Month: November 2018

Vikings Notes: Johnson, Barr, Munnerlyn

The Vikings added Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater this offseason and as a result, many have wondered if quarterback Christian Ponder could be a trade candidate. It’s hard to see someone dealing for Ponder to be their starter, but he could be a very intriguing No. 2 QB for a team. In a poll earlier this week, Pro Football Rumors readers voted Ponder the third-most likely candidate to get moved behind Pats QB Ryan Mallett and disgruntled 49ers tailback LaMichael James. Here’s more out of Minnesota..

  • Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson has lived one heck of a football odyssey. Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press runs down Johnson’s journey, which included stops in NFL Europe, the Arena Football League, and the Canadian Footabll League. He finally made the NFL at age 29 with the Saints and three years later, he inked a deal with Minnesota.
  • Sure, he’s biased, but Purdue defensive coordinator Greg Hudson can’t help but rave about Vikings’ first-round pick Anthony Barr, writes Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. “I’ve known him since he was a baby, and watched him grow up,” Hudson said of his nephew. “But he’s a great kid, he really is. He’s grounded, very close to everybody in the family, in particular my in-laws John and Jean Barr. That’s special. They’re his grandparents, but with his parental situation, and just having Mom, they were the ramrods and have been a blessing.”
  • Vikings cornerback and sixth-year pro Captain Munnerlyn is ready for new challenges in his first season in the NFC North, write Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.

Jaguars Notes: Stanzi, Joeckel, Clemons

The Jaguars claimed quarterback Ricky Stanzi off waivers last season after he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs. Some stated this was a play by the Jags to pick Stanzi’s brain — Jacksonville played Kansas City Week 1, and lost, 28-2 — but the former Iowa QB is still in Northeast Florida, holding on to a roster spot.

That roster spot got less assured when the team selected Blake Bortles No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, as Vito Stellino of The Florida Times-Union writes.

And, for three straight seasons since college, Stanzi hasn’t had an opportunity to see the field, inactive for all but four games last year.

As it stands right now, the Jags have four QBs on the roster — Stanzi, Bortles, veteran Chad Henne and Stephen Morris, an undrafted free agent rookie from Miami who projects as a developmental player.

Stellino writes that Stanzi has made a good impression on head coach Gus Bradley, who was surprised with the slinger’s arm strength.

More news and notes from “America’s Team,” as NFL.com’s Adam Schein likes to call them:

  • Luke Joeckel, the former Texas A&M offensive tackle selected No. 2 overall in last year’s draft, is hoping to put the injury that sidelined him after five games last season behind him, writes Hays Carlyon of jacksonville.com. Joeckel participated in all three OTA practices and said he was pleased with how his ankle held up.
  • Henne, Stanzi, wide receiver Cecil Shorts, defensive end Andre Branch and safety Jonathan Cyprien were named by Bradley as players who stood out during the team’s first week of OTAs, The Times-Union reports. Bradley said he has “98% confidence” that defensive end Chris Clemons will be on the field Monday when the team gets back on the field.
  • While the biggest challenge facing the Jags in 2014 is getting Bortles ready to play, The Times-Union’s Gene Frenette says no challenge is more daunting than meshing the team’s rag-tag offensive line.

Poll: Bears Backup Quarterback

When Josh McCown signed a two-year, $10MM deal with the Buccaneers in March, the position of Bears backup quarterback swung wide open. And when the team added San Jose State’s David Fales with a sixth-round pick two months later, the competition got that much juicier.

Three men are competing for the No. 2 spot on the QB depth chart: Jordan Palmer (brother of Carson), Jerrod Johnson and the aforementioned Fales. Palmer is the leader in the clubhouse, according to Dan Wiederer of the Chicago Tribune, a spot he’s earned with experience. A sixth-round pick in 2007, 2014 will mark his eighth season of professional football.

Johnson spent 18 days on the practice squad in September, Wiederer notes, and has yet to throw a pass in the NFL after entering the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M.

Whoever wins the spot has big shoes to fill — McCown shined bright last season filling in for an injured Jay Cutler, leading the league in fewest interceptions per throw and winning three of five starts. The biggest reason for his success, per quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, was the relationship he shared with Cutler.

“Josh was a great example of a guy where, although he knew he was going to be backing up Jay, he truly approached every day like he was going to be getting all the reps,” Cavanaugh said. “He worked very hard. And not only that, he was selfless enough to know that although I’m competing, I want to be able to help Jay too.

