Brandon Shell

AFC East Notes: Brissett, Ajayi, Bills

We heard last week that Jacoby Brissett‘s place on the Patriots‘ roster may not be safe, and Ben Volin of the Boston Globe doubled down on that report this week. Volin reiterated that Brissett’s performance in the spring and in training camp has left much to be desired, and he says it is fair to wonder whether the Patriots refused to deal Jimmy Garoppolo because they believe Garoppolo represents their future, or because they have no faith in Brissett should Tom Brady be forced to miss time (in truth, it is surely some combination of the two). In any event, Volin opines that New England may have to keep Garoppolo next year, even if that means putting the franchise tag on him (at an estimated $25-26MM cost). After all, the team will still be loaded with talent and should be a championship contender in 2018, but a Brady injury could waste all of that talent if the No. 2 QB cannot adequately replace him.

Now for more from the AFC East:

  • Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi is still in concussion protocol, but he did practice today and the team is excited about his progress, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. Ajayai left practice early with a trainer, but that was due to a hydration issue, Jackson notes.
  • Dolphins second-round draft choice Raekwon McMillan, who was expected to see significant time at middle linebacker this season, tore his ACL while playing on the punt coverage team in Miami’s first preseason tilt Thursday night. He will now miss his entire rookie season, and head coach Adam Gase has been predictably criticized for using a player of McMillan’s importance on special teams. Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders believes such criticism is unwarranted, writing that a head coach cannot field kickoff, kickoff return, punt coverage, and punt return teams without playing first- or second-year guys. Likewise, you cannot expect those players to perform well on special teams in the regular season if they do not see live action in the preseason.
  • Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News offers his take on which wide receivers will make the Bills‘ roster after the team dealt Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews. Skurski says Matthews, Zay Jones, and Anquan Boldin will make the club, which is a given, and he adds that Rod Streater is likely to earn a spot due to his excellent camp. Skurski says he currently projects Andre Holmes and Brandon Tate to round out the WR corps, but the fact that cutting Holmes could help the team land a high compensatory draft choice next season certainly works against him. If Holmes should be cut, Walter Powell could find himself on the 53-man come Week 1.
  • Christian Hackenberg played fairly well in the Jets‘ first preseason game last night, thereby creating more fodder for Gang Green’s starting QB discussion. But as Laura Albanese of Newsday writes, there are other competitions worth watching. For instance, the battle for the team’s starting center position is tighter than originally anticipated, as Jonotthan Harrison is putting pressure on presumed starter Wesley Johnson. Likewise, Albanese writes that Brent Qvale and Brandon Shell appear to be neck-and-neck in their race for the Jets’ right tackle job.

Impact Rookies: New York Jets

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with his insight on the New York Jets’ draft class:

It has been a strange off-season for the Jets, as they seem to be taking a disregard to their recent past, holding the contract line firmly on 2015 starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and one of the best defensive linemen in the game in Muhammad Wilkerson. They failed to impress with their “temporary” solution to the Fitzpatrick stand-off by using their second-round draft pick to snatch Penn State erratic signal-caller, Christian Hackenberg.

Even if Fitzpatrick had signed, the Jets were going to look at addressing their future at quarterback anyway, as their starter in 2015 has had a journeyman’s like career to date. Still, they fail to impress Jets fans with the addition of Hackenberg, if it means that Fitzpatrick will turn into a training camp stalemate. They can’t be serious about turning the reins over to Geno Smith, could they?

Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey has been talking up Smith, citing his maturity, but his obvious lack of leadership skills (see last season’s locker room debacle) and marginal performances to date makes Jets faithful hope that Gailey can create magic in the huddle this season. One option not talked about often is the development of 2015 third round pick, Bryce Petty. Still, like Hackenberg, he is still unproven at the professional level, leaving the Jets to ponder if they want to risk a season as a playoff observer or come to some kind of solution with the Fitzpatrick situation.

While the Jets did not address their quarterback situation in the way that many fans would have liked, they did pick up some interesting talents at other positions in this year’s draft.

First Round – Darron Lee, LB (Ohio State, No. 20 overall)

It is not etched in stone where Lee will line up for the Jets, but hailed by The NFL Draft Report the “best defensive playmaker in the 2016 draft,” the Jets are certain to find a role quickly for their first round pick. For now, he’s listed behind Erin Henderson at right inside linebacker. Beyond that, veteran and inside starter David Harris might be looking for employment elsewhere in 2017, if Lee progresses as quickly as expected. Darron Lee (vertical)

Henderson moves into the lineup, at least temporarily, after the Jets let Demario Davis leave in free agency despite finishing second on the team with 90 tackles last year. Still, it will not be long before he cedes playing time to Lee. Another player greatly affected by Lee’s arrival is San Francisco cast-off, Bruce Carter, who was brought in to play the nickel package. With Lee’s cornerback-like speed, Carter will have to sit while Lee performs in that alignment.

Some draft analysts stated that Lee was a “work in progress” and “did not excite” in 2015 like he did in 2014 during the Buckeyes’ national championship march. Unknown to many scouts, at the time, but Lee was playing with a lower leg injury during the first half of his sophomore campaign. With several Buckeyes suspended earlier in the year, the strong-side linebacker felt that even on one leg, he needed to be out on the field.

