Source: Cardinals Fear LT Lost for the Season

Arizona Cardinals starting OLT Levi Brown suffered a triceps injury during last night’s game against the visiting Oakland Raiders. And according to an NFL source with knowledge of the situation, the team fears Brown will be lost for the season due to a torn triceps.

If Brown is lost for the season, as feared, the Cardinals could turn to D.J. Young, who is listed as his backup. Young was signed as an undrafted free agent last season. Another option for the Cardinals could be journeyman OT Jeremy Bridges, who played left tackle for the team in the 2009 season. Bridges started the first preseason game at right tackle against the host Kansas City Chiefs.

The best available options at left tackle for the Cardinals in free agency include Marcus McNeill and Chad Clifton. However, both players have injury concerns.

After being released by the Cardinals earlier this season, Brown re-signed for five seasons. The deal, according to a source, included $12 million guaranteed ($8 million of it is fully guaranteed) and has a total value of $30 million. Brown’s $1 million base salary for this season is fully guaranteed. $4 million of his $4.75 million base salary for 2013 is guaranteed for injury only.

Going Inside Minicamp – Philadelphia Eagles (Defense)

With the Philadelphia Eagles finishing up with their mandatory minicamp late last week, here’s an overview from what I saw up close from the defense during my time observing practices at the start of OTAs through the final practice:

Defensive Line

– It was very noticeable that the Eagles can go a legitimate 11-deep on the defensive line (6 DE/5 DT), meaning all 11 players are capable of contributing. In fact, I don’t see another NFL team that’s deeper up front. It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and line coach Jim Washburn use the entire group during training camp.

– Third-year DE Brandon Graham looks noticeably lighter (showed up to training camp last year out of shape—I’m putting it mildly), but whether that transfers to the field remains to be seen. But we really won’t get an idea about his progress until the pads go on during training camp. And with the emergence of Phillip Hunt late last season and the addition of second-round pick Vinny Curry this year, it’s not like Graham won’t have competition to deal with. If Graham progresses sufficiently enough in August and into the preseason, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if veteran DE Daryl Tapp, who only played in roughly 29.5 percent of the defensive snaps last season, winds up being traded before the regular season starts. Speaking of Curry, you have to like his size, quickness and motor—all three traits from which you could see even without pads on.  I saw the real thing during Senior Bowl practices earlier this year.

– At defensive tackle, the Eagles have apparent solid depth and versatility. I kept an eye on first-round pick Fletcher Cox, who isn’t your typical interior defensive lineman. Those guys are typically built low to the ground and aren’t very athletic. But Cox has unusually long arms (34 ½) for a DT and he’s built like a DE. Even without pads on, you can see his short area quickness. And with Cox and veteran DT Cullen Jenkins capable of lining up outside (in the 4-3 or even if they used a 3-4 or other odd-man fronts), Castillo will have plenty of options to throw at opposing offenses. I can’t say this for sure, but fourth-year pro Antonio Dixon looked to be a little down in weight.  And with all of this versatility and depth, the Eagles certainly don’t have to use veteran DEs Trent Cole and Jason Babin on a ton of snaps.

Linebackers

– When judging linebackers with no contact or pads on, it’s hard to make any definitive statements. However, you can see how fluid second-round pick Mychcal Kendricks is. It’s next to impossible to judge his understanding of the defensive scheme this early, but these practices were imperative in order for him to learn playing at SLB, a position which he hasn’t played before. You can see his fluidity of movement and coverage ability—two traits which will be tested once the pads go on in late July.

– Veteran MLB DeMeco Ryans did not look at all limited by the Achilles injury from a few seasons ago. As a high-level personnel executive told me after watching his tape from late last season, Ryans looked like he was all the way back from the injury. I will be interested to see how many plays he can handle each game. He was basically a two-down defender (played in just over 58 percent of the defensive snaps last season) with the Houston Texans in 2011.

