Dexter Lawrence

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Haskins, Giants

As other teams continue to finalize pivotal extensions, work remains for the Cowboys on this front. Contract talks are ongoing for Dallas’ standout trio — Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper — entering the team’s first preseason game, and ESPN.com’s Todd Archer notes none of these contracts is particularly close to being done. Nevertheless, Jerry Jones remains confident.

You just know like so many things it’ll happen. It’ll happen,” Jones said of the extensions. “There literally is no concern on my part at all about any timeframe. That’ll happen. The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. Think about it a minute. The results are too good for them and too good for the Cowboys. That always happens when it’s good for both (sides).”

Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones has mentioned possible team-friendly discounts for these players, due to the financial opportunities that come with playing with this particular franchise, and added the team not does not intend to set positional markets. (For what it’s worth, the Cowboys set the guard market last summer with Zack Martin.) Elliott, however, remains a holdout — with two days remaining until the Aug. 6 date that will determine whether the running back is a UFA or an RFA in 2020 — and Prescott does not sound receptive to a Cowboys-friendly deal.

Going from the Cowboys’ off-field matters to some of their rivals’ on-field setups, here is the NFC East’s latest:

  • Although Colt McCoy spent the offseason rehabbing a broken leg, he emerged as the Redskins‘ starting quarterback on their first depth chart. It is not certain he will take the snaps in Week 1, but J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington indicates camp work thus far has revealed this competition has become a two-man battle between McCoy and Case Keenum. It should be expected Dwayne Haskins takes over at some point this season, but Finlay notes the first-round pick has not looked ready yet. Haskins sits as Washington’s QB3 on the first depth chart.
  • Despite Dexter Lawrence tipping the scales north of 340 pounds, the Giants are playing him as a five-technique defensive end, Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com notes. This will accommodate the 318-pound Dalvin Tomlinson, who moved from end to tackle after Damon Harrison was traded midseason. Tomlinson is indeed operating as Big Blue’s first-string nose. Lawrence played the nose spot at Clemson but has impressed the Giants with his pass-rushing ability this offseason. The mammoth defensive lineman registered 1.5 sacks last season but collected 6.5 as a freshman in 2016. Either way, New York will boast a physically imposing defensive front.
  • Darius Slayton‘s encouraging offseason has not yet translated to camp, with the rookie wide receiver joining some higher-profile Giants wideouts in being unavailable. Slayton has missed 10 consecutive practices because of a hamstring injury, Dunleavy notes. For the non-Giants-following sect, Sterling Shepard broke his thumb, Corey Coleman tore his ACL and Golden Tate received a four-game suspension since camp began.

East Notes: Zeke, Giants, McCoy

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott managed to escape a suspension for a potentially troublesome incident in May, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests that if Elliott should even come close to violating the league’s personal conduct policy again, the punishment will be severe. Commissioner Roger Goodell gave everyone in the league office this week off, so Florio believes the only reason for Goodell to summon Elliott to league headquarters on Tuesday was to sufficiently scare him into staying on the straight and narrow. Goodell has been less harsh with players who run afoul of league policies in recent history, but if Elliott should put another toe out of line in the future, the commissioner will likely hand out a lengthy ban, and his decision to not suspend Elliott this time will help to justify such a measure.

Now for more the league’s east divisions:

  • There do not seem to be any starting jobs up for grabs along the Giants‘ defensive line, even though the presumptive starters are young and mostly unproven. However, with that youth comes a great deal of potential, and one of the keys to Big Blue’s immediate prospects is the realization of that potential. Third-year player Dalvin Tomlinson, second-year talent B.J. Hill, and rookie Dexter Lawrence are expected to open the season atop the Giants’ D-line depth chart, as Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes, and the addition of Lawrence allows Tomlinson to slide into a traditional nose tackle spot, to which he is better-suited.
  • In a separate 2019 positional preview piece, Schwartz examines the Giants‘ tight end group, which is headed by Evan Engram. Engram had a disappointing start to 2018, his second professional season, but when Odell Beckham missed the final four games of the season, Engram excelled and finished with some positive momentum. Now that OBJ is in Cleveland, New York will need Engram to show more of the same in a crucial year for his development. The club’s second TE, Rhett Ellison, is a favorite of HC Pat Shurmur, while returnee Scott Simonson will have to hold off C.J. Conrad — a UDFA who impressed this spring — and former Syracuse QB Eric Dungey, another UDFA who is trying to make the club as a TE/gadget player.
  • Vic Carucci of BNBlitz.com says it’s possible that Bills GM Brandon Beane and LeSean McCoy have adamantly pushed the notion that McCoy will be the team’s starter in 2019 in order to generate some trade interest. After all, the club does have a large stable of RBs, and McCoy, a 2020 free agent, appears to be nearing the end of his career. But Carucci says he has heard nothing to indicate that Buffalo is seeking to trade McCoy.
  • In the same piece, Carucci says he believes Levi Wallace will start for the Bills at cornerback opposite TreDavious White.
  • In case you missed it, we heard this morning that Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory will be applying for reinstatement shortly.
  • Also from this morning: the Giants may deploy safety Jabrill Peppers as their primary punt returner.

