The Daily Briefing Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Visiting the Jets on his training camp tour, The Commish says there is no such thing as “tanking” in the NFL, unlike the NBA.  Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:

 

There’s no tanking in football, according to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

 

“I don’t think any team tanks, I really don’t,” Goodell said Monday on a visit to the New York Jets’ training camp.

 

The Jets, who parted ways with 11 veteran players during the offseason, have been accused of sacrificing the season for a high draft pick in 2018. With so many young players on the roster and an unsettled quarterback situation, they’re predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league.

 

Goodell, however, took umbrage with the idea that a team would deliberately lose games to enhance its draft position.

 

“I think teams, depending on where you are, go through transitions,” said Goodell, who earlier conducted a fan forum with about 150 season-ticket holders. “They are looking to sort of say, ‘We need to build more talent here, we’ll do it through the draft. Let’s let some of our veteran players go and develop some of our younger players.’

 

“That’s always been part of football,” he continued. “That’s always been part of sports. … Every team does that differently.”

 

The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, and now they could have eight first- or-second year players in their starting lineup. Many observers believe they’re trying to position themselves for a blue-chip quarterback in the 2018 draft.

 

General manager Mike Maccagnan, in his annual training camp sitdown with reporters, defended the team’s approach, insisting he doesn’t pay attention to the “tanking” perception.

 

“I don’t think we’re different than any team in the NFL,” he said. “Every team goes into training camp trying to make the playoffs. We’re no different in that sense.”

 

Asked if the playoffs are a realistic goal, Maccagnan said, “I’m not going to put any limitations on what we can and can’t do.”

 

Several players have spoken out in recent days, saying the low outside expectations have provided fuel. Maccagnan agreed with that sentiment.

– – –

The NFL says it is willing to study whether marijuana can be an acceptable tool in pain management.  Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It’s been clear for some time that the NFLPA believes in the potential of marijuana as a therapeutic tool for players’ recovery. The NFL has been less open to the idea with commissioner Roger Goodell calling it “addictive” and “unhealthy” as recently as April.

 

However, the NFL appears ready to at least explore the possibility of marijuana use as a medical tool with the help of the NFL Players Association.

 

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFL sent a letter to the NFLPA offering to work jointly to study the possibility of marijuana use as a pain management tool.

 

“We look forward to working with the Players Association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players,” said Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications.

 

The NFLPA has been looking into the feasibility of its use already, believing it could be a safer option than opiates to combat the physical pounding players take on a weekly basis. They have yet to respond to the NFL’s request for possible cooperation at this point.

 

Both Jerry and Stephen Jones of the Dallas Cowboys said they wanted the NFL to begin re-examining its stance on marijuana use earlier this year. That process now appears to be taking hold, at least in an exploratory fashion.

 

Ultimately, the decision on how to proceed as a league would be the result of a collective bargaining process with the players’ union. At least both sides appear open to exploring the feasibility of marijuana use and the idea of a change in policy on the topic moving forward.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

Eric Edholm of Fanragsports.com is counselling extreme patience with QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY.

 

On the first padded practice of 2017 training camp, Chicago Bears fans made the trek from points elsewhere to see their shiny, new toy, Mitchell Trubisky, as well as the other new quarterback, Mike Glennon, who likely will be the placeholder until the rookie is ready.

 

The backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on the roster, you say? Well, he is until he fumbles three snaps in a five-minute span, and then bobbles another one. Cue the fan groans and snarky, not-so sotto voce remarks from what likely was the largest crowd the team will draw in camp.

 

Yes, Trubiskymania might be a dream deferred for the time being, but one rough day — merely one brief period of skittishness — should not dismay Bears Nation. Not yet. Glennon might be the now. Trubisky still appears to be the “later.” Mark Sanchez is the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option. (Connor Shaw might be the we-hardly-knew-ye QB, for what it’s worth; he took zero snaps that day.)

 

The quarterback plan remains unchanged. The Bears will preach patience with managing it properly, and rightfully so.

 

For the first time since the awkward Rex Grossman-Kyle Orton square dance of the mid-2000s, the Bears have a quarterback situation with real intrigue. After they acquired Jay Cutler in the 2009 offseason, the job resided in his hands, save for injuries and the mishandled benching at the end of the 2014 season when former head coach Marc Trestman was down to his final few gasps on a terribly chaotic club.

 

Now with Cutler taking his gold watch to the FOX broadcasting booth (calling the Bears’ first game of the season, by the way), the Bears have called an end-around. They’re sticking with Glennon now, Trubisky at some point down the road. It almost certainly won’t be Week 1, it appears, and Week 2 feels like a remote possibility, too, if you catch our drift.

– – –

Forget about the awkwardness of how Trubisky will eventually take over for Glennon for a moment, and focus on the now. By taking the blame there, Trubisky passed an early test — one the veterans surely have taken note of. Those details matter.

 

Back to the brass tacks: Can either he or Glennon break one of the more ignominious streaks in NFL history?

 

The Bears have gone 31 years — the longest-running in the league — without having a Pro Bowl quarterback. That’s right: Jim McMahon was the last one in 1985, and before him it was Billy Wade in 1963. Fifty-three years and one Pro Bowl QB. The Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans have been NFL franchises for a combined 39 seasons, and they have accounted for eight Pro Bowl quarterbacks between them.

 

In this play-’em-now era, rookie quarterbacks are thrust into the lineup more than ever. From 1995 to 2010, 22 rookie QBs started 10 or more games (and that includes two 29-year-olds, Jeff Garcia and Chris Weinke, who were pro athletes previously). In the past six seasons, there have been 19 rookies with 10 or more starts — including Glennon, a third-rounder who was thrown to the wolves on a bad Tampa Bay Buccaneer team in 2014. He has started a mere five NFL games since.

 

Typically, if a team has any feeling it can compete that given season, the tie will go to the veteran quarterback over the rookie. But that isn’t always the case, as Russell Wilson proved in 2012 and Dak Prescott showed last season? Are the Bears in that category? That’s tough to say, but Fox — with a 9-23 mark as Bears head coach — clearly needs to show something this season to keep working.

 

Trubisky clearly has the best shot to be a star. The Glennon signing felt excessive the moment the Bears swung the dramatic move for Trubisky, and it clearly started the clock on the rookie. His wait time isn’t likely to be as long as it was at North Carolina, when he bided his time for two years, throwing a combined 125 passes in mop-up duty behind Marquise Williams before getting his chance to start in Year 3. Trubisky knows he might have to wait a while again.

