKinnon acknowledged everybody has “seen what (Cook) can do” with the ball on his hands.

 

But all the good talk about the rookie isn’t even as impressive as Cook himself. The first-year back passes the eye test with flying colors. Every ounce of his listed 5-foot-11, 213-pound frame is rock solid, and he moves like someone a whole lot lighter. There’s a lot to be proven yet, of course, but Cook at least gives the impression that Minnesota isn’t even fretting Latavius Murray’s absence.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Former NFL GM Jeff Diamond, writing in The Sporting News, wouldn’t want WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. on his team.

 

The list of ridiculous Odell Beckham Jr. statements and actions continues to grow. The latest is his proclamation that he should be the NFL’s highest-paid player regardless of position.

 

Hey, OBJ, have you ever heard of a position called quarterback?

 

There’s a pattern here. This is a guy who is clearly more interested in being a celebrity than a great football player.

 

I think it’s great when players are confident, and during my NFL management career, I worked with a lot of star players who had big personalities. Guys like Vikings Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Cris Carter talked a lot and were supremely confident, but they were team players and leaders.

 

Beckham goes beyond being self-assured to the persona of a cocky, obnoxious egomaniac. His pompous and spoiled act has to be wearing thin with the Giants execs and coaches. His teammates who are leaders, like Eli Manning and Landon Collins, have to roll their eyes and question Beckham’s level of commitment.

 

Prior to the absurd comment about his pay, Beckham made news by skipping Giants OTAs to supposedly make a stand on his contract demands. Then there was his infamous South Beach excursion to party the week before his dreadful performance in January’s playoff loss in Green Bay. For those who were keeping track — and that surely includes Giants brass, coach Ben McAdoo, Manning, the New York media and the Giants’ fan base — the tally was four catches for 28 yards, two drops and one Lambeau Field wall punch.

 

The selfish fighting with Josh Norman in a Giants-Panthers game a couple of years ago. The showing up on TV entertainment shows in an attempt to make himself more than just another NFL star.

 

If I’m Giants owner John Mara or general manager Jerry Reese, I’m thinking long and hard about paying Beckham top receiver money and giving him a long-term extension in the $18 million-per-year range (with an estimated $50 million guaranteed) until I see some behavioral change on and off the field.

 

Everyone knows Beckham is a supremely talented, three-time Pro Bowl player. He has recorded 288 catches, over 4,000 receiving yards and 35 touchdowns in his three-year career. It’s a mild concern that his yards per catch dropped from 15.1 to 13.5 last year while his touchdown receptions also fell from 13 to 10, but his overall receptions number rose from 96 to 101.

 

As a former GM who currently consults for an NFL agent group, I’m concerned about Beckham’s focus and his diva-like behavior off the field. I also have a major concern that involves this question: Have we ever heard Beckham talk about the team or team goals, such as winning a Super Bowl?

 

I haven’t. It’s always me-me-me with him. Look at me. Listen to me.

 

Memo to OBJ: Football is a team sport.

 

If I were Beckham’s agent, we would have a serious chat about the damage he is doing to his potential future salary with the Giants (and possibly other teams at some point when he wears out his welcome with Big Blue). I’d advise Beckham that owners and GMs want their star players to be team-focused leaders. I do not see that in Beckham, who is just 24, but age is no excuse. I’ve seen plenty of young guys take on leadership roles and show a lot more maturity.

 

It’s unfortunate that poor behavior sometimes gets rewarded with more attention and even big endorsements. That’s the case for Beckham, who received the biggest shoe deal ever for an NFL player with his 5-year, $25 million deal from Nike. The deal reinforced in his mind that he’s doing the right things to boost his Q score for advertisers and gain the spotlight he craves.

 

Ultimately, Beckham has to ask the man in the mirror if he is doing everything he can to be the best player and best person he can be. When he decides to change his M.O., that’s when I’ll see a man who has finally matured and is no longer interested in being fodder for the New York tabloids.

 

Somebody needs to quote Hall of Fame Coach Tony Dungy’s great line to Beckham: “Never do anything to put yourself or the organization in a bad light.” And I’d add what I always told our players during my team president years when I spoke to them at the opening meeting of training camp: “Always act like a professional on and off the field.”

 

Oh, and about that highest-paid player in the game thing. Of course that will never happen in a quarterback-driven league, where the top 15-20 richest players are the guys under center. But Beckham might want to start by being the NFL’s best wide receiver, which he currently is not. That distinction belongs to Julio Jones and/or Antonio Brown.

 

The last time we saw Jones, he was making a circus sideline catch in the Super Bowl after torching the Packers for 180 yards and two TDs in the NFC title game.

 

Compare that to Beckham’s last game, also against Green Bay. It proves OBJ has a ways to go — on and off the field.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Former Rams T TYRUNN WALKER skates on a Louisiana sexual assault charge, but it will be curious if NFL Justice and the 32 member clubs let him back in the fold.  Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

A Louisiana grand jury has decided not to indict former Rams defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker after Walker was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in New Orleans earlier this year.

 

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the grand jury returned with what’s known as “no true bill” after hearing evidence about the matter. The decision means they found that evidence insufficient for Walker to be indicted.

 

Walker was released by the Rams in June just before news of the investigation into the allegations made against Walker became public. Rapoport reports that NFL teams have been informed of the grand jury’s decision as Walker tries to find a place to play during the 2017 season.

 

Walker spent the last two seasons with the Lions and had 26 tackles in 15 appearances for Detroit last season. He signed with the Rams as a free agent in March.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers take a blow with an injury to a prized member of their rookie class, G FORREST LAMP.  Marc Sessler at NFL.com:

 

Disaster has struck the Los Angeles Chargers.

 

The team announced that rookie guard Forrest Lamp has been diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee. The second-rounder was carted off the field during Wednesday’s practice and will miss the entire season.