– It has been written and speculated that the Eagles will change things up this season at cornerback as far as where those players are lined up. I fully expect the coaches to use more press coverage going forward. Most teams don’t have two starters over 6-feet (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha) like the Eagles do. And both are best used in press position where they can take advantage of their size. I’ve been on record as saying the Eagles will be better off without veteran CB Asante Samuel for one big reason; the ability to get physical with opposing wide receivers. Samuel typically plays deeper off the line (sometimes 8-10 yards deep), which is not the preferred alignment of DRC and Asomugha. For those wanting more information on younger cornerbacks such as Curtis Marsh, Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley, let’s wait till training camp. It’s too early to get a real idea of what their roles might be this season.

Still Some Work to Do

When examining the roster, it’s quite clear that head coach/executive vice president of football operations Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman have put together a very strong group, but there some issues remaining when it comes to depth at more than one position:

Outside Cornerback – The Eagles have plenty of candidates for the slot role (Joselio Hanson and rookie Brandon Boykin). However, what if either starter (Rodgers-Cromartie or Asomugha) couldn’t play? Is Hanson really an adequate replacement on the outside? He’s really solid inside, but is much less effective when lined up outside. He plays better in space or in confined areas. Unfortunately, the group of available veteran cornerbacks on the free agent market isn’t great, and most of them are best used inside.

Running Back – If starter LeSean McCoy got hurt, I’m not exactly sold that second-year pro Dion Lewis is ready to handle a significant amount of touches. While he’s an intriguing player, my sense is the Eagles would have to go with a running back by committee if McCoy couldn’t play. Lewis only saw 42 snaps on offense as a rookie. And with that being the case, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the team signed a veteran at some point for insurance purposes. I’ll break down the offense later this week.

Strong Safety – As of this writing, the Eagles were in negotiations with veteran S O.J. Atogwe. But he’s more of a traditional “range” free safety, which means he’s not really a true in-the-box player like a SS. However, in today’s NFL, safeties have to cover more than ever, and there is less of aligning the FS deeper and the SS just inside the box. So Atogwe, who is expected to sign with the team barring a snag, could line up as a single safety or in different personnel groupings within the Eagles’ 4-3 defensive scheme. At the very least, he’ll serve as insurance at FS in back of starter Nate Allen. It should be noted that the Eagles had been trying to add depth and competition at SS to go up against starter Kurt Coleman and second-year pro Jaiquawn Jarrett, so it remains to be seen how that particular group will shake out.

Eagles Work Out Veteran LB

The Philadelphia Eagles have been busy over the past few days.

Not only did they sign starting ORT Todd Herremans to a three-year deal worth over $21 million, but they also worked out a veteran free-agent.

An NFL source confirmed SLB Ben Leber visited and worked out for the team this week.

Leber, who spent most of last season with the St. Louis Rams, was released by the Rams in December.

Sixth-year pro Akeem Jordan is the current starting SLB for the Eagles.

Leber actually drew serious interest from the Eagles during the free agency period of 2006, two sources confirmed, but he wound up signing a multi-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

The veteran defender was originally selected in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers.