 

‘‘I have to respect the plan that they have in place, and I have to believe in that. So that’s what I’m doing,’’ Trubisky said.

 

The Bears had one of the busiest rookie classes in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Their first-year players combined for 4,236 snaps last season, which ranked third in the NFL. This year’s crop features Trubisky and only four others. They include:

 

Ashland College tight end Adam Shaheen, who made the jump from D-II college basketball to football three years ago and has a steep learning curve despite a terrific physical skill set.

Alabama safety Eddie Jackson, who is a tremendous playmaker but is coming off a broken leg and a torn ACL over the past three seasons.

 

A 5-foot-6, 179-pound running back from North Carolina A&T (Tarik Cohen).

 

An offensive guard project from Kutzown (Pa.), fifth-rounder Jordan Morgan.

 

Expecting 4,000 snaps from that group is unrealistic, and with a roster that Fox likes for the first time since he arrived in Chicago, that might not be as necessary. Plus, the team was absolutely slaughtered by injury, very much to fluky levels, forcing the kids into action more than expected.

 

The hope on this year’s rookie group clearly rests first on Trubisky — whenever that comes to fruition — and his ability to brighten the future of the team. (Although it should be noted that Shaheen and Cohen have quickly opened eyes and become fan favorites, Shaheen especially.)

 

Glennon will open as the titular starter against the Super Bowl runner-up Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 10, and Trubisky Watch should begin in earnest down the road, perhaps months from now. The fact that Glennon spent time gathering the cell phone numbers of his receivers the minute he signed a contract and has acted as if he’s the unquestioned starter can’t be overlooked. Stability is a crucial commodity in these parts, and he had a solid practice — at least when he was asked to throw 15 yards and in — that included a hard cadence, decent accuracy, and sturdy command of the offense.

 

He’s the likely steadying force for a team that has a record of 22-42 the past four seasons and is even more dreadful at Soldier Field — a record of 6-19 over the Bears’ past 25 home games, with a point differential of minus-122. They haven’t reached the playoffs the past six seasons after hosting the NFC Championship Game in 2010. Their quarterbacks have a combined 40 TD passes in the past 33 games. And on and on …

 

The fear with Fox and how he handles the QBs might be reminiscent of what went down with the Los Angeles Rams and former head coach Jeff Fisher last season. Fisher, whom Fox considers a close friend, held back No. 1 pick Jared Goff when it was clear that Goff wasn’t ready to play. But when veteran Case Keenum didn’t offer enough and the Rams fell to 3-6 after a 3-3 start, Fisher clearly went into job-preservation mode and inserted the still-green Goff, to mostly poor results. It’s not shocking the way it went down, but perhaps it was also damaging to Goff’s development.

 

The Bears have to avoid this at all costs with Trubisky. They have to balance that line of development and on-the-job training and not push the proverbial panic button. In the meantime, he’ll keep working on the little things and be ready when his number is called.

 

‘‘You’ve got to prepare like you’re the starter,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘Don’t take any days off and just keep getting better in the meantime…

 

“When you’re called upon, you’ve got to be ready to rock and roll.’’

 

 

MINNESOTA

RB LATAVIUS MURRAY seems in no hurry to return to practice after ankle surgery.  Mark Craig in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

 

Running back Latavius Murray said he’s not behind schedule in his return from right ankle surgery, and could, if necessary, have himself ready for the regular season without participating in training camp.

 

 “Most definitely,” Murray said after today’s morning walk-through. “At the end of the day, football is football. I think for me it’s just making sure physically I’m OK. The mental part of it, it’s a game I’ve been playing all my life.”

 

Moments later, his coach, Mike Zimmer, disagreed with Murray’s view on the importance of training camp.

 

“Well,” Zimmer said, “he is a smart guy. But he needs to get out there” on the practice field.

 

Murray was signed in March as a free agent from Oakland. He had the surgery after that, although the Vikings were aware that the surgery was needed. A month later, the Vikings used their top draft pick on Dalvin Cook, a running back to compete with Murray for the No. 1 role in what is expected to be a running back corps by committee. Murray has missed OTAs, minicamp and has spent the first week of training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

 

Asked today to update his timetable for return, Murray said, “No timetable. Right now, I’m just taking it day by day. You have good days, you have bad. So I’m just trying to make more of the good right now and continue to work and get back as soon as I can.

 

“I had the same injury on my left ankle. Same procedure, so, as of right now, I’m not behind or anything. It’s just you can’t treat any injury the same. You can’t treat, even if it’s the same surgery, you can’t treat the recovery process the same. Everyone is different. So, again, I’m just trusting the process of doing what I need to do to get back on the field.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

NFL Justice continues to stall on making a decision on RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT leading one to only wonder about the pressures behind the scenes as the Cowboys owner prepares to be enshrined in Canton.  NFL.com:

 

A panel of independent advisers are reviewing the Ezekiel Elliott case and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is waiting for their work to be complete before making a decision on potential discipline, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Monday, per a source informed of the process.

 

The four independent advisers, which Goodell is allowed to consult under the terms of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, were present when Elliott met with league officials in New York earlier this month, Pelissero added.

 

“The personal conduct policy has a clause in it that allows Commissioner Roger Goodell or whoever the disciplinary officer is to consult expert and independent advisers as part of the disciplinary process,” Pelissero told Andrew Siciliano on NFL Network’s Inside Training Camp Live on Monday. “What I was told today is that there was a panel of four who were in on the hearing, the meeting rather, with Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, which occurred in the past few weeks.”

 

The personal conduct policy specifically states that “to assist in evaluating a potential violation, expert and independent advisors may be consulted by the disciplinary officer, the Commissioner, and others as needed. Such advisors may include former players and others with appropriate backgrounds and experience in law enforcement, academia, judicial and public service, mental health, and persons with other specialized subject matter expertise. Any experts or advisors consulted in this respect may provide advice and counsel or testimony as appropriate, but will not make any disciplinary determinations.”

 

Pelissero stressed there is no firm timeline for a potential disciplinary decision by Goodell other than it’s expected to come before the start of the regular season.