“Those guys had a unique relationship that Jay really counted on. Josh was his sounding board a lot. Sometimes when coaches speak to you, it’s coach-speak. You want to hear one of your buddies say, ‘Hey, they’re right.’ Or, ‘Let’s talk it through and then we’ll approach them about it.’ So there’s a role to be played there.”

Raiders Notes: Woodley, Schaub, McFadden

LaMarr Woodley won’t drop back into coverage as much with the Raiders like he did with the Steelers, and he’s just fine with that. Oakland utilizes a base 4-3 alignment, and defensive ends are consumed with what’s in front of them, not behind. As CSNBayArea.com’s Scott Bair notes, Woodley last played in a 4-3 defense at Michigan.

“Looking at the (Raiders) defense, seeing how guys were flying around on defense, getting after people, I kind of felt like after talking to the coach that that’s what he wanted me to do,” Woodley said. “He wanted me to rush the passer more and then drop back in coverage. I felt like with the kind of people that was on this defense, and add me in there, I felt like I could help the team win.”

Woodley signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $12MM in March, and he’s eager to show the Raiders made a good investment.

“You still have to come here and prove yourself, at least that’s how I feel. The last few years for me haven’t been good. So I have to come here and I feel like I have to rebuild myself as well.”

Other news and notes from the Oakland Raiders:

  • Matt Schaub is a Top 10 quarterback in the Raiders’ eyes, says ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez in his Twitter mailbag. As long as the skill set of the former Texans QB can fit with what offensive coordinator Greg Olson wants to do, it’ll be a good match.
  • Gutierrez predicts a run-first offensive approach with Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, along with 2013 sixth-round pick Latavius Murray. If the runners can stay healthy and consistently produce positive yardage, that’ll set up the play-action pass, at which Schaub excels.
  • Wide receivers Andre Holmes and Juron Criner have been the stars at three OTA practice thus far.
  • Eddie Paskal of Raiders.com recaps Week 1 of OTAs, with Schaub able to go against an active defense with his receivers for the first time.

NFC Links: Davis, Bryant, Graham

The 49ers have a lot of players looking for new contracts in the coming years, including Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick, Mike Iupati, and Alex Boone. The team has been preparing for life without some of those players, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

Here are some other links from around the NFC:

  • When it comes to Davis, Maiocco believes the 49ers will not budge on his contract. He is the third-highest paid player in the league at his position, and is on the wrong side of 30 years old. With extensions for other players coming, Davis may have to play his current contract out.
  • Cowboys‘ Vice President Stephen Jones said an extension for star wide receiver Dez Bryant could come before the season starts, writes Lorenzo Reyes of USAToday.com“As far as from the receiver standpoint, of course I feel like I’m one of the better receivers in this league,” said Bryant. “But like I said, when it comes to that contract, I’m going to sit back and I’m going to wait and see what happens.”
  • Jimmy Graham has yet to sign a long-term deal, but Mike Triplett of ESPN.com does not expect this to drag on through training camp. July 15 is the last day to negotiate a deal for franchised players, and Triplett expects Graham to sign a deal that pays him between $10.5MM and $11MM per year.
  • Robert Meachem returned to the Saints, and maybe more importantly, his old quarterback Drew Brees, writes Christopher Dabe of NOLA.com. Meachem has a one-year deal, but says the offseason has kept him focused and more comfortable, being back in New Orleans.
  • Tanard Jackson has gotten another chance in the NFL with the Redskins, but he might not stick on the roster, writes J.P. Finlay of CSNWashington.com. The team might not have a spot for him at safety, and his minimum salary deal could be easy to release.

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Miller, Hoyer

The Steelers are returning all of their offensive lineman, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey who was lost last season to a torn ACL. No one is more excited than Ben Roethlisberger, who believes that continuity on the offensive line could be the key to success, particularly in the no huddle offense, writes Kim Myers of NicePickCowher.com. “That’s a big part of being able to run the no-huddle because those guys are up there and they’re comfortable, they’re familiar. They’ve got another offseason in training of continuity and learning from each other,” said Roethlisberger. “I tell them before each game that they are what is going to drive this team and this offense. As long as they stay healthy and can play every game we’ll be good.”  Here are some other notes from around the AFC North:

  • Steelers‘ tight end Heath Miller bounced back well from a torn ACL in 2013, catching 58 passes for 593 yards and a touchdown, writes Matt Shetler of CityOfChampionsSports.com. However, he had posted career highs in yards and touchdowns the previous season, and is looking to re-establish himself as one of the league’s top tight ends. Last year was about trying to find a new normal for myself and I’m a creature of habit, so that wasn’t easy for me,” said Miller. “I’m fully confident by the time the season rolls around I’m going to be feeling much better than the start of last year just from a confidence perspective.”
  • The Bengals have a deep bench at the running back position, and it is unclear how many the team will keep on the 53-man roster, writes Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. Harvey says that both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and undrafted free agent Jeff Scott are on the bubble, with Giovani Bernard and second-round pick Jeremy Hill looking to take a bulk of the carries. However, Green-Ellis’ veteran presence and Scott’s versatility could keep them on the roster this season.
  • The Browns still plan to let first-round pick Johnny Manziel start as a backup, and if veteran Brian Hoyer plays well the team could extend him, writes Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. With Manziel on his rookie contract for four years (with a fifth-year option), the team could afford to keep both players.

Ravens To Continue To Add To Roster

Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh says the team plans on adding more pieces this offseason, reports Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times. Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome have a plan to put together the best roster possible.

“I think we’re aware of the guys that are still out there, free agents that would be more favorable to sign after June 1 and all that,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to be watching the waiver wire real close. We’re going to try and get better.”

The team is looking to add to the cornerback position specifically, writes Zenitz. The team brings back starters Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith, but must replace nickel corner Corey Graham. The team only has four corners on the roster that are not undrafted free agent players.

Former fifth-round picks Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson are competing for the third corner spot, but the team will look to add outside competition as well.

The Ravens will also be focusing on right tackle as they look to improve their roster. The team is hoping a pair of 2013 late-round picks, Rick Wagner and Ryan Jensen, can fill the void left by Michael Oher, who joined the Titans this offseason. Eric Winston, who played for Gary Kubiak for six seasons with the Texans is also a viable option should the team look to bring in an outside veteran.

“We had a conversation, Ozzie and I, and I like to think on principle that we really believe this: We want to build as strong of a 53-man roster as we possibly can, and as we do that, try to get stronger every chance we get. We’ll be looking.”

L.A. Team “Certainly Within Five Years”

Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross spoke about the possibility of Los Angeles getting an NFL franchise.

The idea of bringing the NFL to Los Angeles was reinvigorated after the Clippers were sold to Steve Ballmer for a reported sum of $2 billion. The NFL franchises should certainly be worth more than an NBA franchise in a similar market.

Ross sees it happening, definitively stating that it would occur, “Certainly within five years,” according to Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal (via Twitter). Ross also mentioned that the team Los Angeles inevitably will get will not be an expansion team, but a current franchise relocated to the city.

Ross clarified that the team moving would not be his Dolphins, but that a team would definitely be moving, reports Clark (via Twitter).

Extra Points: Byrd, Murray, Smith, Jets

Miscellaneous news and notes from around the league. . .

NFC North Notes: Fairley, Packers, Bears

Pro Football Weekly’s 2011 scouting report of draft prospect Nick Fairley included notes such as “has underachiever tendencies” and “needs to be pushed and is not a self-starter.” Three years after the Lions drafted him 13th overall, motivation is still an issue for Fairley, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract because the team declined his fifth-year option. Why? “The Lions had grown weary of Fairley’s fluctuating weight and inconsistent play and saw this as a last chance to motivate their talented defensive tackle who’s shown far too few flashes of brilliance on the field,” according to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. In response, Fairly has trimmed down approximately 25 pounds in an effort to have a strong season and increase his value on the open market.

Here’s some more news and notes from around the NFC North division, starting with another prominent defensive tackle:

  • Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji accepted a one-year, “prove it” deal to return to Green Bay, in part, because he will return to his more natural nose tackle position, says Tyler Dunne in the Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers appear to be transitioning versatile defensive back Micah Hyde to safety in an attempt to get their best personnel on the field, reports Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Colt Lyerla will be one of the most watched undrafted free agents in the league this summer because his physical ability and impact potential is legitimate. Though his checkered past means he’s on a perilously short leash in Green Bay, the team is making a concerted effort to foster mutual trust and an environment in which Lyerla can develop without distraction, writes Dunne.
  • Lance Briggs has the Bears’ weak-side linebacker job on lock, but the other two linebacker spots are question marks. ESPN’s Michael C. Wright thinks veteran D.J. Williams will man the middle with second-year flash player Jon Bostic will beat out Shea McClellin on the strong side.