Houston Texans’ training camp thoughts: Day Three

Just a few observations from practice over the past three days…

  • OLB Sam Montgomery in an ankle boot is both distressing and expected, which may actually be more distressing.  The former LSU Tiger came to camp out of shape, got a talking to from veterans, finally passed his conditioning tests to be able to practice — and then rolled his ankle within 25 minutes of the first practice.  The inability to prepare and take care of business are what teams heard in the off-season, and it’s unfortunate that it’s come to fruition with him now in Houston.
  • Hopefully, this team will get something out of its third round selections, but T Brennan Williams hasn’t done much of anything at camp after injuring his knee during OTAs.  He sure looks the part, as does Montgomery, but to have nothing but negative buzz coming from these two third rounders is a shame.
  • That said, the four six rounders have all performed admirably and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one or maybe even two of WR Alan Bonner, DT Chris Jones, T/G David Quessenberry and TE Ryan Griffin make a contribution to this team this season.  Bonner has made plays down the field and caught the ball well.  Jones, well, DL coach Bill Kollar is on him like stink on a skunk every day, but that’s because he sees his potential.  Quessenberry has played nearly every position on the line in three days of camp and handled them all very well.  Yet, Griffin is the one taking advantage of a golden opportunity.  With Owen Daniels as the only healthy tight end in camp, Griffin has gotten a ton of looks and gets open against all of them.  He’s made a ton of plays early in camp and continues to impress.
  • Quessenberry stepped over to left tackle during Sunday morning’s practice due to injuries and the sort and he fared well.  Now, to be fair, he played LT in college and is most comfortable at that spot.  In pass rush drills, though, he faced OLB Whitney Mercilus and shut down Mercilus’ inside rush attempt.  So, then Kollar asked for OLB Willie Jefferson to rush the former SJSU captain and Quessenberry finished the protection by slamming Jefferson on his back.  Quessenberry will have an integral spot on this team, given his versatility, and he’s been impressive through the first three days.
  • Jefferson is a complete and total unknown, but the coaches love this guy.  Well, when I say that coaches love a guy, it means he’s getting coached up as much as, or more than, any other defensive player.  The former receiver at Baylor transferred to Stephen F. Austin and turned into a pass rushing demon.  During Saturday’s morning practice, he got matched up on All-Pro Duane Brown.  What happened next I thought was an aberration, but Jefferson started at Duane’s outside shoulder then WHOOSH back underneath him without Brown getting a hand on him.  The defensive players whooped and hollered while the OL all look at each other like “holy sh–, that’s not supposed to happen”.  Kollar and Wade Phillips consistently preach to him about finishing and going hard every play, but if there’s an UDFA to keep an eye on during preseason, it’s Jefferson.
  • Another UDFA that has been fun to watch is former Syracuse WR Alec Lemon.  It’s easy to see why he was undrafted – he can’t get true separation, but then again, it’s easy to see why he was Ryan Nassib’s go-to guy last year – he can catch a BB in the dark.  He’s made at least three highlight reel catches the last three days, but the problem is that he’s having to do that because he can’t run from DBs.
  • All-Pro DE JJ Watt is nowhere near resting on his laurels.  In fact, I think he’s crafted critics to keep in his head, Bobby Boucher-style, to keep playing at his level.  There isn’t an interior lineman that can block him effectively during pass rush drills and he’s chasing ball carriers 40 yards downfield during team drills on the first day of practice.
  • Much has been made of the progress CB Kareem Jackson has made and it’s all true.  It’s the best he’s looked since I can remember watching him.  He feels at home and comfortable and he’s in the hip pocket of each and every receiver he covers.  But, Jackson isn’t the only one in the secondary.  This is the best the secondary has looked, as a unit, since I’ve been here.  And, that’s without Ed Reed too.  That said, I’m still waiting, as are the coaches, for Brandon Harris, a former 2nd round pick, to step up his game.  He’ll make a play and then get beat on the next one.  Roc Carmichael has outperformed Harris thus far as the two battle for perhaps one of the final DB roster spots.
  • Speaking of safeties, rookie DJ Swearinger will be the chess piece we all thought he would be.  He’s comfortable playing LB in the Texans’ dime coverage, and by comfortable, I mean he can play the run and pass equally well in that role.  He hasn’t unleashed the beast, even though pads went on today, but there’s no question that his impact is being felt.
  • Rookie OLB Trevardo Williams is getting plenty of looks with Brooks Reed nursing an ailing foot in practice.  But, he’s been slow off the ball and doesn’t have much in the way of pass rush acumen.  If he can improve his “get off” and find one pet move, then look out.  But, that appears to be well off in the distance at this point.  However, he has tremendous speed, never quits and will be a demon on special teams at a minimum
  • A fourth rounder like Williams, WR Keshawn Martin, now in his 2nd year, has made a ton of progress from this time last year.  He’s catching everything, playing with confidence and looks like a completely different player.  I try to keep it all in perspective early in training camp, but he just looks different.  In a much better way.  If he can be Matt Schaub’s outlet and Schaub can trust him, this offense will have another layer to it.
  • I’ve watched S Ed Reed work out on a side field, rehabbing from his hip injury and I’m not buying the fact that he’ll be ready in week one.  And, in all honesty, that’s not the goal.  Beating San Diego and having the whole gang together isn’t the goal.  Sure, we all want to see him in this lineup but not at 85%.  He winced when doing defensive back pedal and turn drills and didn’t look comfortable doing anything other than running straight ahead.  He’ll come back at some point, but it doesn’t HAVE to be week one for Reed to be a key figure for a championship team.
  • DT Terrell McClain, third year guy from USF, has flashed on occasion throughout camp playing over the nose.
  • The gaggle of UDFA RB is getting plenty of work with Pro Bowler Arian Foster on the shelf.  I still say the most impressive one is former Arkansas product Dennis Johnson, who bounces off of big hits but keeps his balance in the run game, catches the ball well in the passing game and can return kicks too.  He made a one handed catch during team in the bubble during Sunday’s practice.  Foster and Ben Tate won’t need much help between the two, but Johnson is pushing hard to be that No. 3 guy at this point.
  • The tackle position is sort of a disaster right now for the Texans.  Derek Newton and Williams are limited, while Nick Mondek is banged up and out of practice for the time being.  The team would like to see Andrew Gardner step up, but that isn’t going to happen, trust me on that.  But, if there’s been a bright spot for the team early in camp, it has been veteran RT Ryan Harris.  He’s not spectacular but he’s steady.  He’s been sound in pass rush drills and has been a solidifying force on an OL that right now has many moving parts.  I know the team wants Newton to take over that spot and let Williams push him for playing time, but Harris is going to make it tough on the coaching staff to forget about his role on that right side.
  • The punters and kickers were working out too.  But, I didn’t care, so don’t ask.