Giants Sign Dexter Lawrence, DeAndre Baker

On Friday, the Giants signed two of their three first-round picks. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and cornerback DeAndre Baker are officially members of the team, leaving first-round quarterback Daniel Jones and third-round linebacker Oshane Ximines as the last remaining stragglers. 

Lawrence, the 17th overall selection, was one of the most dominant DTs in the country over the course of his three years at Clemson. He left school with 10.5 career sacks from the interior, 43 QB pressures, and two national championships.

Baker, the No. 30 overall pick, was the first cornerback to come off the board in April and the only one to be selected in the first round. As a senior at Georgia, he won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back. After amassing 40 tackles, two interceptions, and ten pass breakups, Baker was regarded as one of the few corners deserving of first round consideration.

Lawrence seems likely to begin the season as the team’s starting nose tackle. Baker can also crack the starting lineup if he’s able to edge out Sam Beal this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Brown, Harry, Cardinals

This week’s combine re-checks produced very positive news for Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Brown, who has been out of a boot for weeks, was given the thumbs up on his surgically-repaired foot.

Despite the injury, the 5’9″ receiver is widely projected as a first round pick. Last year, Brown put himself on the NFL radar with 75 catches for 1,318 yards and ten touchdowns.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry will work out for the Cardinals on April 20 at ASU, according to a source who spoke with ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss (on Twitter). Head coach Kliff Kingsbury, GM Steve Keim, and president Michael Bidwill will be among those on hand for Harry’s only private NFL workout. Harry isn’t a contender for the No. 1 overall pick, but he could be a candidate for the Cardinals’ first pick of the second round (No. 33 overall)
  • The Rams are meeting with Clemson defensive linemen Dexter Lawrence and Clelin Ferrell on campus, Rapoport tweets. Both players are expected to go in the first round, but the Rams may be out of range at No. 31 overall.
  • Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams will visit the Jaguars on Thursday, a source tells ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link).
  • Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson will work out for the Falcons on Thursday, Rapoport tweets. The converted wide receiver came away with two interceptions in each of the last two seasons and could go as high as the second round.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Sweat, Lawrence, Oliver

Lions general manager Bob Quinn is a Bill Belichick disciple, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s open to trading down from No. 8 in the first round of the 2019 draft. “I always like draft picks, so if we could move back a little bit, a couple spots, and pick up another pick, I think this is a really good, the depth of this draft from the late first to the third, there’s a lot of really good players in there,” Quinn told Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). “If I could ever move back a few spots, get a really good player in the first round and add another pick, I think that’s something that would be great. People out there listening, I’m open for business.” Detroit owns nine total picks but possesses only the 15th-most overall draft capital.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen is a busy man. In addition to planned visits with the 49ers, Jets, Raiders, Giants and Lions, Allen will also meet with the Bengals, Buccaneers, Jaguars, and Bills, tweets Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. Allen spent four years with the Wildcats, totaling 31.5 sacks in the process (17 of which came during his senior season). Viewed as the 2019 draft’s second-best pass rusher behind Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Allen has been popularly mocked to New York at No. 3 and Oakland at No. 4.
  • The Buccaneers are looking for help along their defensive line while holding the No. 5 overall selection in this month’s draft, and they’ve met with several top-end prospects this week. Mississippi State pass rusher Montez Sweat met with Tampa on Monday, while defensive tackles Ed Oliver (Houston) and Dexter Lawrence (Clemson) are sitting down with the Bucs today, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). Sweat and Oliver are in legitimate consideration to come off the board at No. 5, while Lawrence could be in play for Tampa Bay’s second-round pick (although he’d be a curious fit given the Buccaneers drafted fellow nose tackle Vita Vea 12th overall in 2018). Auburn cornerback prospect Jamel Dean also visited with Tampa Bay this week, per Rapoport.
  • Sweat also met with the Jaguars this week, adds Rapoport, as did Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, reports Schefter (Twitter link). Both players could be available for Jacksonville at No. 7 in the first round, although Taylor would probably fill more of a need area. The Jaguars released starting right tackle Jermey Parnell earlier this offseason, so Taylor could immediately step opposite blindside protector Cam Robinson.
  • Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson recently met with both the Lions and Dolphins, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Teams are interested in Jackson primarily due to his “rare physical traits,” per Pelissero, and the three-year starter certainly offers intriguing size at 6’7″, 245 pounds. Detroit could be searching for a developmental passer to play behind Matthew Stafford, while Miami simply needs warm bodies under center.

