Chris Strausser

AFC Notes: Broncos, Lock, Texans, Colts, Vinatieri, Assistant Coaches

The 2019 NFL Draft is less than three months away, with the combine right around the corner. Draft buzz is starting to heat up, and one team in a particularly interesting situation is the Broncos. Denver has the tenth overall pick, and has been looking for a new franchise quarterback ever since Peyton Manning retired. While the team has Case Keenum under contract for one more year, it seems like there’s a very good chance the Broncos take a quarterback early yet again.

Adding fuel to that fire, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post hears that Broncos GM John Elway is “smitten” with Missouri signal caller Drew Lock, and that Elway’s infatuation with the quarterback was “the worst-kept secret at the Senior Bowl.” Lock seems like a real possibility to go to the Broncos at ten, and could be the first quarterback taken if Dwayne Haskins slips a little bit. If the Broncos do draft a quarterback, they could get out of Keenum’s contract relatively easily, or choose to keep him on for one year as a bridge quarterback/mentor.

Here’s more from the AFC:

  • The Texans made a front office move today, bringing in former Jets executive Clay Hampton to be their new director of football operations, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). McClain notes that Hampton was in the Jets’ front office for 17 years, working his way up from being a ball boy to become their director of football operations. McClain also writes that Hampton will report directly to GM Brian Gaine who worked for the Jets at the same time as Hampton.
  • Adam Vinatieri officially signed on for a 24th season a few days ago, and now we have the details on his new contract with the Colts. Vinatieri signed a one-year $3.875MM deal, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Vinatieri turned 46 in December but showed no signs of slowing down this season, even though he did miss two kicks in Indianapolis’ divisional round playoff loss to the Chiefs.
  • Speaking of the Colts, the team made a couple of new additions to Frank Reich’s staff today. They hired Jason Michael as their tight ends coach and Chris Strausser as their offensive line coach, the team announced in a tweet. The Colts’ offensive line had an amazing turn around in 2018, but they fired Dave DeGuglielmo after the season so Reich could bring in one of his own guys, and he apparently settled on Strausser, who was with the Broncos last season. Strausser reportedly was also drawing interest from the Browns.

 

North Notes: Bears, Steelers, Browns

The Bears intend to bring in competition for much-maligned kicker Cody Parkey, according to general manager Ryan Pace (Twitter link via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune). “We need more production out of that position,” said Pace. “It will be an emphasis of focus for us.” Parkey, of course, had a game-winning kick blocked in the final seconds of Chicago’s Wild Card round loss to the Eagles, but his results during the regular season were also unspectacular. Signed to a four-year, $15MM contract last March, Parkey proceeded to finish third-to-last in the NFL with a 76.7% field goal conversion rate. Football Outsiders‘ special teams metrics, meanwhile, ranked the Bears 29th in field goals and extra points. Chicago, which handed Parkey $9MM in full guarantees, would incur more than $5MM in dead money by cutting the 26-year-old.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Bengals head coach-to-be Zac Taylor is “very interested” in having Redskins offensive line coach Bill Callahan join his new staff in Cincinnati, reports Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). The only problem? Callahan is still under contract in Washington, so the Redskins would need to permit the move. The Bengals parted ways with OL coach Frank Pollack earlier this week, so they’re looking for a new coach to lead their front five. Taylor played quarterback under Callahan at Nebraska, so the two certainly have a familiarity.
  • The Steelers have hired North Carolina State tight ends/fullbacks/special teams coach Eddie Faulkner as their new running backs coach, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Faulkner coached current Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels as recently as 2017, and he’ll now have the opportunity to lead both Samuels and James Conner next season. He’ll replace James Saxon, who left to take the same position with the Cardinals.
  • After losing former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos, the Bears are overhauling their defensive staff under new play-caller Chuck Pagano. Safeties coach Roy Anderson and linebackers coach Glenn Pires will not be retained, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune and Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter links). Pagano surely wants to formulate his own staff, but Anderson had worked with Pagano in both Baltimore and Indianapolis, so his departure is relatively surprising.
  • Broncos’ offensive tackles coach Chris Strausser is generating interest from the Browns, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. Strausser, who handled Denver’s tackles while Sean Kugler (who recently left for the Cardinals) managed the club’s interior offensive line, is likely being allowed to pursue other opportunities now that Fangio is in place. Cleveland recently hired ex-Packers offensive line coach James Campen for the same role.