A Metrics Breakdown of Top Pass Rushers: Tier 1

The post I wrote on Second Round Stats (read the original post for refrence) analyzing each top pass rushers’ sacks was met with a chorus of people telling me that sacks are limited in nature and thus not telling of much.

In response to that, I’ve analyzed hurries, knockdowns, and sacks. This time though, the data comes from Stats ICE, which has every game involving a BCS team charted for more factors than imaginable.  Thus, you can be completely confident that the data you’re looking at is full and not just a sample.

Working with the data and at The Sideline View gives me more time to analyze the data and less time charting. Without further delay, here’s my breakdown of the top 5 pass rushers in this class.

How Often Did They Get to the QB?

A little explanation here.

Pressures are considered hurries + knockdowns  to give the total effect on the QB. The first stat in the chart is labeled “SPP” and that stands for Snaps Per Pressure. What that tells us is how many snaps it takes for each player to get to the QB. That is, a lower number means that the pass rusher affects the QB more often and is more efficient.  SPP combines sacks and pressures, but isn’t weighted towards one or the other.

Editor’s Note: Updated March 28 to reflect correct acronym.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
SPP 9.63 8.50 10.64 7.31 6.49
Pressures 28 31 17 31 29
Sacks 4.5 13 5 11 13.5
Snaps 313 374 234 307 276
  • One of the most notable things is Alex Okafor’s extremely efficient SPP. That means, on average he affects the quarterback every 6.5 snaps. The average for the entire class, including tier 2, is a PPS of 10. Many scouting reports and pundits have remarked on Okafor’s lack of explosiveness, that may be true, but clearly he’s doing something to get to the QB more often than any other pass rusher.
  • Although many have commented on it, the statistics show that Tank Carradine may have been the most complete pass rusher had he not been injured during the season. His efficiency at getting to the QB was very close to Okafor’s and is extremely impressive given the attention he received. Many may argue he was more efficient due to the presence of Bjorn Werner on the other side, but we’ll get to that a little bit later.
  • Dion Jordan clearly took the fewest snaps rushing the passer, but his lack of pressures is noticeable when compared to Barkevious Mingo. Both have roughly 5 sacks this year, but Mingo managed 28 pressures for a PPS of 9.63.
  •  You do have to wonder why Mingo wasn’t able to convert more of his pressures into sacks. He was clearly getting to the quarterback, but wasn’t able to bring him down. It’s not as if the majority of his opponents were slippery dual-threat types, so why was this a problem for him?