 

“So where we stand is Commissioner Goodell is waiting for the opinions of those expert advisers to be done, for them to complete their work, let the NFL know what they think. Until that work is done, until they make it known to the NFL what they believe should be done in this case, there will be no decision. Nothing is anticipated in terms of a decision on Zeke Elliott this week, still anticipated, Andrew, before the season, which of course is something the Dallas Cowboys are hoping will happen.”

 

The NFL has conducted a year-long investigation into multiple incidents involving Elliott, including a domestic violence accusation made against him by a woman identifying herself as his former girlfriend to authorities.

 

Elliott, 22, has denied the domestic violence accusations.

 

Not one, not two, not three, but four independent advisors.  Presumably earlier “this month” meant last month, July.  So a month to come up with an opinion off a hearing?  After over a year of investigation?

 

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

The Giants have brought in PK MIKE NUGENT, last seen leaving Cincinnati after a wave of PAT misfires.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Giants went through the entire offseason with one kicker who had never kicked in an NFL game, but added plenty of experience today.

 

The team announced they had signed 13-year veteran kicker Mike Nugent.

 

He will compete with Aldrick Rosas, who had handled all the offseason work as the lone kicker on the roster. Rosas was in Titans camp last year, after playing one season at Southern Oregon.

 

Nugent, 35, spent the last seven years with the Bengals. He’s also done stints with the Jets, Buccaneers and Cardinals. He’s been a solid 80.8 percent field goal kicker, and he’s tied for 50th on the league’s all-time scoring lost (with Nick Folk and some guy named Emmitt Smith).

 

The Bengals cut him late last year after some persistent struggles on extra points (he missed six), replacing him down the stretch with Randy Bullock.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

An angry Bruce Arians blows up practice with some wind sprints.  Dan Hanzus of NFL.com:

 

Do not anger Bruce Arians.

 

The Arizona Cardinals coach decided to test his team with an earlier practice on Monday — 8 a.m., to be precise. When the players didn’t respond in the manner the coach expected, well, this is when being a professional footballer is not fun.

 

Arians, peeved by the sluggish practice in the heat, penalized his players with a series of punishing wind sprints. If these dispatches gives you flashbacks to godless summer football practices of your own youth, you are not alone.

 

Arians was unapologetic after the conclusion of a practice that left offensive linemen, according to the Cardinals team site, [sitting] at their lockers with a thousand-yard stare.”

 

“Play like [expletive], I’ll treat you like [expletive],” Arians told reporters later. “They weren’t ready to practice. They were really ready to practice on Saturday. With fans and all that, they were ready to roll. They had a great practice Saturday. Today, awful.”

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Partly due to injury, RB MALCOLM BROWN is a rising figure on the Rams depth chart. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When the Rams signed running back Lance Dunbar, the idea was that he would be the No. 2 running back behind Todd Gurley. But that’s not how the depth chart looks now.

 

Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday that Dunbar is out indefinitely with a knee injury, and Malcolm Brown is now the No. 2 running back. Although Brown has just 22 carries for 56 yards in his two years as a Ram, McVay said Brown has proven himself in camp.

 

“He’s kind of got a quiet confidence about himself, where he just goes about his business, very reliable, knows exactly what to do and how to do it and he is a guy that we can depend on,” McVay said, adding, “Malcolm has done a nice job establishing himself as that secondary role.”

 

Gurley will carry the load in the Rams’ backfield, but McVay sounds eager to give Brown some opportunities in the running game.

 

 

SEATTLE

DT MALIK McDOWELL, reportedly the victim of an ATV, is in Seattle.  Bob Condetta in the Seattle Times:

 

Defensive lineman Malik McDowell, the Seahawks’ first pick in the 2017  NFL draft who suffered head injuries in an ATV accident two weeks ago, is expected to travel to Seattle from his home in Michigan Monday and could rejoin the team as early as Tuesday, it was confirmed on Monday.

 

That doesn’t mean McDowell will be on the field anytime soon as it remains unclear if or when he will play this season.

 

But it does mean that he is expected to be back in Seattle and report to the Seahawks. McDowell is currently on the reserve/did not report list while continuing to recover from his injuries at home in the Detroit area, which allowed the Seahawks to sign another player to the 90-man roster to take his spot. But once he joins the team he will become part of the 90-man roster and the Seahawks will have to release someone to make room.

 

McDowell coming to Seattle will also allow Seahawks’ physicians to get their first look at him since his accident, which was revealed by the team when training camp began on Sunday.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

It took longer than hoped, but the Cleveland authorities have decided not to charge CB GAREON CONLEY after a confusing sexual encounter shortly before the draft.

 

Oakland Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley will not be charged in connection to a rape allegation made against him in April.

 

Michael C. O’Malley, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Prosecutor, issued the following statement regarding the case:

 

After a thorough investigation by the Cleveland Police Department, the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations of sexual assault against Gareon Conley were presented to a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury. The Grand Jury returned a No Bill on all possible charges.

 

“He is vindicated. He looks forward to contributing in the National Football League,” Conley’s attorney, Kevin Spellacy, told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport on Monday.

 

A league spokesperson issued the following statement on the matter to Rapoport: “We will follow up to gather as much information as we can.”

 

Conley, 22, had vehemently denied the allegations. He told Cleveland police in May he had a consensual sexual encounter with the woman who accused him of rape and denied assaulting her, Spellacy told Rapoport.

 

Selected No. 24 overall by the Raiders in the 2017 NFL Draft, Conley signed his rookie contract with the team last week. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said after the draft he was comfortable choosing Conley.

 

“I understand the issues involved,” McKenzie told The MMQB. “But we did our research, and we read all the reports, and we did more than our due diligence. After all the information we got, we were comfortable with making this choice and confident in who this player is.”

 

The fact that the case took up some of the grand jury’s time would seem to mean that the collection of evidence contained at least some that was unfavorable to Conley.  And this was from Mike Florio over the weekend on the danger Conley was in:

 

If a grand jury does indeed take up the case, and if the prosecutor (who presents evidence without Conley’s lawyer having the benefit of rebutting it) applies any amount of effort, an indictment will be likely, given the low “probable cause” standard for returning what the law calls a “true bill” of charges. And that will plunge Conley, the Raiders, and the NFL into a mess, with the team and the league sure to face relentless public pressure to not allow a player facing formal rape charges to play until the charges are resolved.

