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May - 2009
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Sideline Scouting

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Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Rumor: Thomas Jones could be available

Posted by Pete Dymeck On May - 16 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

If I were working for the Seahawks, I would call the Jets about the availability of running back Thomas Jones.

I know, I know, the Seahawks have the other Jones, Julius, currently handling the running back chores. But when does having Julius Jones on a roster mean youll get a consistent and reliable runner? Besides his durability issues, when does he give you a sense of comfort and confidence that he can play the whole season and be productive? Last year, sharing time with Maurice Morris, Jones had almost 700 yards rushing and played in 15 games. Its clear he needs someone to help him handle the reps and not place the full burden squarely on his shoulders. That other back is not T.J. Duckett. Duckett is a short-yardage runner but lacks quickness to make plays in the middle of the field. He did help the Seahawks convert third and one at an 85-percent rate, finishing third in the NFL. But hes not the kind of player to supplement Julius.

Trading for Thomas Jones would give the Seahawks another runner to share time with his brother and beef up the running game. The current Jets roster desperately needs a wide receiver to replace the departed Laveranues Coles. The Seahawks depending on the health of some players and the talent level of the younger wideouts, notably third-round pick Deon Butler may have an extra wideout. For example, Deion Branch might be expendable after Seattles receivers last year failed to make plays, partly because of health and partly because they finished 30th in the NFL in dropped passes. If healthy, Branch would give the Jets a veteran receiver capable of helping a rookie quarterback. Both teams might benefit from this trade.

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If the Raiders’ goal is to see JaMarcus Russell become an elite quarterback, they have a funny way of showing it.

That’s not meant to be a cheap shot at the Raiders, whose league-low 24 victories over the past six seasons have made them the butt of countless jokes. Rather it’s a sincere way of saying I just don’t understand how they’re handling Russell.

He struggled for most of his first 1 seasons but finally showed flashes of promise last December, when he threw two touchdown passes in each of his final three games after tossing only five in his previous 11 games combined. He also completed more than 50 percent of his passes in those games after finishing beneath that mark in six of his previous 11 outings.

But instead of building on that, the Raiders brought in a new quarterbacks coach (Paul Hackett), a new passing game coordinator (Ted Tollner) and hired wideout and tight end coaches who’ve never been lead position coaches in the NFL. Also, instead of adding an experienced receiver who could be a security blanket for Russell, they plan to rely on rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was taken with the seventh pick in this year’s draft.

“Also those things have set him back a year,” said one of Russell’s former coaches.

Drawing long-term conclusions from a May minicamp is always dangerous, but after watching Russell last weekend it’s not a stretch to say the odds are against him becoming a consistent playmaker this year. The strong-armed former LSU product elicited occasional “wows” from onlookers, such as when he found tight end Tony Stewart with a laser pass down the right seam. But mostly he struggled with his accuracy and touch, at one point tossing six consecutive incompletions.

None of this should come as a surprise. Young quarterbacks typically struggle when faced with major changes. The Raiders needed only to have looked across the bay, where 2005 No. 1 pick Alex Smith, who has had a disappointing career with San Francisco, is now on his fifth coordinator in as many seasons.

At the same time Russell cannot be absolved of blame should he struggle. Elite QBs are usually gym rats who are consumed with the game. No one has ever described Russell in that manner. At the owners meetings in March, coach Tom Cable spoke positively of Russell but added: “If he can accept the responsibility of being an NFL quarterback — working more, working harder, working longer than everybody else, accepting the responsibility that his teammates look to him as the face of the organization, that he has to go above and beyond almost on a daily basis… (if) he can accept that and become that, he’ll be fine. He’ll be great.”

If?

IF?!

The Raiders can wrap the Russell situation in a positive bow if they like, but the signing of veteran QB Jeff Garcia easily can be construed as a means of protecting themselves “if” Russell doesn’t accept the leadership reins. Garcia seemed to echo Cable when he told the Contra Costa Times of Russell: “He has to understand it takes a certain drive and dedication (to be successful), not only how you perform on the field but how teammates follow your lead.”

Russell seems reluctant to take the lead at times. He skipped some voluntary workouts earlier in the offseason — some speculated it was due to the death of a close uncle — but Yahoo! Sports also reported that he blew off scheduled February workouts with a college teammate because he wanted to relax.

The good thing for the Raiders is that it’s only May. The bad thing? It’s already May.

Sports Illustrated

Lions waiting on Stafford, deal in place with Curry

Posted by Pete Dymeck On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

According to a league source, the Detroit Lions have completed contract terms with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and the team is now waiting to see if it can reach an agreement with their No. 1 target, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. The source said the Lions will not allow a decision to go beyond Friday and if a deal isn’t done with Stafford by then, the team will sign Curry and take him with the first overall draft pick.

The source said he believes that Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, will eventually agree to a deal with the Lions but probably won’t do it until it gets closer to the Friday deadline. The price of the contract can only go up in the final hours so Condon will likely push the issue as far as he feels he has something to gain.