How Much Help Did They Get?

The stat below, EPG stands for Extra Pressures Per Game. It incorporates how often each pass rushers’ teammate’s affected the QB, the number of average rushers on their pressures, and a few other minor factors. The goal is to describe how much help each player got from their teammates. A lower number means their teammate’s provided less pressure and that the pass rusher did more on their own.  Avg Rush is the number of rushers each team brought on each play. The number in the bottom row “%Blitz” tells how many of each rusher’s pressures came when their team blitzed.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
EPG 4.41 3.22 2.93 2.99 2.37
Avg Rush 4.08 4.07 3.91 4.28 4.28
% Blitz 25.00% 6.50% 35.00% 22.60% 34.50%
  • Once again Okafor comes out on top. On average he received 2.37 extra pressures per game from his teammates, which means he did more of his work with less help. This is partly due to the fact that Jackson Jeffcoat went down with an injury in the middle of the season and that Texas’ DTs and LBs didn’t provide much push on the QB.
  • Werner, Jordan and Carradine are all hovering in the 2.9-3.2 range, which is just about negligible in comparison. In all 11 pass rushers I analyzed, Carradine’s EPG was ranked 6th. Thus, he received help from an excellent FSU defense but no more or less than any other pass rusher. The reason Werner and Carradine’s EPGs are different is because it takes the other player into account. The fact that Werner got 93.5% of his pressures on four man rushes is interesting to be sure.
  • The amount of help Mingo received was the second most out the entire class. Between Sam Montgomery, Kevin Minter, and LSU’s excellent defense, he received a good amount of help. He obviously has the athletic ability for the NFL, but given his size and abilities, is he going to need to be on a strong defense to truly capitalize on his gifts?

How Good Were Their Opponents?

Listening to pundits and perusing blogs, you always hear that this guy went up against the best competition or that guy had an easy time. I’ve created a strength of schedule that combines Sagarin ratings and sacks allowed by opposing offensive lines to quantify this.  A higher number means they gained their pressures against stronger competition.

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
SOS 47.95 38.28 37.94 42.62 55.58

 

  • Okafor’s strength of schedule was not only at the top of tier 1, but of all 11 pass rushers I looked at. This may seem counter-intuitive because people would expect SEC pass rushers to have the highest SOS, but many of their pressures came from cupcake FCS schools. The majority of Okafor’s pressures and sacks came against legitimate Big 12 competition.
  • Both Werner and Jordan’s SOS are extremely weak. Jordan’s works out like this due to garnering pressures against bad Washington State and Tennessee Tech teams.
  • While Werner had some quality opposition in Miami, Florida and UNC, games against Boston College, Murray State, and Savannah State really inflated some of his pressure numbers. In total 25% of his total pressures and sacks came against those three teams.
  • Mingo’s SEC credentials garners him the 5th highest strength of schedule among all pass rushers, and the second highest of the 1st tier. Notable offensive lineman he beat for pressures include DJ Fluker of Alabama and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M.

When Did They Get Their Pressures?

I tried to develop a “clutch” stat to find out which player was a better rusher in important moments in the game.  I tried using scoring margins, quarters, and downs, but every combination came out to be relatively similar for every player. So I’m just going to put this chart down that shows what percentage of pressures and sacks came on 3rd and 4th down without comment.  You can form your own opinion and if it means anything to you.

Percentage of sacks on 3rd and 4th downs

Mingo Werner Jordan Carradine Okafor
% Pressures 32.31% 52.27% 68.18% 50.00% 40.00%

Four things to know headed into the Texans’ season

1. Look for a greater number of “gap” plays in the run game

The Texans zone scheme didn’t flow quite as expected last year thanks to numerous breakdowns along the offensive line. The Texans have always prided themselves on being able to run their offense based off of a successful outsize zone rushing attack, but teams have become much more aggressive against it and I’m not sure the Texans are positioned to be much better at it this year than they were last year.

