Amos Jones

Browns Rumors: Taylor, Njoku, Janis, Cribbs

Throughout the offseason, Hue Jackson has insisted there is no quarterback competition in Cleveland. Even before the Browns’ No. 1 overall pick became known, the third-year head coach said Tyrod Taylor will be his starter. And Jackson wants that to be the case for the duration of this season. As for why the Browns were steadfast with Taylor as their starter despite the team going 0-16 last season: the franchise wants to make this year about winning games rather than developing a rookie quarterback at any cost, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Mayfield’s progressing quickly, in Cabot’s view, and showing the kind of arm talent that had Browns execs and then-consultant Scot McCloughan convinced going into the draft he could turn the franchise around. Another argument could be made that the Browns’ status as a non-contender, talent added this offseason notwithstanding, should prompt them to get Mayfield some reps early this season. Cabot does believe the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner will play this year, but for now, it doesn’t look like the Oklahoma product will be fast-tracked into the lineup like 2017 first-rounders Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson were with their respective teams.

Here’s the latest from northeast Ohio:

  • One of the players Taylor will be targeting has enjoyed a strong offseason. Jackson expects David Njoku to make a major leap in his second season. “I expect to see a huge jump,” Jackson said, via Patrick Maks of ClevelandBrowns.com. “He’s very athletic. He can catch and run. He’s going to be one of our playmakers.” Njoku caught 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns last season, despite the Browns having probably the worst quarterback situation in the league. The Browns noticed significant improvement from the Miami alum this offseason, and QBs coach Greg Seamon said the 6-foot-4 pass-catcher should be a “dominant receiver in the red zone.”
  • Though the Browns brought in Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley in this year’s draft, and added Jarvis Landry via trade, there could be a spot for Jeff Janis on the 53-man roster. Cabot notes Janis has some fans in Cleveland’s new-look front office, given that he was a Packers draft pick when Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith were part of Green Bay’s operation, and believes that will help his case. Janis may well be competing against Sashi Brown-era draftees Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis. Cabot notes Higgins has probably had the better offseason of the two. Former first-rounder Corey Coleman is not a lock to be part of this year’s team, either, so Janis — a former seventh-round pick with 17 career catches who is at the same time well known well because of his heroics against the Cardinals in a divisional playoff game — could have an avenue to sneak onto the roster.
  • Josh Cribbs is serving as a Browns intern coach this summer, and Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer reports the former star return man interviewed to be the team’s assistant special teams coach this offseason. That job, however, went to Sam Shade. This will be Shade’s first season as an NFL assistant. However, after the Browns chose Shade over Cribbs, new special teams coordinator Amos Jones was impressed enough with Cribbs to bring him on board as an intern, per Pluto.

Browns Officially Hire Todd Haley

The Browns have their man. On Wednesday morning, the Browns formally announced the hiring of Todd Haley as their new offensive coordinator. Todd Haley (vertical)

We’re thrilled to bring Todd Haley in as our offensive coordinator,” said head coach Hue Jackson in a press release. “I’ve known Todd for a very long time and have respected and admired the job he’s done as a play-caller in this league. He’s a coordinator that has been successful in every place he’s been. He has been a guy that has adjusted his offense to successfully complement and taken advantage of the skillset of his personnel. I’ve witnessed firsthand how prolific his offenses have been in the AFC North over the last six seasons. As I reflected after the season and contemplated adding an offensive coordinator to the staff, my first thought was obviously improvement. If I was going to turn over the play calling duties to someone else, it had to be to someone that was experienced and had a long history of success in this league….When Todd became available, I jumped at the opportunity to meet with him. Once we sat down and talked, it became quickly evident that Todd would be a great fit.”

Of course, some will speculate that Jackson didn’t have much choice when it came to hiring an offensive coordinator. Jackson has been the team’s play caller for the last two years and the team has won just one game over that span. At the same time, Jackson previously intimated that he would have hired an OC for 2017, but he did not want to saddle a new hire with such a talent-poor offense.

Haley has spent the past 21 years coaching in the NFL, including the past six as the Steelers’ OC. Under Haley’s guidance, the Steelers had one of the best offenses in the NFL. Wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell flourished in Haley’s system and they were among the six offensive players from the Steelers to be selected to the Pro Bowl this past season. Meanwhile, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has earned four straight Pro Bowl nods and tied for the NFL lead in passing yards in 2014. The Browns are dying to those kinds of results from their next quarterback, whoever he may be.