 

It’s a brutal blow for the Bolts, who have no idea when first-round wideout Mike Williams will return from a back injury that has nagged him all offseason. Considering how deep Los Angeles is at receiver, Lamp’s loss is arguably the bigger setback here in August.

 

The Chargers have struggled for years to solidify their line in front of quarterback Philip Rivers. Lamp was already looking the part in camp.

 

“Everybody makes a big deal about (Rivers’) interception total last year,” said NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah. “I think a lot of that, you can point toward their inability to run the ball — a little bit of that’s on the offensive line — and protect him.

 

“Forrest Lamp, to me, I thought was the best interior lineman in the draft,” Jeremiah said. “If you’re looking for a silver lining, I guess the second-best interior lineman in the draft, Dan Feeney — also drafted by the Chargers.”

 

Feeney, the team’s third-round selection, has worked at center during camp, but could be asked to move to guard to help Los Angeles mask this loss. Kenny Wiggins and Chris Hairston also loom as possibiities, while Matt Slauson could flip over to the right side.

 

Make no mistake: The Chargers, almost religiously, have been one of the league’s most injury-battered clubs in recent seasons. Nothing has changed in 2017.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Much to ESPN’s dismay, owner Steve Bisciotti may or may not be struggling with whether or not it is a good idea to bring in an ardent Social Justice Warrior to compete for a quarterback spot in a metro area already torn by a racial divide.  Edward Lee on the scene with the Baltimore Sun:

 

The Ravens are disputing an ESPN report that owner Steve Bisciotti is resisting signing free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick despite a preference from general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh to do so.

 

“We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision,” Newsome said Wednesday afternoon in a statement. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.”

 

The report, which surfaced during Wednesday morning’s practice, cited sources who said that Newsome and Harbaugh support adding Kaepernick to the roster. That same report said they have “met resistance” from Bisciotti, who said on Sunday during a fan forum with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that the club was “keeping our door open.”

 

@diannaESPN

Ravens HC John Harbaugh & GM Ozzie Newsome support signing Colin Kaepernick, but have met resistance from owner Steve Bisciotti per sources

 

At the fan forum before the Ravens’ open practice Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium, team officials acknowledged they have had direct discussions with Kaepnerick, but they still haven’t made a decision whether they will sign him or not.

 

 “I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what is best for our fans,” Bisciotti said in response to a question from a fan about how signing Kaepernick could “damage your brand.”

 

“We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help us do that,” Bisciotti said of Kaepernick. “We’re monitoring Joe, we’ve talked to Joe about it. We’re monitoring Mallett, we’re keeping our door open.”

 

After Wednesday’s practice, Harbaugh said he had no new information on the Kaepernick front.

 

“I do not have an update on Colin Kaepernick or our quarterback situation,” he said. “I’ll frame that this way: there are other positions we’re looking at and I don’t have any updates on those either. I think they’re all in the same category.”

 

It has been almost a week since Harbaugh said the Ravens were contemplating adding the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who chose not to stand for the national anthem last season to spotlight racial inequality in the United States and was heavily criticized in some circles for that stance.

 

Kaepernick, who is 3-16 as a starter in the past two years, has been a free agent since March 1 when he opted out of his contract with the 49ers.

 

Tight end Benjamin Watson said Kaepernick would be accepted in the locker room if the club thought he could help the team succeed.

 

“It’s about, can you help us win games? And that’s it,” Watson said. “Inside of our locker room, we have guys who have all types of political stances, religious stances, people that are from the country, the city, people that are different ethnicities, and we respect each other.

 

“We get along and come in here and try to put a good product on the field and try to win games, and that is what’s respected in our locker room.”

 

Ravens starter Joe Flacco has been sidelined throughout training camp by a back injury. Backup Ryan Mallett has labored so far, and Dustin Vaughan, who is with his fourth team in as many years, and Josh Woodrum, who replaced David Olson on Monday, are the other quarterbacks.

 

Harbaugh said Flacco, who sat out the final six games of the 2015 campaign because of a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, is progressing well in his recovery.

 

“You can’t really say exactly when or when we might decide,” he said. “But all indications from Joe and from our trainer Mark Smith have been very positive.”

 

Bill Williamson of FanRagSports.com is watching the hemming-and-hawing, and says taking the temperature of the sponsors is not the way to do it.  No prepared battlefield, just sign him out of the blue.

 

Here’s some free advice to any NFL team that is considering signing Colin Kaepernick: Do it with some discretion.

 

An ugly sidebar to the long Kaepernick saga – in which teams have been reluctant to sign the capable backup after he sat or took a knee during the national anthem last season with the San Francisco 49ers – is how potential teams are expressing their interest.

 

The Baltimore Ravens made morons of themselves this week in their handling of this white-hot topic. Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble five years ago was more elegant than the way Baltimore has handled the situation. It comes a few months after the Seattle Seahawks burned themselves with a brief Kaepernick flirtation.

 

The Ravens’ foray into the Kaepernick saga was innocent enough, and the team deserves credit for being forthright in the beginning, but it quickly went south.

 

After coach John Harbaugh said he had been keeping in touch with Kaepernick and that signing him was a possibility, the Ravens signed a minor league quarterback with little college experience. That caused a storm. The Ravens, though, stated that signing Kaepernick was still a possibility, keeping the story alive. When training camp started, Kaepernick — who started most of last season — was still on the street. Any Kaepernick movement is going to be followed closely.

 

Then, the Ravens started to take the temperature of their fan base. Owner Steve Bisciotti brought up prayer and got former linebacker Ray Lewis involved, which is always a “splendid” idea. Wednesday, ESPN reported that Bisciotti was resisting general manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh on the idea of signing Kaepernick.