Look for the Texans to add more gap plays in their rushing attack where they rely more heavily on lead plays behind the power of RG Brandon Brooks and the hammer-head stylings of FB Greg Jones.  The zone scheme needs a more fluid, consistent approach from the offensive line and if they don’t get it, I think they will change things up somewhat this season.

2. Johnathan Joseph is not feared by opposing quarterbacks

I was speaking to a former NFL man this weekend who keeps up with the Texans, and we got on the subject of the secondary. One of the first topics we both agreed upon was that somewhere along the line, teams stopped fearing Johnathan Joseph. Joseph may have been playing hurt at times last year, but a CBs biggest asset is a QBs fear of testing him. Even if you’ve lost a step, it won’t be discovered if your reputation scares teams and QBs away.

Nnamdi Asomugha had his reputation tarnished in Philadelphia, and it was open season on him after that. I don’t care how good you are, a CB is going to give up some big plays if teams keep looking his way. Joseph’s technique got very loose at times this preseason and he paid for it. If JJo doesn’t make some plays early in the season to back teams off and regain that respect, teams are going to continue to attack him.

3. Ben Tate will have lots of work

Arian Foster has been worked hard as a Houston Texan RB, and no matter how productive he is or how young he is on that birth certificate, the wear and tear of being an NFL RB will start to take its toll sooner rather than later. The Texans understand just how talented Foster is and I’m sure they are going to take greater care of keeping him from as many touches as he has last year.

Ben Tate got off to a solid start last season before getting hurt and then landing in Gary Kubiak’s doghouse, but he’s a free agent after this year and there is no reason for the Texans not to lean on Tate to take some of the pounding away from Foster.  Tate doesn’t have Foster’s vision and he isn’t as complete a back as Arian, but he does have the ability to hit a big play as defenses begin to wear down and the Texans need to use him to save Foster.

4. This very well could be the last hurrah for some good starters

Brian Cushing just got paid and J.J. Watt is closing in on being the highest paid defensive player in the league so there will have to be some re-allocating of salary.  LG Wade Smith’s contract is up after this year and there is no way the Texans bring him back considering the cheap labor (David Quessenberry or Ben Jones) they have waiting in the wings.

Antonio Smith probably won’t be back after his deal runs out since the Texans can go with Jared Crick, but the Texans have to find more pass rush from their OLBs since Crick isn’t the pass rusher that Antonio is.

Unfortunately, I think Owen Daniels may be a cap casualty after this year with Garrett Graham coming along and with rookie Ryan Griffin looking like a good selection by the Texans.  Every little bit will count as the Texans look to get their finances in order before giving Watt an extension and the Texans have to be able replace veterans with good, cheap talent.

Source: Lions to Host Routt

Veteran CB Stanford Routt, who was waived earlier this week by the Kansas City Chiefs, is scheduled to visit the Detroit Lions on Friday, an NFL source confirmed.

The veteran defensive back, after being released by the Oakland Raiders on Feb. 9, signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Chiefs less than two weeks later.

Routt, 29, is known in scouting circles for his size (6-1, 195) and physical play.  The Lions have five cornerbacks on their 53-man roster, but none of them are over six feet tall. And Routt has more starts in his career (60) than any cornerback on the Lions’ roster other than veteran Chris Houston.

Routt, who visited the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills earlier this year after he was released by the Raiders, will earn no less than $11 million this season even if he doesn’t sign with another team.

Routt was selected in 2005 NFL Draft (University of Houston) in the second round by the Raiders.

2012 NFL Combine Notebook

After talking to various NFL executives and player agents over a five-day period during the 2012 NFL Combine, here’s a look the what I’ve been hearing:

Packers Continuing to Get Younger

There’s a belief in some scouting circles that the Green Bay Packers are trying to get younger on offense. And Yahoo! Sports reported that the team would likely cut veteran OLT Chad Clifton and restructure veteran WR Donald Driver’s contract.

Clifton’s contract is up after this coming season. His base salary is $5.25 million and his contract carries a salary cap number of just under $5.6 million. That figure is probably too high for a player who turns 36 in June and has missed 14 games over the last three seasons.