The Lions, according to the source, aren’t budging and are just waiting to see if Stafford accepts their deal before they move to Curry. The Lions have been adamant that they want to get their draft pick signed before the draft starts at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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Eagles in the mix for Tony Gonzalez

Posted by Administrator On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

The buzz about the Chiefs resuming their attempts to trade veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez has restarted, and it sounds as if the Eagles might have nosed ahead of the Falcons as the most likely trade partner. Philly is thought to be willing to give up a third-rounder for Gonzalez. But Kansas City is seeking at least a second-round pick for a player it considers a future Hall of Famer, and may not be willing to bear the brunt of any criticism that could come if it’s perceived to have given away Gonzalez too cheaply.

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Lions in final negotiations with QB Stafford

Posted by Administrator On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

The Lions are in negotiations to finalize a contract with Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, who would be the No. 1 overall draft pick Saturday.

An accord could be reached as soon as Wednesday night.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the team hoped to have a contract completed for the top selection — without naming him — during a pre-draft news conference Tuesday.

Lions officials have been negotiating with Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, who not only represent Stafford but also Baylor OT Jason Smith. Smith is believed to be the Lions’ second option should a deal with Stafford not materialize.

Should Stafford and the Lions agree to terms, the quarterback is expected to initially work behind veteran Daunte Culpepper, who impressed coaches at a recent minicamp. Stafford could receive the opportunity to compete for the starting job, which some NFL coaches and scouts said he could handle following private workouts and interviews.

The St. Louis Rams hold the No. 2 pick in the draft, and if Stafford’s deal is completed before the draft, the intrigue immediately would turn their way. It is believed that the Rams would select Smith or Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, but team officials said they like what they have seen from Alex Barron, whom they moved to left tackle from right tackle, and that they could take a linebacker (Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry) or QB Mark Sanchez with the pick.

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Rams Leaning Monroe . . . Or Sanchez?

Posted by Administrator On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

If the run-up to the draft weren’t crazy enough, word is now emerging that the St. Louis Rams are considering two candidates with the second overall pick: tackle Eugene Monroe, and quarterback Mark Sanchez.

The shocker is Sanchez. The Rams have Marc Bulger under contract. (Then again, I’ve recently suggested that now might be the time to trade him.)

It could be that the Rams are merely hoping to cajole one of the teams in the teens who supposedly are interested in Sanchez (Broncos, Redskins, Jets) into believing that the only way to be sure that they’ll get the former USC signal-caller is to move all the way to No. 2.

Currently, the thinking is that moving to No. 4 will be high enough to get Sanchez, if the team that wants Sanchez makes the move when the fourth pick is on the clock. If the Rams can move the target up two spots, they can trade down — and also pick up some extra selections, in the hopes of filling more holes on a very bad roster.

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Sources: WRs Harvin, Tate tested positive for pot

Posted by Administrator On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

The draft stock of Percy Harvin and Brandon Tate may have taken a hit.

Two sources told FOXSports.com that both wide receivers tested positive for marijuana in February at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Before the test results became official, Harvin was considered a potential first-round pick after leaving the University of Florida following his junior season. Tate was projected as a first or second rounder after a solid college career at North Carolina.

Joel Segal, the agent who represents both players, didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Harvin and Tate were the only high-profile players to flunk their combine drug tests, the sources said. Fewer than a dozen players tested positive for recreational drugs, one source said.

NFL teams received the drug-test results earlier this week. Players who failed are subject to entry into the NFL’s substance-abuse program.

Sports Illustrated’s Web site reported that Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji had flunked a combine drug test. Raji was not on the list of failed players, one source said, and SI.com has since retracted its story.

Harvin excelled as both a wide receiver and running back in Florida’s spread offense. Harvin generated 1,303 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns in 2008. He also posted a blazing time of 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

Tate was having a monster season for North Carolina before tearing two knee ligaments midway through his senior campaign. He averaged 23.5 yards on his 16 receptions and was even more dangerous as a punt and kickoff returner. Tate’s 397 all-purpose yards against McNeese State set a single-game record at UNC. Tate didn’t work out at the Combine while still recovering from his injury.

The NFL draft will be held this weekend.

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Beanie Wells’ agent rejects reports of injury concerns for former OSU star back

Posted by Administrator On April - 22 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

The agent for Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells disputed a report on SI.com that teams are backing away from Wells because of concern over a sesamoid bone in his foot.

A native of Akron who visited the Browns last week, Wells is projected to go in the middle of the first round of Saturday’s NFL draft.

A sesamoid bone is small bone embedded in a joint capsule or tendon. Wells originally suffered the toe injury in the season opener against Youngstown State and missed three games. But he still rushed for almost 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Beanie was examined by [orthopedic surgeon] Dr. James Andrews in January and was given a clean bill of health,” said agent Adam Heller. “There are no issues with the toe and he’s 100 percent. He rushed for 1,200 yards and has since posted the best broad jump at the combine and a 4.38 in the 40 at his pro day.”