Giants Host Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence

The Giants are said to be eyeing pass rushers with their No. 6 overall pick, and while Clemson defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence does not fit the bill per se, he would be a strong addition to the club’s front seven. Per Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Giants hosted Lawrence on a pre-draft visit today (Twitter link).

Lawrence is a first-round talent, and given the mass exodus of defensive playmakers that Big Blue has witnessed over the last several seasons, it would not be particularly surprising to see the club double dip on defense in the first round of the 2019 draft. In addition to the No. 6 pick, the Giants also hold the No. 17 selection, and Lawrence may still be on the board when they are on the clock with the latter choice.

Lawrence finished his collegiate career with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, and while he may not be a sack machine at the next level, he does offer the ability to apply at least some interior pressure.

As Garafolo notes, Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher was in attendance at Lawrence’s pro day.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Clemson DL Dexter Lawrence Declares For Draft

Clemson’s loaded defensive line did not have Dexter Lawrence during the Tigers’ two College Football Playoff games, and the defending national champions will say goodbye to the junior interior defender early.

A projected first-round pick, Lawrence will forgo his final season and enter the 2019 draft, announcing his decision on Twitter.

Lawrence and multiple other Tigers were suspended because of failed drug tests ahead of the Clemson-Notre Dame game. Nevertheless, Lawrence will likely join teammates Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins as first-round picks come April.

Ranked 13th in Todd McShay’s most recent prospect hierarchy, Lawrence finished his career with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He played for two national championship teams and will be part of a loaded 2019 glut of defensive linemen expected to go off the board early.

Extra Points: Keenum, Broncos, Steelers, Conner, Clemson, 2019 NFL Draft

Case Keenum was the best story of the 2017 NFL season, and parlayed his magical run with the Vikings into a two year $36MM contract with the Broncos. While Keenum has had some nice moments this year, he’s mostly been a big disappointment. The Broncos clinched a losing season with their loss last night to the Raiders, and Keenum threw a pair of awful interceptions. With Vance Joseph a near lock to be fired at the end of the season, Denver will have an entirely new coaching staff next year with no ties to Keenum.

Only $7MM of his salary is guaranteed for next season, so the Broncos could realistically cut him this spring. Denver’s decision on whether to keep him “may have more to do with who else is available” than anything else, according to Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. Jhabvala notes that there may not be a Kirk Cousins-esque surefire starter available in free agency, and that could ensure that Keenum stays another year. Even if he is still on the team in 2019, he’ll likely be competing with a highly drafted rookie.

  • The Steelers are on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention, and need a win over the Bengals and a Browns victory over the Ravens in Week 17 to win the AFC North and sneak into the postseason. They’ll need all hands on deck, and could be getting a big boost on offense for the must-win game. James Conner has missed the last few weeks with a high ankle sprain, but has a “realistic chance” to play this week, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Jaylen Samuels has filled in admirably in the backfield, but getting Conner back would still be huge.
  • A trio of Clemson players have failed drug tests ahead of the College Football Playoff, per Jori Epstein of USA Today. The most notable of the group is defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who has been projected by many as a first round pick in the 2019 NFL draft. While any incident like this could hurt a player’s draft stock, it should be noted that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is standing firmly behind his players and denying they used any performance enhancing substances, “saying the test results revealed ‘a sliver, a trace, a fraction’ of a drug he’d never heard of before.” We should know more details soon, but teams will surely be asking Lawrence about this at the combine.
  • In case you missed it, former Chiefs and Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is reportedly eyeing a return to the NFL.