If Clifton is released, the team could turn to 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod or third-year pro Marshall Newhouse, who started 13 games last season.

Driver is signed through 2012 and carries a base salary of $2.6 million. But his cap number of $5 million is a bit too rich for a player who saw just fewer than 48% of the offensive snaps. Driver, who turned 37 earlier this month, has a $1.5 million roster bonus due on the first day of training camp, a source confirmed. With a lesser role expected for Driver this coming season, there’s just no way the team can justify paying the aging veteran so much money.

Buccaneers Poised to Spend?

Some personnel sources believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, armed with a plethora of salary cap space (some reports have them with as much as $60 million+ to use), will be spending a large chunk of it in free agency. And general manager Mark Dominik was quoted by the Tampa Bay Times as saying the team would be active.

“We’re going to do it in free agency. I don’t want people to be worried we’re not going to spend in free agency. We’ll be involved,” Dominik said.

In recent years, the Buccaneers have mostly stayed out of free agency by choosing instead to build in the draft, but the positions mentioned by various sources that the team would be addressing this time in the NFL’s annual shopping period around were wide receiver, running back, defensive tackle and cornerback. Depth will be addressed at defensive end and other positions.

I was surprised to hear defensive tackle mentioned as a priority considering the team has a potentially solid four-man rotation, but considering starter Gerald McCoy has missed 13 games over his first two seasons. And as one source pointed out to me in a discussion earlier on Sunday, don’t forget the Buccaneers were ranked last in 2011 in stopping the run (156.1 yards per game).

Because the Buccaneers are one of the NFL’s youngest teams, the belief is that the team will be aggressive in attempting to sign veterans to help fortify its roster.

Routt to Have Significant Role With Chiefs

When veteran CB Stanford Routt signed a three-year, $20 million deal recently, it came to a surprise to some since he wasn’t coming off of a strong season with the Oakland Raiders. And the Raiders released him after spending seven seasons with the team. But as multiple personnel sources pointed out, the Raiders defensive scheme last season was easily exposed each week by opposing offenses. The defense had too many breakdowns in discipline and execution. Players were not comfortable with what they were being asked to do.

The Chiefs were aggressive in signing Routt because the plan, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, is to have him line up against the opponents best wide receiver each week this coming season. Routt has played in man coverage for most of his career.

Routt, 28, has good size and is still regarded as one of the fastest defensive backs in the NFL.

What does Wright’s Workout Really Mean?

As for the slow 40-yard dash times for Baylor WR Kendall Wright, it was certainly surprising. It appeared that his issue was more of getting out of a track stance during both runs than anything else. For whatever reason, he didn’t get off cleanly and that clearly cost him precious time. But also keep in mind he won’t be playing out of a track stance at the next level.

And while Wright wasn’t as smooth in the rest of the workout as expected when compared to his outstanding game tape, not much has changed; he’s the most explosive wide receiver in this draft and it’s not even close. I would also mention that any scouting staff that drops his draft grade significantly after one subpar workout should not keep their jobs going forward. After watching four of his game from last season in my ongoing evaluation of Wright, I think the comparison to Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith is still warranted. Both, according to one of my favorite scouting terms, play bigger than their listed size. Both are not afraid to go and get the ball over the middle or go wherever the play takes them.

But when a player comes up short of expectations, even in a shorts and t-shirts exhibition, that will raise eyebrows. I get it. But the game is not played in shorts and t-shirts, it’s played in a uniform, in a stadium, and with players on both sides of the ball. And in that particular setting, the one he’ll play in at the NFL level, he dominated last season.

Cousins Continuing to Climb

The throwing exhibition by Michigan St. QB Kirk Cousins on Sunday could lead credence to the thought that he could wind up being a second-round pick during April’s NFL Draft.

Cousins, who was also terrific earlier this year during Senior Bowl week, was poised, accurate and threw with power during Sunday’s first throwing session.

During his time in Mobile, Cousins threw the ball almost with anger and conviction during practice—almost as though he thought he had something to prove.