 

Thus, ownership entered this story. It has been widely assumed NFL owners are keeping Kaepernick out because he may alienate a part of the fan base which might be turned off by Kaepernick’s protest. Months ago, New York Giants owner John Mara admitted that fan disapproval was a reason why he wouldn’t consider signing Kaepernick.

 

In a defiant response to the ESPN report, Newsome sent out this statement Wednesday:

 

“We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision,” the statement said. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.”

 

What a mess.

 

The Ravens have let a player who is not on their roster dominate their week and be a distraction for the players who are actually on their roster. This is not Kaepernick’s fault, of course — it’s the Ravens’ fault.

 

The Ravens probably were feeling pretty good about themselves, showing how progressive they are, by not running away from the Kaepernick talk. Now, the Kaepernick machine has swallowed the Ravens and spat them out.

 

Baltimore isn’t the first team to get bitten by the Kaepernick bug. Months ago, the Seattle Seahawks had Kaepernick come in for a visit.

 

The Seahawks were lauded in some circles for having the guts to consider Kaepernick enough to bring him into their building. Pete Carroll and crew were celebrated for their forward thinking. However, in the end, the Seahawks signed Austin Davis, who has nowhere near the resume Kaepernick has.

 

Carroll explained in early June that Kaepernick is “a starter in this league,” claiming that the Seahawks weren’t trying to bring in someone to compete for Russell Wilson’s job. Davis represented a cheaper, low-depth-chart backup.

 

Whether or not anyone bought that line (and many didn’t), the issue remained both unresolved and unsatisfying in a larger context.

 

Predictably, the Seahawks were chastised for the Kaepernick dance. Privately, the Seahawks had to feel victimized. They tried to do a good thing and ended up looking like bad guys.

 

These Kaepernick misadventures by Baltimore and Seattle must serve as a lesson to any team that may sign Kaepernick — that includes the Ravens and the Seahawks. If a team wants to sign Kaepernick, they need to quietly go about their business and announce it just like any other personnel move.

 

Dog-and-pony shows don’t work here.

 

If a team has the stones to sign Kaepernick, it needs to have the stones to deal with any blowback (and there will be plenty) after it signs him. The Ravens and Seahawks have shown us how not to handle a potential Kaepernick marriage. It isn’t very impressive.

 

The “experts” at Shutdown Corner explore whether the wishes of fans and sponsors should be considered when a controversial player might be signed.

 

Question 1: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made headlines this week when he indicated he’d be consulting with fans about whether to sign free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Should an owner or general manager ever seek the input of fans on personnel decisions?

 

Zach Pereles:

No. Never. There’s a reason for GMs, coaches, scouts and players, right? That’s who you consult. Owners don’t ask the public for their opinions on football decisions, just like GMs don’t ask for help on trades, free agents or draft picks, coaches don’t ask for help with depth charts or play-calling. There are people in place for this, and those people are not the general public.

 

Jordan Schultz:

Yes. There is no downside and all upside to affording fans the opportunity to assume the role of GM for a day. Besides, not like there is an obligation to actually listening to the advice. NFL front office jobs—like the NBA—are the ultimate high for fans. Seriously, what fan doesn’t believe he/she can’t step into their favorite team’s building today and start orchestrating a roster?

 

Realistically, however, the reason these jobs are so hard to come by is because they are that hard to do. The NFL specifically, is a salary-driven league. By opening up a public forum for people to weigh in on which free agent to pursue and sign, teams are allowing their fans into the one place they never get to go. Practices, games, even film sessions thanks to shows like “Hard Knocks” and “All or Nothing”—we’re used to seeing those kind of things. Solicit the advice of your fans and who knows, maybe it will come to something. Worst case scenario though? Your fans are happier with you than they were yesterday. And in this business, that’s always a good thing.

 

Frank Schwab:

No. No, no, no, no. Never. Don’t even think about it. Did I say no? This is one of the worst ideas imaginable. People think they can be general managers because they beat their college buddies in a fantasy league, but scouting players a hard, intensive process. And crowdsourcing moves to gauge fans’ feelings on morality and politics … I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Make a decision. Live with the consequences and the feedback. You can’t please everyone and you’re an absolute fool if you think it’s smart to check the opinion of millions of fans before signing or drafting someone.

 

Jay Busbee:

Think of the most ridiculous, absurd, nonsensical idea you can imagine—the earth is flat, a hot dog is a sandwich, the greatest album ever recorded is anything other than “Appetite for Destruction”—and then realize that probably a third of your fellow Americans believe that lunacy with all their hearts. Look, I love every one of you reading this, but a good chunk of y’all are flat-out crazy. (Not you. I’m talking about other readers.) A decent chunk of Americans can’t be trusted to turn off the TV when [insert your least-favorite TV show here] comes on, and we’re talking about trusting them with a decision on a football team? Nnnnnope.

 

In all seriousness, what Bisciotti is doing is just giving himself cover. He knows that a huge chunk of very loud fans will say what he wants to hear, whether it’s in favor of or against signing Kaepernick, and he can just point to that particular noisy chunk to dodge the heat for making the hard decisions on his own. Don’t want to sign Kaepernick? Fine. Stand up and say so yourself, don’t throw the fans out there as cannon fodder to avoid the blowblack.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

QB RYAN TANNEHILL limps out of practice.  Will Brinson of CBSSports.com:

 

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill left Thursday’s training camp practice with what appears to be an injury to his left leg. Tannehill suffered the injury on a non-contact play while scrambling out of the pocket.

 

@JamesWalkerNFL

Dolphins Ryan Tannehill went down after scrambling to the sidelines. He fell awkwardly on what could be his left leg, where he has a brace.