What’s more, Heller said, “Beanie has not had the issue raised by any team during his individual workouts or team visits. Based on the conversations I’ve had with teams, it’s a non-issue.”

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History shows Chiefs don’t have to use No. 1 pick to find pass rusher

Posted by Administrator On April - 21 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

Here’s some encouraging news for the Chiefs as they try to improve what was historically the NFL’s worst pass rush. Among the league’s top 10 sack artists last season, only four were originally first-round draft picks.

The others all came along later — in some cases much later. Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, fourth in the league with 16 sacks, was never drafted at all.

So there’s hope for the Chiefs even if they don’t draft a pass rusher with their first-round pick. The Chiefs have done little so far to improve their pass rush — trading for one veteran linebacker, Mike Vrabel, and signing another, Zach Thomas.

They will also play at least some 3-4, a scheme that could lead them to move Tamba Hali to linebacker.

“I don’t know if we even need to draft a pass rusher,” safety Jarrad Page said. “The scheme may take care of it. You can never put the blame on one person’s shoulders. It was the players’ fault and the coaches’ fault. Neither side did the job when we’re 2-14. With these guys stepping into a new scheme, they may be great. The scheme might take care of it.”

It seems clear, though, that the Chiefs have to make some changes. They had a most difficult time last year dragging down the opposing quarterback. They managed to do it just 10 times, setting an NFL record.

The Chiefs traded Jared Allen before the season but thought between one-time first-round draft picks Hali, Glenn Dorsey and Derrick Johnson they had enough to compensate for Allen’s loss.

So now they’re looking for pass rushers again. It’s an odd phenomenon that players who can rush the quarterback are highly coveted by all NFL teams but so many of the better ones slip through the cracks.

Allen was one. He played at tiny Idaho State and was drafted by the Chiefs in the fourth round in 2004.

“Teams are looking for a guy who can play against the run,” said Hali, who had only three sacks last season but still led the Chiefs. “Nobody wants to bring in an end that can’t play the run. If you’ve got a guy who can only rush the quarterback and he can’t stop the run, you’d better have someone else who is good at playing against the run.”

Many times, late-round pass rushers come — like Allen — from smaller colleges. Scouts can see these players pile up sacks on video, but also see those sacks coming against inferior competition.

Other times, a player’s college coach might not recognize his pass-rush skills and bury him on the bench or in the wrong scheme.

In new general manager Scott Pioli’s nine seasons with New England while he was assisting with the draft, the Patriots never drafted a top pass rusher in the first round. Mostly, the Patriots looked to free agency to add high-profile players such as Rosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas.

“We’re trying not to marry ourselves to any one specific way of saying, ?Hey, the only way we’re going to find a pass rusher is through the draft’ or ?The only way you’re going to find a pass rusher is in free agency,’ ” Pioli said. “You don’t know what the draft is going to be like from year to year. You don’t know what free agency is going to be like from year to year.

“There are opportunities everywhere.”

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The stage is set for what GM Jerry Reese said could be a “hot and heavy” predraft week for the Giants, and not just because they’re in the Braylon Edwards hunt.

They’re also sitting on a gold mine of draft picks - 10 in all, including five picks over the first three rounds. And since the Giants have no need or desire to use them all, Reese’s phone figures to be ringing, and he should have plenty of opportunities to make a deal.

“You never know what could happen,” Reese said last week at his annual pre-draft press conference. “(It’s) going to get hot and heavy and we could package some picks and do something with them. So you never know.”

The Giants’ selections for this weekend’s draft start with the 29th overall selection in the first round. They also have extra second- and fifth-round picks (Nos. 45 and 151 overall), obtained from New Orleans in last summer’s Jeremy Shockey trade. And they were awarded a third-round compensatory pick (100th) from the NFL for their free-agent losses last year.

The Giants are not allowed to trade the comp pick, but five picks in the first 100 selections gives them strength from which to deal. Giving up a first-rounder in a big deal for a receiver like Edwards - or, less likely, Anquan Boldin - wouldn’t hurt as much since they have the 13th pick of the second round. And if the price of either of them is, as reported, a first, third and fifth, the blow would be softened even more because the Giants have extra picks in the third and fifth rounds as well.

Even if they can’t land Edwards - who still remains Reese’s No.1 target this week, according to a team source - there are other possibilities. The Giants could package picks to move up in the first round to get a top receiver, perhaps Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin.

“There are always a lot (of options),” Reese said. “Everybody is jockeying, saying, ‘Do you want to move up? Do you want to move down?’”

To be fair, Reese also said it’s possible the Giants will stand pat and not deal any of their picks - particularly their first five. His roots, remember, are as a scout and he considers his picks to be valuable commodities.

“We have five picks in the first 100 picks, so we feel like we can get five really good football players,” Reese said. “I don’t feel any pressure to have to move up or package the picks or do anything like that.”

Still, it’s nice to have options. And in the next few days the Giants figure to have plenty.

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