 

It’s currently unknown whether Conley agreed in his rookie contract to, for example, a term that would allow the Raiders to place him on paid leave if charged, or that would allow them to recoup bonus money or stop future payments if convicted.

 

Regardless, the fact that a grand jury will be resolving the issue enhances significantly the possibility that Conley won’t be quickly and cleanly exonerated.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Anthony Lynn says that a report that the Chargers were not excusing TE ANTONIO GATES and QB PHILIP RIVERS to attend LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame enshrinement is #FakeNews.  Still in this report from Eric Williams of ESPN.com we learn that Rivers, at least, won’t attend.

 

– Contrary to an earlier report, Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he has not blocked quarterback Philip Rivers or tight end Antonio Gates from attending the Hall of Fame induction of former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson.

 

At issue is that the Chargers have a joint practice with the Los Angeles Rams at the StubHub Center scheduled at the same time Saturday. Lynn said whether the two players go on Saturday will be a joint decision.

 

Like Rivers and Gates, Lynn said he would also like to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony in Canton, Ohio. Lynn played with Hall of Fame inductee running back Terrell Davis while with the Denver Broncos and served as the running backs coach for the New York Jets during Tomlinson’s tenure with the team.

 

Lynn said he will not attend the event on Saturday because of his obligation to coach the Chargers during the team’s joint practice with the Rams.

 

 

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates were not blocked form attending former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame induction, coach Anthony Lynn says. Denis Poroy/AP

“I’ve talked to Philip,” Lynn said. “I’ve talked to Antonio. I’ve even talked to LT. We’re all on the same page. At the end of the day, we’re going to make the best decision for our football team and that’s it.”

 

Gates told reporters here on Sunday that he would like to attend Tomlinson’s induction.

 

“I had the pleasure to play with him,” Gates said. “And going and playing in between the lines with LT, I can’t say enough about what he means to this organization and what he means to me.

 

“Going into the Hall of Fame is a special honor for a special person. And people don’t know this about LT, but he’s a better person than he is a football player. You can’t ask for a better situation for a guy like that. I’m happy for him. It’s well-deserved, and hopefully I can be there to attend.”

 

According to NFL Network, Rivers will not attend the event because of his priority is with the team, and that he’s already told Tomlinson he will not be in Canton.

 

On the report that he blocked Rivers and Gates to attend, Lynn said: “I don’t know where that came from. I guess you can’t believe everything you read on Twitter.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Dan Wetzel of YahooSports.com with more on the Ravens and Colin Kaepernick.

 

Desperation will create clarity. His perceived value will increase enough to outweigh everything else. If a team is down a QB early in the season, and Kaepernick represents the best on the open market, then he’ll probably get signed. The paradigm will have changed in his favor.

 

Incapable of just making a football decision, or a business decision, or any kind of decisive decision (for or against), Steve Bisciotti, the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, told fans he was so flummoxed at the prospect of signing a backup quarterback that they ought to hit their knees and hope heavenly inspiration rains down.

 

“Pray for us,” Bisciotti said.

 

With that, the Colin Kaepernick situation hit a new level of bizarre.

 

An owner begging fans to let the organization know whom it should and shouldn’t sign is out of the norm enough. This is the NFL. It’s full of mostly good and gracious athletes, but plenty of felons and fools, louts and losers. When did a team ever really care? When did they ever beg for prayers before offering a contract?

 

Everyone in the league knows that if you win, fans will cheer. If you win, they’ll look the other way, always and forever. Do we need the public relations trial balloon bit, here? Just pick a side.

 

“Your opinions matter to us,” Bisciotti said according to the Baltimore Sun. “We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact.”

 

Colin Kaepernick has committed no crimes. Colin Kaepernick has attempted to raise awareness and action against unjustified police brutality, which shouldn’t be much of a wedge issue.

 

Who the heck is favor of it? That’s who needs the prayers.

 

Kaepernick took a high-profile stance against it, of course, refusing to stand for the national anthem last year and that upset plenty of reasonably minded people. And there are also concerns that the vast majority of well-meaning and honest-serving police are under attacks of all kind on this issue. It’s politicized and everything that is politicized these days leads to lots of screaming and little listening.

 

Fair enough. This isn’t simple.

 

This is the NFL though. This is Ray Lewis’ and Ray Rice’s franchise. If a normally organized organization has retreated to polling fans and begging for divine guidance and seeking cover, then two things are clear with Colin Kaepernick.

 

Right now, no one really wants him.

 

He may be better off waiting until someone really needs him.

 

The reality of the NFL – right or wrong – is that Kaepernick isn’t worth the trouble. His perceived negatives outweigh his perceived positives and yes, that sure seems ridiculous in a league that gladly employs domestic abusers and DUI offenders and so on. It’s also the truth and is a condition of employment for pretty much everyone.

 

Kaepernick has tried to decrease the NFL’s perceived negatives of him. He has kept a low profile and has been professional during this offseason as he searched for work. He’s prepared to jump in at a moment’s notice. He has been willing to address questions head-on – as he did in direct conversations with the Ravens. He’s well on his way to donating $1 million dollars to grassroots organizations. ESPN, citing sources close to Kap, said he would even stand for the anthem this season.

 

For the NFL, this hasn’t been enough. Again, that’s reality. You can hate the league for it or applaud, but that’s what’s happening right now.

 

The Ravens, with an injured starter in Joe Flacco and an interception machine in Ryan Mallett as their depth chart can’t make a decision (one way or the other) on Kaepernick without inviting fans and faith to get into the mix.

 

Kaepernick needs to stay ready because what can change and what will change are injuries. Baltimore is considering him only because Flacco got banged up, but he’s expected to be back, likely by the first preseason game.

 

 “We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that [Kaepernick] is going to help us do that,” Bisciotti said.

 

Eventually a starter is going down for a longer stretch. Desperation will create clarity. His perceived value will increase enough to outweigh everything else. The NFL is a zero-sum game and for all the hand wringing over anthem protests, if a team is frantic enough (or a player is good enough) it’ll tolerate anything. An MVP-caliber quarterback could light up Old Glory on the 50-yard line and not miss a snap.

 

And if a team is down a QB early in the season, and Kaepernick represents the best on the open market – it won’t be close – then he’ll probably get signed. The paradigm will have changed in his favor.