Lee recovered just in time – for the late season tough part of the schedule. He recorded at least seven tackles with one stop behind the line of scrimmage and one quarterback pressure in each of his final four appearances. While he delivered 66 tackles (36 solos) for his final season at Ohio State, it is how he compiled those statistics that were even more impressive.

On 53 plays he made vs. the running game, Lee limited his opponents to an average gain of a minuscule 0.68 yards per attempt. The longest gain vs. the linebacker was a 9-yard scamper. He delivered eleven crunching third-down stops and another on a fourth-down play vs. those ball carriers, posting fourteen of those tackles inside the red zone, including four on goal-line stands. In addition to taking down thirteen runners for losses, ten more were tackled at the line of scrimmage for no gain. He also made five touchdown-saving tackles after runners broke free from other Ohio State defenders in 2015.

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Draft Signings: Bucs, Seahawks, Lions

A rundown of the latest draft signings:

  • The Buccaneers have agreed to terms with fourth-round pick Ryan Smith and fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch, as freelance reporter Jenna Laine tweets. Smith, a defensive back out of North Carolina Central, left college as the program’s all-time leader in solo tackles (168) and kickoff return average (28.1). Even though he played cornerback during his final year at UNCC, the Bucs plan to use him as a safety. Benenoch, an offensive linemen from UCLA, has experience both at tackle and on the interior line and that versatility helped his stock heading into the draft.
  • The Seahawks signed fifth-round running back Alex Collins, as Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. As his slot mandates, it’s a four-year, $2.566MM deal with a $184K signing bonus.
  • The Lions signed sixth-round defensive lineman Anthony Zettel, as Wilson tweets.
  • The Dolphins have signed seventh-round quarterback Brandon Doughty, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (on Twitter). The former Western Kentucky signal caller drew interest from scouts in large part because of his pinpoint accuracy.
  • The Lions signed fifth-round offensive lineman Joe Dahl, per Rand Getlin of NFL.com (on Twitter).
  • The Jets announced the signings of cornerback Juston Burris (fourth round) and tackle Brandon Shell (fifth), as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Shell, a 6-foot-6, 328-pound tackle, started for four seasons for the South Carolina Gamecocks and is the great nephew of Raiders Hall of Fame tackle and ensuing coach Art Shell.

Washington Trades No. 158 Pick To Jets

The Jets acquired the No. 158 pick from Washington in exchange for a 2017 fourth-round selection, Master Tefatsion of the Washington Post tweets. Gang Green chose South Carolina tackle Brandon Shell with the pick.

New York did not have a fifth-round choice after it sent the No. 157 selection to the Broncos for Ryan Clady earlier this month. With the draft’s ensuing choice, the Jets brought in a player who could serve as the succession plan post-Clady. The former 2008 No. 1 pick’s contract expires after the 2017 season.

The Jets had yet to address their offensive front during the draft after entering the weekend relatively thin on long-term options up front. Breno Giacomini resides as the incumbent right tackle, and although the team re-signed Ben Ijalana earlier this offseason, he’s a career backup who barely played during his time with the Jets after backing up iron man D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

A 6-foot-6, 328-pound tackle, Brandon Shell started for four seasons for the Gamecocks and is the great nephew of Raiders Hall of Fame tackle and ensuing coach Art Shell.

Draft Rumors: Cravens, Lions, Dolphins, Raiders

USC safety/linebacker Su’a Cravens says he has six visits lined up and another eight potentially on the horizon as well, Mike Florio of PFT writes. In addition to the previously reported teams with interest, Cravens says he will visit the the Lions, Raiders, and Dolphins.

Here are the latest draft rumors:

  • Maryland outside linebacker Yannick Ngakoue said he has visits scheduled with the Jaguars, Eagles, Titans, and Jets, according to Daniel Gallen of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter). Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (on Twitter) adds that the Bills and Browns both met with him today.
  • Boise State lineman Rees Odhiambo will meet with the 49ers, Saints, and Buccaneers in the next couple of weeks, agent Ron Slavin tells Jay Tust of KTVB (on Twitter).
  • Ohio State safety Vonn Bell has (or has had) meetings, workouts and/or visits with the Jets, Patriots, Panthers, and Giants, Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports tweets.
  • South Carolina offensive lineman Brandon Shell says he has individual workouts coming up with the Panthers, Ravens, and 49ers, David Caraviello of the Post And Courier tweets.
  • Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland told SiriusXM NFL Radio (on Twitter) that he has probably heard the most from the Bears, Falcons, Saints, and Dolphins. He also confirmed personal workouts with the Bears, ColtsRavens, Jaguars, Vikings, Rams, and the Bills.
  • Pitt wide receiver Tyler Boyd confirmed that he has had workouts with the Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, and Rams (Twitter link via SiriusXM). He’ll also have formal visits with the Panthers and Cowboys next week.
  • Cincinnati wide receiver Chris Moore has visits/workouts scheduled with the Buccaneers, Panthers, Texans, Eagles, and Bengals, Jenna Laine of Sports Talk 1040 tweets.
  • Defensive line coaches from the Eagles, Titans, Steelers, and Bengals put Javon Hargrave through a workout which lasted almost 45 minutes, according to Tony Pauline for Walter Football.
  • The Cardinals are bringing in linebacker Victor Ochi for an official visit, Pauline writes.