 

The Dolphins are pinning their hopes on Tannehill in 2017, so this obviously isn’t great news. The Dolphins lost Tannehill late last year against the Cardinals in what was originally believed to be a serious knee injury but did not require surgery and instead chose to wear a brace on the knee. Yes, the left knee, the same one that the Dolphins quarterback apparently injured in training camp on Thursday.

 

Naturally people immediately began clamoring for Colin Kaepernick.

 

@tkorunwfts

#Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill suffers non-contact injury. Is it that knee he injured in 2016? If so, guess who’s out there? Kaepernick. #nfl

 

@heathcummingssr

Career

Tannehill 62.7 CMP% 4.0% TD 2.5% INT 7.0 Y/A 6.7 A/YA 86.5 RAT

Kaepernick 59.8 CMP% 4.3% TD 1.8% INT 7.3 Y/A 7.3 A/YA 88.9 RAT

 

@DonteStallworth

Herm Edwards discussing injury to Tannehill: “It is almost an embarrassment to the league” that Kaepernick is not on an NFL roster.

 

We note that Kaepernick’s best game in quite some time came at whatever Joe Robbie Stadium was called last year.  He had 24-31, 296 yards, 3 TDs passing and ran for 113 yards on 10 carries as Miami survived the Niners, 31-24.

 

On the other hand, Kaep is a known fan of Fidel Castro, so that might not fly in Miami-Dade County.

 

But Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com says the Dolphins might turn their attention elsewhere and raid the FOX broadcast booth:

 

Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has suggested that the team would be more likely to pursue retired quarterback Jay Cutler over unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and Kelly is right.

 

As to Kaepernick, the notorious Castro T-shirt and comments make it impossible for a team in Miami to sign the free agent — and the Dolphins won’t need to engage in awkward, clumsy crowdsourcing to come to that conclusion. That said, it would be fascinating to see what coach Adam Gase (who once ripped up the Broncos’ playbook on the fly to accommodate Tim Tebow) would do with Kaepernick.

 

As to Cutler, Gase presumably didn’t pursue the former Bears starter as a backup to Tannehill because his presence could have undermined Tannehill’s status as starter. The failure to attempt to sign Cutler apparently had nothing to do with Cutler’s much-scrutinized personality.

 

“I guess I know a different guy than what everybody else portrays,” Gase told reporters earlier this year. “I think a lot of things that have been said about him in the past have really been [BS].”

 

Dolphins fans will be shouting far stronger expletives loudly if Tannehill misses time. They also may utter even stronger expletives if Cutler becomes the replacement. The end result could be, however, the use of one specific expletive, followed by “yeah!”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

QB TOM BRADY is sporty at 40 and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com celebrates his birthday with some “untold tales”.  About half of them are below, you can read the whole thing here.

 

With New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrating his 40th birthday on Thursday, we’ve tracked down a collection of confidants to tell their favorite behind-the-scenes stories about the QB.

 

The untold tales span a frustrated 4-year-old golfer, a ruthless enforcer on the intramural basketball court, an unexpected beer-chugging wonder … and everything in between.

 

Bring up Drew Henson at your own risk

Jay Flannelly, close friend from Michigan: “We played intramural basketball together, and there was one day the frat boys were giving Tom a hard time about Drew Henson. Tom was taking it. I kept going over to him, asking, ‘You OK?’ So the game is almost over, about a minute left, and we were up by about 30 points. He comes over to me and asks how many fouls he has. You’re allowed four and Tom had two at the time. So he says to me, ‘Beav, next time we’re inbounding the ball, I’m going to throw it to you and just run up the court and don’t look behind you. Just sprint.’ So Tommy inbounds the ball to me, I run up the court and I hear this awful noise behind me. Tom set a screen, like Charles Oakley, that took out one of the guys who had been on him all game about Drew Henson. It literally knocked the kid into never-never land. I always talked to him after that about how he was the quarterback enforcer; it would have been like Wayne Gretzky beating up a goon, or when Larry Bird went up to Bill Laimbeer.”

 

‘I’ll throw it to whoever the f— I want!’

Mike Vrabel, Patriots linebacker, 2001-08: “My indoctrination to the goal-line [offense]: I had maybe caught a couple touchdowns and was feeling pretty good about myself, and we went to practice one day and I broke free on a crossing route or something like that. So I start yelling, ‘Tom! Tom! Tom!’ and I’m waving my hands. But he doesn’t throw it to me. I come back, and we’re in the huddle when he says, ‘Mikey, if you ever wave your f—in’ hands and ask for the ball again, I’ll never throw it to you. I know who’s open. I’m the quarterback, I’ll throw it to whoever the f— I want!’ That was the last time I ever called for the ball.”

 

‘Good afternoon! Good afternoon!’

Rodney Harrison, Patriots safety, 2003-08: “This was when I first got to New England, we had become friends and we were in the weight room. I show up around 6:30 in the morning and he says to me, ‘Good afternoon!’ So the next day, I get the hint, and come in 15 minutes earlier. Same thing: He says, ‘Good afternoon!’ Then the next day it’s 5:45 in the morning, and he makes sure to say it twice: ‘Good afternoon! Good afternoon!’ So I make it at 5:30 the next day and before he could say anything to me, I looked at him and said, ‘Man, I don’t give a damn what you say, Tom, I’m not coming in earlier than 5:30!’ We both laughed at that.”

 

Brady’s secret skill

Brian Hoyer, Patriots quarterback, 2009-11: “We played up at Buffalo and we couldn’t fly back into Boston because the weather was so bad, so we had to stay the night in Rochester. We drove there, and we all decided we’d go out to dinner together. Tom being who he was, he usually couldn’t come to a team event like that. We might be at Capital Grille and he is sneaking in the back door and then people realize he’s there and he has to leave. But this was impromptu at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Rochester. The whole team is there. And it turns into a beer-chugging contest. You have linemen, Julian Edelman, they all think they are going to win. Then someone says, ‘I heard Tom is really great at chugging a beer.’ We don’t usually get to experience him like this, but we finally coax him into doing it. He does it, and let me tell you, you couldn’t have poured out the beer faster into a glass. It was unbelievable. And he slams the mug on the table and puts both fists in the air. He walks away with a look on his face that said, ‘You really thought you were going to beat me on this?’ The place went nuts.”

