ESPN’s John Clayton has been covering the NFL since his high school days in 1972, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more knowledgable man or woman on pro football. His Sunday mailbags are a treat, full of wit and wisdom, and we’re passing along some of Clayton’s best responses to readers’ questions to you.
Clayton also touches on the Giants and Bills, the two teams meeting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game and thus the first two teams to open training camp.
On the Falcons’ defensive line:
“The Falcons‘ pass rush has to be better. Their nickel defense gave up 6.48 yards per play and 7.75 yards per attempt and had only 23 sacks this past year. The return of a healthy Kroy Biermann will help. Former Dolphin Paul Soliai is a big, physical addition to the defensive line, but it’s unclear how the Falcons will use him. He’s a run-stopper who could draw an extra blocker, but he has only 4½ sacks in his seven NFL seasons. I’ll be intrigued to see if Ra’Shede Hageman can get into a pass-rushing role in the nickel. He might be a pretty special athlete.”
On the ramifications of Josh Gordon‘s impending suspension:
“If Gordon is suspended for the year, his contract would be tolled, meaning his deal would be put on pause and he would still have two years remaining when his suspension is lifted. His salary would not count against this year’s cap. Plus, the team would have the ability to try to get him to pay back the prorated amount for one year of his signing bonus, a total of $518,209. Gordon would count only the $518,209 on this year’s cap if he is suspended. If the Browns get the signing bonus back, they would get a rebate on the amount in next year’s cap. The bigger problem, though, is that the Browns would lose one of the best young receivers in the game.”
On the possibility of a team that plays on Thanksgiving this year — Bears, Lions, Eagles, Cowboys, Seahawks and 49ers — winning the Super Bowl, which hasn’t happened in 18 years:
“I did not realize that. Part of it is because Dallas and Detroit are the two traditional Thanksgiving hosts. The Cowboys have been an 8-8 team for the past three years and most recently won the Super Bowl in the 1995 season. The Lions have made only one trip to the playoffs since 1999 and never have reached the Super Bowl. The addition of a third game in 2006 hasn’t ended the trend, but it might this year. San Francisco and Seattle are two of the best teams in football. The Bears are contenders, and the Eagles might have the best team in the NFC East. Interesting thought.”