 

It shouldn’t have to come to this. He is better than plenty of players slinging it in training camp. A lot of things that happen shouldn’t happen though. Nothing occurs in a vacuum. That’s life. Kaepernick is a smart guy and it sure seemed he understood all of this when he took a knee last year in San Francisco. He felt he had to do it anyway.

 

Support him or not, you should respect someone willing to risk so much to stay true to their personal beliefs.

 

The NFL doesn’t. Not until he becomes truly, truly essential. That’s how business works. That’s particularly how this business works.

 

Right now the Ravens are still too terrified to make a quick decision, a simple sign him or don’t sign him. All of this over a backup QB who likely will hold a clipboard on Sundays.

 

So, yeah, if you’re inclined, do pray for the Ravens. If this is tying them in knots, it’s apparent they need some kind of help.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com on Tom Coughlin’s seizing the day in his new role with the Jaguars.

 

In case you were wondering, no, Tom Coughlin is not what you would describe as a man at peace.

 

Coughlin is here, running the Jacksonville Jaguars — but not as the head coach he was for the first eight years of their existence before he moved on to coach the New York Giants for 12 years, winning two Super Bowls. No, Coughlin’s title here is executive vice president of football operations. The coach is Doug Marrone. But some of the players do refer to “Coach Marrone and Coach Coughlin” when talking about the brain trust, and Coughlin is a definite presence at practice, the way he always has been.

 

“I’m not going to adjust who I am or how I go about it,” Coughlin said in an interview with ESPN on Monday morning. “I walk the practice fields and I say what I want to say, even to the head coach. ‘I don’t like this, I like this.’ And it’s a constant critique. And he’s [Marrone] been very welcoming.”

 

Marrone wouldn’t seem to have much choice, but the two are similar enough that he’s finding a way to work with Coughlin over his shoulder. A few things remain to be seen — such as how it’ll work during the season when games are won and lost and how Coughlin will handle watching from the press box. But after not being around a team last season following his January 2016 parting with the Giants, Coughlin was eager to get back to the franchise he helped build from the ground up in the 1990s. The logistics of his new role remain a work in progress.

 

“It’s going to be interesting,” Coughlin said. “Fortunately for me, the experience to date with Doug and [general manager Dave Caldwell] has been very good. We work together on all things. Doug is very much interested in what I think about everything. But the actual games and the competitiveness and not being able to necessarily, in a timely manner, rely on those experiences is going to be interesting. Because I really do feel that the idea of sharing and being a part of it and having the opportunity to develop the relationships is a very important thing for me. And I can still have some of that, but it’s going to be different, obviously.”

 

You can hear the various parts of Coughlin’s football soul sparring with each other. He knows he’s not the coach, but he knows part of him is going to have a very hard time with that. He feels the need to stand over the coach’s shoulder and critique, but he knows he’d hate it if someone had done that to him while he was coaching.

 

“Oh yeah, I understand that,” he said. “The best example I give is: I was a play-caller for a lot of years, and I hated people bugging me about that. So I’m aware of that part of it. And I know. I know how much goes into it. And I know there’ll be a time and a place to discuss a lot of things, and it’ll be up to me to do the best job I can to help correct, to institute some of my thoughts, but at the right time. A guy loses a ballgame, it ain’t a great time. You’d better give him some time.”

 

Perpetually antsy and energetic, still at the facility at 5 a.m. every day for those famous morning workouts, Coughlin seems to admit he isn’t all the way sure how that part will work. He just knows he wants it to.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

DT MARCELL DAREUS missed some time over the weekend with a hamstring problem, but he was back at practice on Tuesday.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

The problems of being the winningest team of the 21st Century.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

Even winning comes with its problems, apparently.

 

The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl title in February, which puts owner Robert Kraft in a decorating bind: There is no more room at Gillette Stadium to hang banners!

 

TIME TO FREAK OUT, PEOPLE!

 

WHERE WILL THE NEW BANNER GO?!?

 

ALL THE COLUMNS ARE FILLED!!

 

THIS IS A DECORATOR’S NIGHTMARE!

 

Luckily, this national nightmare ends happily. Kraft told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday the team rearranged the stadium, which will be a “surprise” for Pats fans.

 

“We had a problem,” Kraft said, via the Boston Herald. “We had no more room to put banners so we had to change the construction around, so we have a surprise for our fans.”

 

A new banner AND a surprise to go with it? Gee golly, guys, what a gosh darn good day that’s going to be.

 

The Patriots first preseason game is Thursday, Aug. 10, vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team will unveil its Super Bowl banner to kick off the 2017 season on Thursday, Sept. 7, vs. the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

This banner mayhem is the latest reminder that even the ‘problems’ on the Throne of Ease are swept simply aside — like the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.

 

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

S JAMAL ADAMS gives an answer to a CTE question that Darryl Slater of NJ.com calls “painfully awkward.”

 

A painfully awkward moment happened Monday during a fan forum at Jets training camp, after rookie safety Jamal Adams — the team’s first-round draft pick — said he’d prefer to die on the football field, over anywhere else.

 

Many — but not all — of the approximately 150 Jets fans in attendance applauded Adams after he said this.

 

Adams was on stage for the forum with veteran running back Matt Forte and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whose league has come under fire for long-term, debilitating brain injuries caused by playing football.

 

Adams’ comment came up during a discussion about football-related brain damage.

 

This was his full quote:

 

“I’m all about making the game safer, but as a defensive player, I’m not a big fan of it. But I get it. I can speak for a lot of guys that play the game. We live and breathe [football]. This is what we’re so passionate about. Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. And that’s not a lie. There’s so much sacrifice that we go through as a team, and just connecting as one and winning ball games. There’s nothing like playing the game of football. But again, I’m all about making the game safer.”

 

While one could argue it’s admirable to hear Adams, 21, say he’d prefer to die doing what he loves, dying on the football field would also mean dying young. There aren’t any 75-year-old men playing in the NFL.

 

Goodell on Monday spoke extensively about the league doing things like embracing new helmets and creating head-targeting rules, in order to decrease the possibility of concussions. The NFL also has to alter the long-held tough-guy mentality of its own players.

 

After the fan forum, Goodell was asked about Adams’ comment, during a brief media session.

 

“I think what he was really making the point of is how much he loves the game,” Goodell said. “It’s just something that means a great deal to him. I get the emotion of that.”