 

Bledsoe never had a chance

Ty Law, Patriots cornerback, 2000-04: “When he finally got the job and was named the starter, our thought as a defense was, ‘Just don’t mess it up.’ I remember us hanging out and he said something to me that, to this day, still resonates with me. We had a good quarterback in Drew Bledsoe, and here’s Tom saying, ‘He isn’t getting this f—ing job back.’ As a competitor, I was like, ‘This is how you’re supposed to think.’ At the same time, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This is the NFL! This is Drew Bledsoe — a former No. 1 overall pick with a big contract! OK, good luck with that.’ But Tom didn’t look it at that way. It was no disrespect to Drew. He was determined to make it hard on [Bill] Belichick and Mr. Kraft to put Drew back on the field.”

 

Do not try this at home

Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach, 2000-present: “When we played golf at Pebble Beach two years ago, on the sixth hole, it’s a big cliff. He’s literally standing out there on the ledge, trying to hit the ball. The caddie is holding him so he won’t like tumble 300 feet to his death into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a golf ball. But I think that’s kind of the competitiveness of Tom. I’m sure there’s a picture of it. I’m thinking to myself, ‘What the hell are you doing?'”

 

A near-death experience

Charlie Weis, Patriots offensive coordinator, 2000-04: “In 2002, I was going in for gastric bypass surgery and only a couple of people knew. Tommy was one. Belichick was one. The plan was to go in on Friday, stay overnight for observation, and then get out the next day unless there were problems. Well, it’s Saturday morning and Tommy comes to the hospital to see me, and when he walked in, I was almost dead. I was in intensive care, my blood pressure had dropped as low as 50 over 30, and I was in really, really bad shape. We hadn’t lived up in New England that long and didn’t have any family that lived in New England, and my wife [Maura], who was stunned, is trying to figure out how to take care of kids and be at the hospital at the same time. Tommy basically stayed with my wife most of that weekend until reinforcements could arrive. He was there all day Saturday, with her late Saturday night; and then Sunday, I had flatlined a little bit where I was actually dead and they brought me back. What I later learned was that Tommy and my wife had a serious conversation at the time, and he said, ‘I wonder when he comes back after this if he will yell at me any less?’ And the way my wife told me the story, they both looked at each other and said, ‘Naaaah. That will never happen.’ That was him trying to get my wife to not go in the tank at a time when he’s a young kid and looking at a coach, who he is pretty close with, almost dead. Those two days really changed our family’s relationship with Tommy. From that day on, he wasn’t just the quarterback. There was a bond between Tommy and my wife and our family that had been created on nothing to do with football.”

 

‘The emotions start overflowing’

Josh McDaniels, Patriots coaching assistant/QB coach/offensive coordinator, 2001-08, 2012-present: “When I accepted the Denver job at the end of the 2008 season, I hadn’t seen Tommy a whole lot over the course of the year because of his [injured] knee and all the things that were going on with his rehab. So we’re on our way to the airport in Massachusetts to fly to Denver, and we still hadn’t connected at that point. I had tried to get him, but he might have been out of the country. He calls while we’re on the way to the airport, and as would be typical of him, he talks about how he was going to miss our relationship, how happy he was for our family, and then he asks to speak to [my wife,] Laura. Laura is strong, independent and not overly emotional, but as she’s listening to him, the emotions start overflowing. She had been fine up until that moment. He told her how much he loves our family, how excited he was for us, how he’d be rooting for us every game except for when playing us. Tommy didn’t even have to call, he had been going through everything with his knee. It was just really representative, to me, the fact that I’ve always thought he was a better human being than he is a football player.”

 

‘Hey, my name is Tom Brady’

Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots offensive tackle, 2009-16: “I’m always impressed, because when you walk into that locker room, everyone knows who Tom Brady is. But he introduces himself to every rookie: ‘Hey, my name is Tom Brady. I play quarterback.’ It’s not like, ‘I’m the guy.’ He’s not arrogant. Just humble from the perspective of, ‘I don’t expect you to know me, I am going to prove to you I can play.'”

 

Good is the enemy of perfect

Matt Cassel, Patriots quarterback, 2005-08: “One day in practice, I forgot to bring the guy in motion because I got locked and knew I was throwing to the other side based on pre-snap coverage. But I forgot the motion. And Brady immediately comes up to me right after and goes, ‘Cassel, you can’t miss that motion.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, but I completed the ball.’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, but how the hell are you going to yell at them to be accountable when they see that you messed up that motion?’ You have to be perfect at this position.”

 

‘He has an IBM’

Bill O’Brien, Patriots QBs coach/offensive coordinator, 2007-11: “My favorite story about him has to do with his memory. I don’t remember the exact time of the year, but we were playing Buffalo, I think it was 2009. We’re in a meeting and we’re watching Buffalo’s first- and second-down tape. I’m talking to them about what the Bills’ defensive coordinator was doing, and [Brady] basically knew who the coordinator was because he had faced him earlier in his career, about five to six years prior. So he says to me in this meeting, ‘I remember we ran this play against this scheme called Crunch Stock in 2004.’ I said, ‘You remember that specific play?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I remember it against this specific coverage, which this coordinator loves to play. It was on the right hash, going away from the lighthouse, and we hit Troy Brown for a big gain on the crossing pattern.’ I said, ‘There is no way you remember that play like that!’ He challenged me to pull it up. We have all the games on the computer system, and we find that game and there’s the play: on the right hash, second-and-less-than-5, going away from the lighthouse and he hits Troy Brown on a crossing pattern. Think about all the plays he had between that day and the day we were talking. Apart from his talent and competitiveness, I always tell people that’s what sets him apart. He has an IBM. He remembers it.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

WR TIERS

Dave Richard at CBSSports.com organizes your Fantasy receivers for you.  We have his first four rounds, you can see more here. :

 

If you need a reason to prioritize receiver within your first couple of draft picks, look no further than the third and fourth tiers.