In addition to Haley, the Browns announced that Amos Jones will be the team’s new special teams coordinator and Freddie Kitchens will serve as the running backs/associate head coach.

Coaching Rumors: Blackburn, Bears, Browns

The Panthers will be making a change atop their special teams staff. Incumbent special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is out, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets, and the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reports (on Twitter) Chase Blackburn will now run Carolina’s special teams units. A former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and finished his career with the Panthers, Blackburn had been working as the Panthers’ assistant ST coach for the past two years.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • For the first time since 2010, someone other than Chris Tabor will oversee the Browns‘ ST units. Amos Jones will relocate to Cleveland to take over as the team’s special teams boss, Marvez tweets. Jones coached the Cardinals’ ST groups during Bruce Arians‘ five-year stay in Arizona. Tabor is now the Bears’ ST coordinator.
  • Rumored to be a candidate to stay in Chicago despite the Bears‘ coaching change, Dave Ragone will indeed stay on as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports. This comes after the Bears interviewed both ex-Raiders OC Todd Downing and Texans assistant Pat O’Hara for the job. Ragone could be in line for an extension, Biggs notes, with one year remaining on his Bears contract.
  • Biggs also notes Vic Fangio believes most, if not all, of his defensive assistants will remain on staff. The Bears finished as the No. 14 DVOA defense in 2017 and retained Fangio despite his contract having expired.
  • The TitansSteve Wilks HC interview took place Thursday. Both Wilks and Texans DC Mike Vrabel interviewed for this job today. Wilks remains a candidate for the Cards’ HC job.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals‘ HC position, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets James Bettcher likely won’t need a second interview to be hired. Should the Cards determine their current DC is the right man for the job, Somers notes his five years of experience working with the team should be a sufficient judge rather than a second meeting for the HC job.
  • The Raiders continued to add to their coaching staff this week, bringing aboard four new assistants to Jon Gruden 2.0’s first staff. Recently jettisoned Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will land in Oakland as its D-line instructor, and Byron Storer will be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Trgovac coached Green Bay’s defensive lines from 2009-17. The 33-year-old Storer played for Gruden as a fullback in Tampa Bay from 2007-08 but hasn’t coached in the NFL since working with the 2013 Chargers. Additionally, Tim Berbenich and Travis Smith will be offensive and defensive quality control coaches, respectively. Smith’s been a Raiders assistant for most of this decade. He served as outside linebackers coach in 2017 after being promoted from the quality control group last year.

Cardinals Notes: Floyd, Mathieu, Arians, Wile

Any chance the Cardinals had at earning a postseason berth was likely destroyed on Sunday when Arizona fell to Miami on a last-second field goal, as FiveThirtyEight now gives the 5-7-1 Cards less than one percent chance of making the playoffs. With most of the focus in the desert turned to the offseason, let’s take a look at the latest out of Arizona…

  • The Cardinals are examining the contractual bargaining agreement to determine whether they can internally punish wide receiver Michael Floyd following his DUI arrest, head coach Bruce Arians told Alex Marvez on SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Additionally, Arians said it’s possible the Floyd will simply be benched on Sunday against the Saints. Floyd is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, so these recent developments are the worst possible way for Floyd to finish the 2016 campaign.
  • Although a recent report indicated that he may need surgery, the Cardinals have their “fingers crossed” that defensive back Tyrann Mathieu can return to practice on Wednesday, according to Arians (Twitter link). Mathieu has been sidelined for four of Arizona’s past five games, and if he undergoes surgery, he’d presumably be shut down for the year. The Cards already placed two other critical defenders — linebacker Deone Bucannon and safety Tyvon Branch — on injured reserve yesterday.
  • Speaking to reporters yesterday, Arians was adamant that the Cards would not make any coaching changes after the season, tweets Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com. Arians was specifically referring to special teams coordinator Amos Jones, per Urban, as Arizona has particularly struggled on teams this season. On the year, the Cardinals rank dead last in special teams DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.
  • The move to replace Drew Butler with fellow punter Matt Wile would have occurred last week, but Arizona wanted to ensure that Wile was a capable holder on field goal attempts, per Arians (Twitter link).