 

Goodell was asked if it was uncomfortable for him when fans applauded Adams’ comments.

 

“I think fans understood the emotion of what he was saying,” Goodell said. “Which is: We love the game. I think they love the game. But I don’t think anyone took it as directly as that.”

 

Goodell also spoke about the need for a “culture change” with football’s tough-guy mindset.

 

An NFL widow is shaken by Adams’ comments.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jamal Adams thinks a football field is the “perfect place to die.”

 

Those who have been touched by the ravages of degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) would like to remind him the end might not be nearly that glamourous.

 

Via Christian Red of the New York Daily News, the ex-wife of the late Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk had some harsh words after hearing the Jets rookie’s remarks.

 

“I don’t even know what to say,” said Keana McMahon. “This guy [Adams] doesn’t know what’s coming down the pipeline. He has no idea what dealing with someone who has CTE is like.”

 

McMahon divorced Strzelczyk nine months before his fiery death, which happened when the 36-year-old drove his truck into oncoming traffic on the New York Thruway and into a tractor trailer.

 

McMahon had been married to him for eight years, and described the mood swings and unusual behavior that has been linked to CTE. She said their two children have been badly scarred by his death, despite the fact they were often scared of his behavior.

 

“I bet my kids would want their father here,” McMahon said.  “I know in my heart of hearts that Justin would have wanted to see his daughter get married someday or see his son graduate from college, not dying on a football field. To me [Adams] is sh—ing on Justin’s grave.”

 

While the 21-year-old Adams was likely making a populist point rather than a medical one (as evidenced by the applause after his remark), it’s still jarring to hear. But it’s particularly so for those who have been touched by the ugly reality of what brain disease can do to former players, long after the cheers have faded.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BAD CAMPS

Denny Heifetz of The Ringer scours the 32 camps to find a few QBs who are doing poorly even in practice:

 

One of the beautiful things about NFL training camp is the impenetrable optimism. Last season’s blemishes are whitewashed while this season’s potential is lauded. And without the pressure of the regular season, we get to see the human side of teams, like John Harbaugh learning German or Antonio Brown living life like he’s in a Grey Poupon commercial. All 32 teams have convinced themselves that they’ll get one of the 12 playoff spots. Basically, every team feels like Channing Tatum in this video, even if most teams will end up feeling like Jonah Hill.

 

Despite the profound hopefulness in the air, a few squads couldn’t escape the first weekend of training camp without confronting their own futility. Here are the quarterbacks who have punctured the bubble of optimism before the calendar even flipped to August.

 

Mitchell Trubisky

The Chicago Bears traded up one spot in this year’s draft to select the UNC quarterback, and many pundits lampooned them for it. The Bears had just signed Mike Glennon to a $45 million deal in March, and drafting Trubisky signaled some confusion (to be kind) in the front office. Trubisky is raw. He didn’t start until his junior year at UNC, and after spending all of college playing from the shotgun, he’s spending his training camp learning how to take snaps from under center. It seems that that process is going slowly.

 

“(The exchange is) the most critical part of the play,” Trubisky said after practice. “I’ve just got to take care of that and get better on my part.” Trubisky has a lot to learn before he’s going to become an NFL starter, but before he can do that, he has to figure out how to not kill every play he touches like a hybrid of Mark Sanchez and King Midas.

 

Blake Bortles

Admittedly, training camp stats are worthless. In fact, they are less than worthless, because like Adam Sandler’s answers in Billy Madison, just hearing them makes you dumber. But part of the reason they are worthless is that they are comically slanted toward the offense, which makes five interceptions almost impressively bad.

 

Head coach Doug Marrone said that he didn’t speak with Bortles after Saturday’s practice because, “If I’ve got to do that now, then we’re going to be in trouble.” ([Ron Howard voice] The Jaguars were already in trouble.) Instead, Marrone said he was going to “go back and look at it from a different view.” While it is brave of Marrone to watch those interceptions all over again, I don’t think the camera angle was the problem. Bortles needed less than one day in full pads to remind us of what Michael Lombardi detailed in May, the only people who can’t see that Bortles isn’t their future quarterback are the people running the Jaguars.

 

Bortles’s job got harder on Monday when left tackle Branden Albert, whom the team acquired in a trade four months ago, abruptly retired. Albert’s departure leaves Cam Robinson, the Jags’ second-round pick out of Alabama and the 2016 Outland Trophy Winner, as the presumed starting left tackle.

 

Joe Flacco

Flacco injured his back last week, casting a cloud over Baltimore’s training camp before it could even start. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley said that backup Ryan Mallett looked “awful” in practice on Friday, throwing five interceptions. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs wasn’t shy about the performance. “Hey, Marty [Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator], tell Mallett to throw to the guys wearing the purple jerseys [the offense],” Suggs said.

 

More outings like this from Mallett may force the Ravens to acquire a proper backup quarterback for the very possible scenario that Flacco aggravates his back injury during the season. Harbaugh has floated the possibility of the team signing Colin Kaepernick, who under Jim Harbaugh’s leadership nearly defeated the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

 

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti addressed the possibility of signing Kaepernick at a fan forum on Sunday, saying the team is “very sensitive to it and we’re monitoring it,” while admitting that Kaepernick’s protest is a factor in the decision. This is certainly a situation to monitor closely.

 

Christian Hackenberg

It appears that Hackenberg has given himself the Michael Jackson treatment.

 

If Hackenberg is Michael Jackson here, that must make the 38-year-old Josh McCown a zombie from the Thriller video. Hackenberg was 7 years old when McCown made his NFL debut, and now the two are fighting for the New York Jets starting quarterback job (Bryce Petty is also technically involved).

 

The Jets have denied they are tanking this season, but even having to address those questions must be depressing. Perhaps Hackenberg’s white glove will solve his accuracy issues and resurrect the Jets’ playoff hopes.

 

 

2018 DRAFT

R.J. White at CBSSports.com takes a stab at a 2018 Mock Draft:

 

The quarterback class of 2018 is supposed to be one of the best in recent memory, and the new wave of signal callers is coming just in the nick of time. While several teams are still looking for answers at the position (hello, Jets), others that have enjoyed stellar quarterback play throughout the years will have an eye on the future of the position come 2018.