 

It’s a good group, no doubt, but it’s a slew of players with all kinds of potential pitfalls. Things like bad quarterbacks, injury concerns, likely regression and new offensive systems hold them back from reaching their potential.

 

Call them flawed, but also call them high-upside. How many of them can you rule out for 1,000 total yards or seven-plus touchdowns? We know they all won’t do it … but each one has that potential. That’s why they’re there.

 

Here’s a pre-draft exercise for you: Review each wideout in the third and fourth tiers and figure out if you’d be all right with them as your No. 2 receiver. Those who fit that bill in your mind should be elevated to the top of the third tier. Those who don’t shouldn’t be part of your team until at least Round 6.

That’s making good use of the tiers and turning them into something that works for you, not just something pretty to look at. Here’s the latest version at wide receiver in both standard and PPR formats:

 

NON-PPR                     PPR

ELITE                           ELITE

ROUND 1                    ROUND 1

Antonio Brown             Antonio Brown

Julio Jones                  Julio Jones

Odell Beckham            Odell Beckham

Mike Evans                 Mike Evans

A.J. Green                  A.J. Green

Jordy Nelson              Jordy Nelson

 

NON-PPR                   PPR

NEAR-ELITE              NEAR-ELITE

ROUND 2                   ROUND 2

Dez Bryant                 Dez Bryant

T.Y. Hilton                  T.Y. Hilton

Michael Thomas        Michael Thomas

DeAndre Hopkins

Doug Baldwin

Demaryius Thomas

Amari Cooper

 

NON-PPR                   PPR

EXCELLENT              EXCELLENT

ROUND 3                    ROUND 3

DeAndre Hopkins           Terrelle Pryor

Doug Baldwin                Sammy Watkins

Terrelle Pryor                 Davante Adams

Amari Cooper                Alshon Jeffery

Davante Adams             Michael Crabtree

Demaryius Thomas        Jarvis Landry

Sammy Watkins           

Alshon Jeffery  

 

NON-PPR                       PPR

VERY GOOD                  VERY GOOD

ROUNDS 4, 5                  ROUNDS 4, 5

Brandin Cooks                Golden Tate

Michael Crabtree            Keenan Allen

Keenan Allen                  Allen Robinson

Allen Robinson              Julian Edelman

Jarvis Landry                 Brandin Cooks

Golden Tate                  Jamison Crowder

Jamison Crowder           Tyreek Hill

Martavis Bryant

Pierre Garcon

Larry Fitzgerald

 

Hey, we’ll draft BRANDIN COOKS before we draft SAMMY WATKINS or ALSHON JEFFERY, but what do we know.

 

 

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

Having started the annual Gruden Back To Coaching buzz with a recent interview with Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report, Jon Gruden tamps it back down at the formal press conference celebrating his impending installation in Tampa Bay’s Ring of Honor.  Jenna Laine of ESPN.com:

 

Former Buccaneers head coach and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said Wednesday that he is not planning a return to coaching.

 

“I don’t foresee myself coaching anytime soon,” said Gruden, who led the Bucs to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory in 2002 and who will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor this fall. “But I do like getting as close to the fire as possible.

 

“All I really have going is football. I don’t know what I would do without it. I’m happy with what I’m doing. I study as if I am a coach. I still make my own breakdowns. I still come up with my own playbook — I just don’t have anybody to give it to.”

 

Last week, Gruden, 53, told the website PewterReport.com, “I’ve met with several people — I won’t deny that.”

 

“Just about every year I talk about coming back to coach,” he said. “I’m not in here every day at 4:30 or 4:00 in the morning watching pinball, you know? I’m preparing myself to come back. I am. Every day. I’m preparing to come back.”

 

In the interview, he didn’t specify when a return might happen.

 

His wife, Cindy, said he approaches his analyst position the same way he would if he were still coaching.

 

“He loves watching tape,” Cindy Gruden said. “That’s all he does. He has this 5,000-square-foot office that is stuffed to the gills with all the bricks that he’s made of situations. He just loves watching it, and he loves having that library. I’ve never seen anyone that can sit down and have the patience to do that. He doesn’t have that patience for anything else.

 

“He just loves that part of it,” she said. “He’s truly found what he likes. I don’t know if that includes coaching or not. But he loves it. I don’t know how he does it. I would lose my mind.”

 

And this from Lindsay Jones of USA TODAY:

 

Gruden on Wednesday reiterated his work ethic and devotion to football, including the hours he spends studying game film and creating his own offensive playbook, much like he did during his coaching career with the Bucs and Raiders. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be accepting a head coaching job right away, if ever, he said.

 

“I don’t foresee myself coaching anytime soon,” Gruden said.

 

Gruden was asked if the Glazer family reached out to him about a return to coaching when the Bucs fired Greg Schiano at the end of the 2013 season. Gruden didn’t deny it but chose to deflect in his answer.

 

“I’ve never been on anyone’s radar,” Gruden said. “I’m just trying to hold on to the job I have.”

 

 

 

 

SUPPORTING CAST RANKINGS

If you were a quarterback, PreSnapReads.com says you would want to play for the Steelers above all other teams at the moment.  Excerpts below, full thing here.

 

 

It’s the Supporting Cast Power Rankings!