Assistant Coaching Rumors: Broncos, Browns, Packers, Rams, Buccaneers

Now that the head coaching carousel is pretty much wrapped up, everyone’s attention will now be turning to the assistant coaching ranks. One team that has a lot to sort out is the Broncos, now that we know Gary Kubiak won’t be joining as the team’s offensive coordinator. Broncos defensive backs coach Greg Williams won’t be returning next year, according to Mike Klis of Denver 9News (Twitter link). In a separate tweet, Klis writes that league sources told him Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell will be a “top target” of new Broncos coach Vic Fangio to join his defensive staff. In a third tweet, Klis notes that the Browns are targeting Chris Strausser, who currently coaches the Broncos’ offensive tackles, to join Freddie Kitchens’ staff in Cleveland.

Here’s the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Matt LaFleur is the Packers’ new coach, and while it has already been announced that he’ll be bringing back defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive coaches, he still needs to round out his offensive staff. Jets WR’s coach Karl Dorrell will interview for the same position with Green Bay, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). Dorrell got his start under Mike Shanahan, who LaFleur also used to coach under, so the connection is there.
  • The Rams are losing Zac Taylor to the Bengals, as their 35-year-old quarterbacks coach will take over the head coaching gig in Cincinnati, and they almost lost another assistant. Senior offensive assistant Jedd Fisch had an interview for the head coaching vacancy at Temple, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Rapoport also notes that Fisch, the former Jaguars and UCLA offensive coordinator, could be “an option to fill a key offensive position next year” with the departure of Taylor.
  • Byron Leftwich wasn’t able to do much after taking over as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator this season, but Bruce Arians has a ton of confidence in his new offensive coordinator with the Buccaneers. Arians called Leftwich a “rising star” and said Arizona’s offensive struggles were because they weren’t running Leftwich’s offense, per Nick Shook of NFL.com. It’s been rumored that Arians views Leftwich as his eventual successor when he retires from coaching for good.

Coaching Rumors: Broncos, Giants, Cowboys

The Broncos have made an interesting set of choices in replacing fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, as the club announced that Sean Kugler has been hired as offensive line coach-guards/centers, while Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports that Chris Strausser — who spent the 2017 campaign as Denver’s assistant OL coach — will tutor the Broncos’ tackles (Twitter link). It’s a compelling set of hires, as hiring a combination of coaches to lead separate parts of one position unit is something that usually occurs on the defensive side of the ball (safeties/cornerbacks, outside/inside linebackers). Elsewhere on the Denver staff, former interim quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak is considered a candidate to become the the Broncos’ next wide receivers coach, tweets Mike Klis of 9News.

Here’s more on the 2018 hiring cycle:

  • Former Broncos assistant head coach/running backs Eric Studesville was scheduled to interview for the Giants‘ head coaching vacancy over the weekend, but weather-related concerns forced that meeting to be pushed back. Instead, New York will interview Studesville on Tuesday, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Studesville, who had been employed in Denver since 2010, was fired earlier this week. While he’s never been a head coach, the 50-year-old Studesville did serve as an interim HC during the 2010 campaign.
  • While the Raiders reportedly have interest in adding Cowboys running backs Gary Brown to Jon Gruden‘s staff, Dallas wants to keep Brown — who is a coaching free agent — as well, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). Brown, who enjoyed a nine-year career as an NFL running back, first entered the coaching ranks with Cleveland in 2009. Oakland has been aggressive in hiring staffers under Gruden, as it’s agreed to bring in Greg Olson as offensive coordinator and Paul Guenther as defensive coordinator.
  • If Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur lands a head coaching gig in the coming weeks, he’s expected to bring Panthers quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey along with him, tweets Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Dorsey, 36, has spent his entire post-playing career in Carolina, first as a pro scout and now as QBs coach. He interviewed for the Bills’ offensive coordinator position in 2017, but Buffalo ultimately hired Rick Dennison.
  • The Bengals will interview Baylor wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell for the same position in Cincinnati, according to Marvez (Twitter link). Bicknell coached in the NFL from 2008-16, most recently with the 49ers, and interviewed with Chicago last offseason. Cincinnati, meanwhile, lost WRs coach James Urban to the division-rival Ravens.