 

Those realities combine to place a whopping six quarterbacks in the top 20 of my first mock draft for 2018. And once teams get into draft mode during next offseason, it wouldn’t surprise to see teams jockeying for position via trade to land their preferred targets. That’s great news for the teams at the top of the draft who might not be interested in landing a quarterback, as a trade down could set a premium pipeline of draft talent up for those teams for years to come.

 

For the actual draft order, we’re using SportsLine’s projected win totals to set teams in their slots.  All teams are listed with their 2016 records.

 

1. Cleveland Browns (1-15)

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Browns seem good enough (or not quite as bad as usual) to avoid the No. 1 pick for a second straight year, and if DeShone Kizer impresses as a rookie, they may be in the enviable position of looking to trade out of the top five in a QB-rich draft that should feature plenty of teams looking to move up. But if Kizer isn’t the answer and the Browns are stuck at No. 1, Darnold seems like the safest bet to finally give them a franchise quarterback to be excited about.

 

 2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Count me among those that expect Kirk Cousins to join Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco after the 2017 season. If that happens, the 49ers will be poised to trade down and continue working to rebuild their roster with a ton of draft capital. If they stay in the top five, grabbing a top-rated offensive tackle to pair with Joe Staley, who himself is 32, makes a lot of sense.

 

3. New York Jets (5-11)

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The biggest lock of the 2018 NFL Draft this far out is that the Jets will finish with a top-five pick and finally find themselves a quarterback of the future worth the title. Rosen is probably a better bet for immediate success than Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, and we know whoever the Jets take is going to start in Week 1 of 2018.

 

4. Los Angeles Rams (4-12)

Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

The Rams stand to lose Trumaine Johnson after back-to-back seasons playing under the franchise tag, and I expect the secondary to continue to be a priority for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Sean McVay will get enough out of Jared Goff in 2017 to prevent pulling the plug and looking at drafting another quarterback early.

 

5. Chicago Bears (3-13)

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

The Bears have one of the best collections of interior linemen in the league, but they still lack talent on the ends of their offensive line. With new face of the franchise Mitchell Trubisky likely starting by no later than Week 1 of 2018, improving pass protection on the outside will be critical to offensive success. Williams is excellent in that regard and would be a huge find for the Bears.

 

6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Chargers would be ecstatic to see a blue-chip passer on the board when they’re up, as Philip Rivers is 35 years old and may end up worn down after a year of commuting to L.A. The best case scenario would have Rivers still under center in 2018 as Allen learns the ropes before the Wyoming signal-caller takes over in 2019, when moving on from Rivers would save the Chargers $16 million on the cap.

 

7. Miami Dolphins (10-6)

Arden Key, DE, LSU

The Dolphins landed some pass rush help in the 2017 draft in the form of Charles Harris, but who says they’ll be done looking for impact pass rushers by the time the 2018 draft rolls around? Cameron Wake, 35, could see his play fall off at any time, and the Dolphins don’t have much depth behind the wily veteran and the fresh-faced rookie. Key could be part of a three-headed rotation if Wake is still effective in 2018 while giving Miami a great pair of bookends long-term.

 

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The Buccaneers have been building quite the offense around former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston, but one thing they lack heading into 2017 is an established rushing threat. Barkley will likely emerge as the best back of the 2018 class, and if he reaches his potential this season, it could be the third draft in a row we see a running back taken in the top five overall.

 

9. Detroit Lions (9-7)

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

The top priority for the Lions will be making sure Matthew Stafford and Ezekiel Ansah aren’t going anywhere; after all, they only have one franchise tag they can use. Provided both are under contract for 2018, the Lions will likely look to draft an impact defender. Wilkins, who will be ready to start immediately, can take over for Haloti Ngata (free agent in 2018) inside next to 2016 second-round pick A’Shawn Robinson and give the Lions a ferocious defensive line.

 

10. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State

 Unless Blake Bortles reaches new heights in 2017, the Jaguars are going to be in the market for a quarterback next offseason. Falk likely isn’t going to light up the combine or individual workouts, but he’ll have the experience and intangibles worth selecting in the first round anyway. If the Jaguars fall in the 8-15 range of the draft, look for them to engineer a move up for one of the blue-chip passers.

 

11. Buffalo Bills (7-9)

Da’Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama

New coach Sean McDermott (along with new GM Brandon Beane) enjoyed wave after wave of talent coming into the Carolina defensive line via the draft, and with Kyle Williams heading into free agency in 2018 and Marcell Dareus a potential cap casualty after 2018, when the Bills would save more than $10 million on the cap, or 2019, Hand guarantees the Bills defensive line won’t go lacking for talent anytime soon.

 

12. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)

Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

The Colts are set to lose Vontae Davis to free agency in 2018, and if that happens they’ll have a pretty lean depth chart outside of 2017 second-rounder Quincy Wilson, who isn’t likely to develop into a No. 1 corner. McFadden has the potential to be just that, as he has ideal size and a nose for the ball. A breakout 2017 season could get McFadden into the top-five overall discussion.

 

13. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)

Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

The Eagles could be in the market to add to their skill-position talent depending on how things shake out in 2017, but one place they’ll definitely need help in the 2018 offseason is at linebacker, where Nigel Bradham and his off-field issues will be a free agent, as will key backup Najee Goode. Jefferson is a run-and-chase weapon at the linebacker spot who would go a long way toward strengthening the team’s defensive front seven.

 

14. New Orleans Saints (7-9)

Derwin James, S, Florida State

James would be a steal this late for a Saints team that needs playmakers on defense. Kenny Vaccaro is a free agent after the 2017 season, and pairing James with Vonn Bell would give the Saints a nice tandem on the back end for the foreseeable future. James might be a better fit at free safety, but Bell excelled in run defense last year while struggling in coverage, meaning he might be better playing closer to the line anyway.

 

15. Denver Broncos (9-7)

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Broncos will need to starting thinking about the future of their passing game next offseason, as the team could save more than $10 million by cutting ties with Emmanuel Sanders, already 30, during the 2019 offseason. Ridley, who would start his career as the team’s third receiver, could be a threat at every level of the field and would guarantee that Paxton Lynch (or whoever is starting) doesn’t have to lock onto Demaryius Thomas in the passing game.

 

16. Washington Redskins (8-7-1)

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Unless the Redskins reverse course and start treating Kirk Cousins like a franchise quarterback, they’ll be in the market for a long-term option next offseason. Rudolph has a big arm that teams could fall in love with during the predraft process, and he figures to be in the first-round mix after the bigger talents are off the board.