 

You know how this works. We take the quarterback out and view each offense based on how the pieces rank before talking about how they work together. The rankings are weighted based on importance relative to the quarterback. Offensive line and coaching are the most important because the line determines how fast the quarterback has to process and how often he faces pressure, while the coaching determines what he is asked to do.

 

Let’s get going.

 

 

32. New York Jets

Offensive Line 9/30

Coaching 10/20

Wide Receivers 8/20

Tight Ends 5/10

Running Backs 9/10

Overall 41/90

 

Either the Jets are tanking or this is the worst front office in history.

 

 31. Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Line 13

Coaching 9

Wide Receivers 16

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 4

Overall 48

 

30. Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Line 15

Coaching 11

Wide Receivers 11

Tight Ends 7

Running Backs 8

Overall 52

 

Adding Andrew Whitworth should be huge for the Rams offensive line…The Rams receiving corps is not enthralling.

 

29. Carolina Panthers

Offensive Line 17

Coaching 11

Wide Receivers 8

Tight Ends 8

Running Backs 9

Overall 53

 

Without quality starting offensive tackles, the Panthers line will remain a problem in 2017…

Not as big of a problem as the receiving corps.

 

28. Houston Texans

Offensive Line 15

Coaching 10

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 8

Overall 53

 

Putting Deshaun Watson on the field during his rookie season will be like taking him out of a furnace and throwing him into an ice bath. Watson had an ideal situation at Clemson. His offensive line gave him good protection, he had big athletes at receiver who could adjust to the ball in the air and the coaching staff crafted a scheme that played to his strengths. As has been the case for years now, Bill O’Brien won’t craft his scheme to his quarterback’s strengths.

 

O’Brien stresses his quarterbacks more than anyone else by expecting them to constantly stand in the pocket and read isolated routes downfield. He doesn’t simplify the quarterback’s reads or use hard play fakes to distort coverages. That makes everyone on the field worse. From a sheer talent perspective, the personnel isn’t exactly starting at a high level either.

 

27. Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Line 13

Coaching 12

Wide Receivers 15

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 7

Overall 53

 

Quietly, the Minnesota Vikings have one of the best starting receiver tandems in the NFL.

 

26. Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Line 17

Coaching 11

Wide Receivers 12

Tight Ends 7

Running Backs 7

Overall 54

 

The Ravens offensive line has lost key starters in each of the past two offseasons. ..What makes the Ravens offense confusing is the receiver position. With Mornhinweg and a likely-limited offensive line, you would want receivers who could get open quickly on underneath routes and create after the catch. The Ravens have three vertical receivers in Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman and Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will likely be forced into the slot, something he can do but not his ideal fit.

 

25. Indianapolis Colts

Offensive Line 20

Coaching 8

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 8

Running Backs 6

Overall 56

 

How is Chuck Pagano still employed? The deep drop, vertical passing game that the Colts have employed under Pagano has consistently exacerbated the team’s pass protection issues by limiting Luck’s options to get rid of the ball.

 

24. Los Angeles Chargers

Offensive Line 17

Coaching 10

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 6

Overall 56

 

Who knows what this offense will look like in three months. Over the past two seasons the Chargers have had worse injury luck than anyone.

 

23. Green Bay Packers

Offensive Line 18

Coaching 10

Wide Receivers 13

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 7

Overall 57

 

The Jordy Nelson who finished the 2016 season was far superior to the Jordy Nelson who began the 2016 season. That should give the Packers huge reason for optimism. Nelson is 32 so he should still have a year or two before age begins to sap his athleticism.

 

22. Buffalo Bills

Offensive Line 20

Coaching 11

Wide Receivers 12

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 9

Overall 58

 

21. San Francisco 49ers

Offensive Line 17

Coaching 18

Wide Receivers 12

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 5

Overall 58

 

20. Denver Broncos

Offensive Line 19

Coaching 10

Wide Receivers 16

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 8

Overall 59

 

The Broncos are a quarterback away from competing for the Super Bowl. Despite the cliche-ness of that sentence, that’s not something that can be said for every team.

 

19. Miami Dolphins

Offensive Line 18

Coaching 16

Wide Receivers 13

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 7

Overall 60

 

Adam Gase’s impact on the Dolphins offense last year was undeniable.  

 

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Offensive Line 16

Coaching 10

Wide Receivers 17

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 8

Overall 60

 

No quarterback threw the ball further than 10 yards downfield more often last year than Jameis Winston. That’s what you get from Dirk Koetter. Koetter is an aggressive coach who wants to aggressive push the ball downfield.

 

17. Cincinnati Bengals

Offensive Line 12

Coaching 17

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 8

Overall 61

 

16. Tennessee Titans

Offensive Line 19

Coaching 13

Wide Receivers 13

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 7

Overall 61

 

15. Arizona Cardinals

Offensive Line 19

Coaching 14

Wide Receivers 13

Tight Ends 5

Running Backs 10

Overall 61

 

David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t help their quarterback any more than they already do…Unfortunately, few other parts of the Cardinals supporting cast helps the quarterback. Bruce Arians is great at evaluating quarterbacks and developing their skill sets but his offense asks a lot of the position.

 

14. Seattle Seahawks

Offensive Line 9

Coaching 19

Wide Receivers 17

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 8

Overall 62

 

Darrell Bevell understands how to scheme around a bad offensive line.

 

13. New York Giants

Offensive Line 13

Coaching 16

Wide Receivers 19

Tight Ends 7

Running Backs 7

Overall 62

 

Brandon Marshall was the best signing of the offseason.

 

12. Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Line 21

Coaching 11

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 7

Running Backs 10

Overall 63

 

Losing Kyle Shanahan will have a huge impact on the success of this unit.  

 

11. Chicago Bears

Offensive Line 26

Coaching 12

Wide Receivers 11

Tight Ends 5

Running Backs 10

Overall 64

 

The Chicago Bears have a weird amount of depth at the running back position…An overlooked aspect of this offense is the quality of the offensive line.