AFC West Notes: Broncos, Chargers, Raiders

The Broncos will consider former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese as they seek to hire a new quarterbacks coach, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). While Denver’s coaching staff will undergo something of an overhaul, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is staying put, as is interim quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak (in a new role). While neither McAdoo nor Zampese made it through the 2017 without being fired, both offer experience with Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. McAdoo and Joseph spent time together with the 49ers in 2005, while Joseph overlapped with Zampese during his tenure in Cincinnati.

Here’s more from the AFC West:

  • Elsewhere on the Broncos‘ offensive staff, Sean Kugler — who spent the past four-plus years as UTEP’s head coach — is interviewing today for the club’s offensive line position, tweets Alex Marvez of the Sporting News. Incumbent assistant offensive line coach Chris Strausser will also interview for the full-time job, per Klis (Twitter link). Denver is seeking a replacement for Jeff Davidson, who was fired earlier this week along with several other members of the club’s offensive staff. The Broncos ranked ninth in adjusted line yards but 29th in adjusted sack rate a season ago.
  • Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn wants Gus Bradley to return as the team’s defensive coordinator in 2018, as Greg Beacham of the Associated Press writes. Bradley’s deal is set to expire, however, so nothing is certain at the moment. “We’d like to keep this together if we can,” Lynn said Monday. “I know some guys, the contracts are up. We’re working on that right now. We’re trying to keep this staff together, this nucleus together, because I think we got better as a coaching staff as the season went on.” Los Angeles ranked ninth in defensive DVOA in 2017, Bradley’s first year at the helm.
  • Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes may get a late start to his sophomore campaign, as the rookie third-round pick suffered a torn ACL in the Raiders‘ season finale, tweets Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. While Vanderdoes graded as a bottom-20 interior defender per Pro Football Focus, he did manage to play 464 defensive snaps in his first NFL season. Now facing rehab and possibly a new defensive scheme, Vanderdoes could be looking at an uphill battle as he seeks medical clearance for the beginning of the 2018 season.

West Notes: Mitchell, Broncos, Poe, Raiders

Despite being released off a defense that ranked 29th last season, Earl Mitchell logged an extensive street free agency tour before signing with the 49ers. After a Broncos offer to Mitchell was reported last night, the new 49er said the Seahawks also made him an offer, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (on Twitter), before he opted for the Bay Area. The Seahawks joined the Falcons as fellow NFC teams pursuing Mitchell, who played four seasons with the Texans and three with the Dolphins. This is his third four-year contract.

That pact came partially because of Mitchell’s history in Houston. New 49ers defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina coached Mitchell with the Texans, and DeMeco Ryans being hired as defensive quality control coach meant a former teammate was going to be on staff. Both hires helped sway Mitchell, per Wagoner (on Twitter). New GM John Lynch also called Mitchell “a priority for us to sign.”

Here’s more from some teams out west, beginning with one of the suitors Mitchell declined:

  • The Broncos lost an assistant offensive line coach who was affiliated with the organization for less than a month when John Benton agreed to become the 49ers’ O-line instructor. They plan to fill his position by bringing in a college coach of their top lineman, with former Boise State and Washington offensive line coach Chris Strausser set to succeed Benton, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Strausser coached Broncos center Matt Paradis — and Bears left tackle Charles Leno — during his time in Idaho before spending the past three seasons with the Huskies. Strausser has coached in college for more than 25 years; this will be his first NFL job.
  • Spotrac calculates Dontari Poe‘s market value as being just north of $12MM per year, putting the Chiefs defensive tackle on the Gerald McCoy/Michael Brockers plane. But someone like Nick Fairley on a shorter-term, lower-cost deal be more effective, Conor Orr of NFL.com writes. Poe hasn’t made the Pro Bowl since 2014 and only has 2.5 sacks since his six-sack slate that year. He stands to join Brandon Williams, Johnathan Hankins and Bennie Logan among free agent defensive tackles. The Chiefs are negotiating with Poe and Eric Berry, with the franchise tag almost certainly coming into play for one.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul could also make it to free agency, although there’s a reasonable chance the Giants tag him. However, should he venture onto the market, Matt Mosley of the Dallas Morning News writes the Broncos or Raiders could be fits. Pass rush isn’t exactly high on the Broncos’ radar, with Von Miller and Shane Ray under contract, but it wasn’t two years ago when Denver drafted Ray in Round 1. However, the Broncos have plenty of greater needs and JPP could aim for Olivier Vernon-type money — which they don’t realistically possess. The Raiders play a 4-3 scheme but obviously have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin employed, so that would be an interesting fit.