 

17. New York Giants (11-5)

Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Hyatt might not have the measurables teams are looking for in an offensive tackle, but he acquitted himself well as a freshman manning left tackle for Clemson and continued his quality play last year. If he puts another good year on tape, he’ll be impossible to keep out the first round, no matter his size. The Giants could lose guard Justin Pugh next offseason anyway, so the opportunity will be there for Hyatt to dominate inside if his size doesn’t play at tackle.

 

18. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

Josh Sweat, OLB, Florida State

Sweat has the skill-set to break out in 2017, and if he does he could be a highly-coveted pass rusher in the 2018 draft. He gives Tennessee a nice third rusher behind Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, and he’ll be able to take over if one or both leave as free agents in 2019.

 

19. Oakland Raiders (12-4)

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Guice could be neck and neck with Barkley for top rusher in the draft, and it’s possible we see both go in the top 10 in the 2018 draft. If he’s somehow available when Oakland picks, he’s an easy selection to be their new franchise back. Even if Marshawn Lynch recaptures some of the magic of his Seattle days, the Raiders have to be thinking long-term in terms of finding a replacement.

 

20. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson could be the biggest wild-card of the 2018 draft heading into this season, as personnel departments may be unwilling to stake their futures to a guy some consider unlikely to develop into an NFL-caliber quarterback. But let Bruce Arians at the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and his upside has a great chance of being unlocked. In the 20s, gambling on Jackson’s talent makes sense.

 

21. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)

Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi Stat

It’s possible that Cincinnati’s new-look offensive line plays well in 2017 despite losing two key members this offseason, but more likely the Bengals will be on the hunt for offensive line talent next offseason. Rankin has experience at left tackle but is expected to kick inside this season, and if he continues to play well, it should improve his stock even more. Either way, he has the size to stick outside at the NFL level.

 

22. Cleveland Browns (1-15) from Houston Texans

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

The Browns found a franchise edge rusher in 2017 in the form of Myles Garrett, their No. 1 overall pick. Chubb is a well-rounded edge defender who plays well against the run while being a force rushing the passer. He could very well be long off the board by this part of the draft, but I’m not so sure the Texans are a good team heading into 2017, and the Browns could end up with two top-10 selections in this draft when all is said and done.

 

23. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)

Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

The Vikings suffered a big blow when Sharrif Floyd was diagnosed with a potentially career-ending knee injury. If his outlook isn’t any better by the time the 2018 draft rolls around, replacing him on the interior of the defensive line must be a priority. Jones could be in for a big season while surrounded by talent on the Ohio State defensive line.

 

24. Carolina Panthers (6-10)

Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

The defensive line has been a priority for the Panthers in recent memory, and while a change in the front office could lead to an organizational shift in draft approach, Hubbard is a well-rounded edge talent who could be a fit in their edge rotation if Julius Peppers is one-and-done in Carolina.

 

25. Green Bay Packers (10-6)

Vita Vea, NT, Washington

The Packers lack a reliable nose on the defensive line, and with Letroy Guion dealing with off-field issues this offseason, the team will likely be on the lookout to strengthen the position next offseason. Vea is a massive presence inside who will go a long way to anchoring the team’s run defense.

 

26. Buffalo Bills (7-9) from Kansas City Chiefs

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson

Wide receiver was a position of need heading into this past offseason for the Bills, and while they spent a second-round pick on Zay Jones, they still have little depth to speak of. The position could take an even bigger hit if Sammy Watkins departs after the team failed to exercise his 2018 option. Cain has the deep speed to complement Jones’ possession skills, and even if he goes earlier than this, the solid group of receivers in the back half of the first round should make this a position to target here for the Bills.

 

27. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)

Marcus Allen, S, Penn State

The Cowboys overhauled their secondary this offseason, but one spot that doesn’t have a clear answer is strong safety, where Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier are trying to make their claim. Allen is a liability in coverage but a monster hitter who could be a difference-maker in the box. If he simply can’t stick in the deep field due to his coverage skills, the Cowboys could try and transition him to linebacker a la Deone Buccanon.

 

28. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Andy Levitre had a nice bounceback season last year, but his price tag could make him a 2018 cap casualty if he doesn’t continue to play at a high level. The Falcons are looking for an answer at the other guard spot this preseason. If either spot needs upgrading, taking the leap on Nelson, the draft’s best interior line prospect, would be a great way to assure the Falcons’ line remains a strength.

 

29. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

I’d be shocked to see the Ravens picking this low considering how snakebit they’ve been this offseason, and you can bet Ozzie Newsome will be looking to nab the best value on the board wherever he ends up. Sutton, who is an excellent route-runner, could be an option in the top half of the first round by the time we get to the draft, as he has about as much talent as any receiver in this class.

 

30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

Cameron Smith, ILB, USC

The Steelers said goodbye to long-time inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons this past offseason, and while Vince Williams will get the chance to prove he deseves the starting gig next to Ryan Shazier, Smith gives the team a backup plan in case Williams is ineffective or if either he or Shazier, both free agents after 2018, leave in free agency.

 

31. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)

Trey Adams, OL, Washington

While many consider the offensive line the big weakness for the Seahawks, they have done little to address the issue in recent offseasons, instead directing their attention elsewhere. If they wind up with a pick this low, they could decide to invest in a player with potential to play left tackle. Adams might not be able to stick on the blind side, but he’d be a fine addition inside for a line that needs an injection of talent.

 

32. New England Patriots (14-2)

Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State

The Patriots lost Rob Ninkovich over the weekend, so even if 2017 third-round pick Derek Rivers turns into a solid pass-rushing option, the team should still be on the lookout for defensive-end talent for the present and future. Evaluations on Lewis are all over the map, but if anyone can get the most out of him, it’s Bill Belichick.

 

Thoughts from the DB – when you see that list of QBs in the top 20, all more accomplished in college so far than MITCHELL TRUBISKY ever was, the Bears decision to trade up to draft him second overall seems even more perplexing.

 

Surely, they could have added someone like JAMAL ADAMS, played through 2017 with MIKE GLENNON – and if Glennon was found wanting, they could have drafted a QB in 2018 who would be every bit as prepared as Trubisky might be (if all goes well and that’s a big if) in 2018.

 

Also – we love the name VITA VEA.