The knock on Cousins, according to personnel sources, is that he tends to break down mentally at times and forces some throws. But Cousins only had 7 interceptions during the regular season and threw for 24 touchdowns.

The bottom line is that Cousins, who seems to have put together the best two-month stretch of any quarterback of this year’s class, could be on the same path as former TCU QB Andy Dalton, who was strong from January to February last year.

Dalton was thought to be destined to be a fourth-round pick coming into Senior Bowl week, but a strong pre-draft period pushed him all the way to the second round.

Dee Ford

Breakdown:

#30
Class: Senior
Height: 6’2″
Weight: 246 lbs.
School: Auburn
Bio:

  • Ted Hendricks Award Semi-finalist – nation’s best defensive end (2013)
  • Honorable mention All-American (2013)
  • First-team All-SEC (2013)
  • Had three multiple sack games in 2013, one in 2012
  • 2013 stats:  29 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 14.5 TFL and 17 QB Hurries (in only 12 games)

Senior Bowl Notes

  • Ford accepted an invitation to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl in Mobile.

Report

Ford had a slow start to his season, missing the first two games of the year with a knee injury.  However, like his team did in College Station, Ford kick started his season during the TexasA&M game when he faced top tackles Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi.

He displayed a mix of power, quickness, toughness and play making skills against the Aggie duo.  In the National Championship game, he showed his quickness and burst on a couple of inside moves and, generally, created mayhem for FSU’s solid tackles.  I think his size may keep him from being completely 4-3/3-4 scheme versatile, but he can wreck shop in a hurry.

The Senior Bowl is a great stage for him to prove he can rush from 3-point or from a stand up position.  If he proves he’s comfortable standing up rushing the QB and dropping in coverage during position drills, he’ll be a coveted asset come May 2014.

John Harris

About John Harris

John Harris is a football lifer, having spent his entire 38 years around the game as a coach’s son, player, coach, writer, radio host, television guest and all-around football historian. Harris provides a perspective not many media members can—a thorough understanding of Xs and Os with the ability to communicate that love and understanding to readers and listeners.

After graduating as valedictorian and three-sport star at Lamar Consolidated HS in Rosenberg, TX, Harris played four years at Brown University, earning the 1993 Eugene C. Swift Award for determination, hard work and courage. He earned two varsity letters in his time on the legendary Brown campus. He decided to add a Masters in Accounting from University of Virginia to finish his well-rounded education in 2002.

In 1994, Harris started his coaching career at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1998, at the age of 26, Harris took over as head coach of the school’s varsity squad and in three short years, he led them to the FHSAA playoffs for the first time in school history. He was voted District 6 Coach of the Year in 2000 after his team finished with the aforementioned playoff berth.

While coaching, Harris started his radio career in 1998 as a college football expert on SportsRadio 610 in Houston. He joined the early morning show for three years and eventually joined the #1 show in the city the “John and Lance Morning show” in 2002. Harris became a fixture on the morning show for the next five years, discussing college football and the NFL Draft. Harris also did guest hosting radio appearances in 20 different cities throughout the nation, including New Orleans, LA, Pittsburgh, PA, Palm Springs, CA and Raleigh, NC. Currently, Harris is Sporting News Radio’s football expert, participating on a number of shows throughout the network’s lineup.

Harris started writing for collegefootballnews.com in 2003. He became a featured writer for one of the nation’s most popular college football websites for the next four years. His Keys to the Game articles were featured on the foxsports.com front page throughout college football season. Throughout the past nine years, he has been the college football half of View from the Sideline. In 2010, Harris and Lance Zierlein combined to put together a 2010 “View from the Sideline” NFL Draft magazine and College and Pro Football Preview a Herculean feat for two “football” men.

In 2007, Harris started his full-time radio career co-hosting the Sean and John show on 1560 The Game. Through that show, Harris continued to build his football resume. In 2010, Harris was fully responsible for putting together the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch list and has been well received as the guest speaker at RLA functions the past two years. In 2011, Harris was the guest speaker for the Paul Bear Bryant Awards in Houston. Harris has been seen on numerous television shows throughout the city and even on NFL Network in 2007.