 

10. Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive Line 18

Coaching 19

Wide Receivers 11

Tight Ends 9

Running Backs 7

Overall 64

 

Andy Reid is a brilliant play designer who has created an offense in Kansas City where the quarterback doesn’t have to make difficult reads or difficult throws.

 

9. New Orleans Saints

Offensive Line 19

Coaching 20

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 6

Overall 65

 

Nobody in the NFL keeps the opponent guessing more than Sean Payton.

 

8. Detroit Lions

Offensive Line 20

Coaching 18

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 5

Running Backs 9

Overall 66

 

7. Philadelphia Eagles

Offensive Line 24

Coaching 17

Wide Receivers 12

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 9

Overall 68

 

6. Cleveland Browns

Offensive Line 25

Coaching 19

Wide Receivers 12

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 8

Overall 70

 

Hue Jackson has proven his ability to cater play designs and offensive philosophies to his available talent. He also kept the Browns competitive in the majority of games last year even while they were losing. Jackson has promise to be one of the best head coaches in the league and his identity will be imprinted on the offense this season.

 

5. Washington

Offensive Line 26

Coaching 17

Wide Receivers 13

Tight Ends 10

Running Backs 5

Overall 71

 

Jordan Reed’s health is going to matter a lot more this year than it has in recent seasons.

 

4. Oakland Raiders

Offensive Line 27

Coaching 13

Wide Receivers 17

Tight Ends 6

Running Backs 8

Overall 71

 

Assuming Donald Penn’s holdout is resolved before the beginning of the season, the Raiders will again have one of the best offensive lines in the league this year.

 

3. New England Patriots

Offensive Line 22

Coaching 20

Wide Receivers 16

Tight Ends 10

Running Backs 8

Overall 76

 

There isn’t another coach in the league who will run the ball 40 times one week and throw it 60 times the next. That’s what you get playing for Bill Belichick. Belichick never does something for the sake of doing it. He always has a specific reason why he’s attacking a defense in a specific way. He always caters his gameplan to emphasize his team’s strengths and highlight his opponent’s weaknesses.

 

It’s not just Belichick. Dante Scarrnechia’s return from retirement last year elevated the offensive line without making significant investment in players. Scarrnechia’s work allowed the line to prosper, giving Brady the type of time he has become accustomed to in the pocket over the course of his career.

 

Rob Gronkowski’s health will always be a key issue but when healthy he completely alters the offense. He is a mismatch player no matter what team or what individual he is facing. Gronkowski not only makes the quarterback’s job easier when he’s throwing directly to him, he makes it easier to identify coverage and offers you easier audibles to running plays.

 

With Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell on the receiver depth chart, the Patriots have five players who can start but also five players who offer different skill sets. The running back depth chart is similarly built but with less overall quality.

 

2. Dallas Cowboys

Offensive Line 27

Coaching 18

Wide Receivers 14

Tight Ends 7

Running Backs 10

Overall 76

 

Although losing Doug Free disrupts the continuity of the Cowboys offensive line, the unit is still outrageously talented. Four of the five spots on the line will have potential All-Pro performers. La’el Collins is likely to have more consistency issues as he transitions to a new position at right tackle but he did at least play tackle in college. Collins and Tyron Smith book-ending the pass protection will give Prescott plenty of time in the pocket.

 

Ezekiel Elliott’s value to the Cowboys is massive. Sure, another running back could be productive behind that line, but few other running backs offer up the play-calling diversity and the matchup problems that Elliott creates. Only two—David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell— offer up that value in the passing game while still being consistent running the ball snap-to-snap and capable of creating their own big plays.

 

Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the league. Bryant is easier to throw to than most receivers but he also doesn’t create as much separation as the top receivers. That means the quarterback has to have an aggressive mindset to give him opportunities to make a play on the ball in the air against tight coverage. Cole Beasley is an effective possession receiver who can create his own separation on underneath routes, but Terrance Williams has too many limitations and consistency issues to fill the role he is likely to fill.

 

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive Line 28

Coaching 19

Wide Receivers 17

Tight Ends 5

Running Backs 10

Overall 79

 

Martavis Bryant is back! Back when Lamar Odom played for the Lakers, they typically won games if Odom played well. That was because Odom was the piece who put the team over the top. With Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the field, Bryant is that player who puts them over the top. Bryant is a vicious deep threat who can win straight races against defensive backs but who can also set up his vertical routes with precise stems and breaks.

 

Having two receivers on the field like Bryant and Brown forces the defense to make concessions. If opposing defenses keep both safeties back, it becomes easier for Le’Veon Bell to get open underneath. If one safety drops deep, the defense threatens to expose itself to a big play from Brown or Bryant. If the defense keeps one safety deep and drops both cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, the coverages become more predictable.

 

Ben Roethlisberger not only gets that exceptional trio altogether, he also gets to play behind the best offensive line in the league. The Steelers have kept all of their pieces together and each one is still in their primes or close to their primes. The only thing the Steelers are missing is a true starter at tight end.

 

As we scrolled through this, we started to take note of the “coaching” ratings which effectively ranged from 20 to 8.

 

The 20s were New England (Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniel), New Orleans (Sean Payton).

 

19 – Pittsburgh (Todd Haley), Cleveland (Hue Jackson), Kansas City (Andy Reid), Seattle (Darrell Bevall?).

 

18 – Detroit (Jim Bob Cooter), San Francisco (Kyle Shanahan)

 

The 8 is the Colts.  They cite Chuck Pagano, but he’s a defensive guy so the knock would go to Rob Chudzinski.

 

Jacksonville (Doug Marone?) gets a 9.  Mike McCarthy and the Packers only get a 10.