Donte Jackson

Extra Points: Broncos, Packers, Panthers

The Broncos have a new backup quarterback, as head coach Vance Joseph told reporters Chad Kelly is now the club’s top reserve to starter Case Keenum (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic). Former first-round pick Paxton Lynch continued his abysmal NFL run by completing just 6-of-11 passes for 24 yards and one interception during Denver’s first preseason games, while Kelly — the 2017 drat’s Mr. Irrelevant — completed 14-of-21 attempts for 177 yards, two scores, and one interception. Clearly, the Broncos’ decision isn’t solely based on the results of a single exhibition contest, as Lynch also played poorly in two starts last season. Given Kelly’s inexperience, and Lynch’s lack of results, Denver could conceivably aim to acquire a veteran No. 2 signal-caller before the 2018 season gets underway.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Geronimo Allison has “quietly established himself” as the Packers‘ No. 3 receiver behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, as Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes. Green Bay used three Day 3 draft picks on receivers, adding J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown in the process, while futures contract signee Jake Kumerow has also shined during training camp. But it’s the 24-year-old Allison, who landed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2016, who is likely to play in three-wide sets. Allison, who would play on the outside and allow Cobb to move to the slot in “11” personnel, put up 23 receptions and 253 yards in 2017.
  • Panthers rookie cornerback Donte Jackson has given head coach Ron Rivera a comfort level in the secondary he hasn’t had in two-to-three years, per Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Jackson, the 55th overall selection earlier this year, stands 5’11”, 175 pounds, so he was pegged as a slot-only corner as he entered the NFL. However, Carolina has been adamant that Jackson will get an opportunity on the outside, and it’s possible the LSU product will start in Week 1. In fact, after fellow corner Ross Cockrell suffered a season-ending injury, Jackson may be the favorite to play alongside James Bradberry.
  • Free agent cornerback Julian Wilson worked out for the Titans on Sunday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Wilson, 26, went undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2015 before landing a contract with the Ravens. A broken leg ended his rookie season during minicamp, and Wilson subsequently spent time on the Chiefs and Vikings practice squads during the 2016 campaign. A futures deal with the Chiefs in 2017 never led to a serious look, so Wilson signed on with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League during the regular season. If signed by Tennessee, Wilson would compete for time on special teams.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Panthers, 49ers

Although Patrick Peterson expects Sam Bradford to start the season as the Cardinals‘ quarterback, what he saw early this offseason from Josh Rosen may make that a short-lived arrangement. Peterson said the first-round pick “blew my mind” with the football IQ he was known for challenging coaches with at UCLA.

Just to see him run hurry-up offense, to see him make all different checks, to see him put guys in position, I was completely stunned when I saw it,” Peterson said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “I was like, ‘This guy’s only been here a week, and he’s already doing what? We’re already running two-minute offense now?

I was very, very impressed with that, and he’s definitely the future of our franchise.”

While this praise tops Steve Wilks‘ a bit, it’s consistent with what the first-year Cards coach described about the No. 10 overall pick. Bradford has not been given the Cards’ starting job yet, and he’ll have to show the Cardinals — who slow-played his offseason work due to the major injury concerns attached to the former Heisman Trophy winner — he can stay healthy. An injury-free preseason will likely have Bradford at the controls come Week 1. But the Rosen era appears imminent.

Shifting to another rookie’s standing, here’s what’s new out of the NFC on Friday night.

  • Daryl Worley‘s release leaves the Panthers somewhat vulnerable at cornerback. That hasn’t been an uncertain spot since Josh Norman‘s departure, but David Newton of ESPN.com expects second-round pick Donte Jackson to emerge as the starter opposite James Bradberry. “You see it on the field. You see it when you talk to him,” Ron Rivera said regarding Jackson. “You watch in his gait, the way he carries himself. That’s the type of attitude you have to have to play this game. You have to have a certain kind of swagger.” Ross Cockrell, Kevon Seymour and perhaps slot man Captain Munnerlyn figure to factor into the Panthers’ competition here as well.
  • Speaking of Carolina competitions, Colin Jones has a good shot to start at safety despite his presence as a career special-teamer. The Panthers are counting on the 30-year-old Jones to play opposite 37-year-old Mike Adams, per Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today. Carolina, though, signed Da’Norris Searcy and drafted Rashaan Gaulden in the third round, so it would appear Jones may stand to be a stopgap solution. He played 213 defensive snaps last season but only has 13 starts in seven NFL seasons.
  • 49ers defensive ends Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are switching positions, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, with the 2017 No. 3 overall pick moving to the “Leo” end spot reserved for the best outside pass rusher in San Francisco’s 4-3 scheme. Thomas played some at this position last season, but Armstead resided there at the outset of the 49ers’ most recent campaign. Armstead being a former defensive tackle makes him a more obvious fit as the “big” end, and the ex-Oregon product has put on weight this offseason to play that role. The 49ers still hope to have Thomas (three sacks as a rookie) shift inside at times on passing downs, though both would profile as players who could join DeForest Buckner inside in sub-packages.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/10/18

Here are the rest of Thursday’s draft pick accords:

  • The Buccaneers signed one of their three second-round picks in cornerback M.J. Stewart (No. 53 overall), Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. They also agreed to terms with their final three picks — Kansas State safety Jordan Whitehead (Round 4, pick 117), Penn wide receiver Justin Watson (Round 5, pick 144) and Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy (Round 6, pick 202).
  • Five-sixths of this Falcons draft class is now signed. Atlanta agreed to a deal with third-round defensive tackle Deadrin Senat (No. 90 overall out of South Florida). After already signing four other selections, only first-rounder Calvin Ridley remains unsigned.
  • The Steelers signed one of the safeties they drafted last month in agreeing to terms with Penn State product Marcus Allen (Round 5, pick 148). Pittsburgh also signed Alabama defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (Round 7, pick 246).
  • The Jaguars came to terms with four of their seven draftees — the final four Jacksonville selected in this year’s draft. N.C. State tackle Will Richardson (Round 4, pick 129), Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee (Round 6, pick 203), Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs (Round 7, pick 230) and Mississippi State punter Logan Cooke (Round 7, pick 247) all signed their first Jags contracts Thursday. Cooke has a clear path toward the Jags’ punter job since the team released Brad Nortman two days after the draft.
  • Beginning their signings, the Titans agreed to deals with half of their four-man draft class. Tennessee signed Arizona cornerback Dane Cruikshank (Round 5, pick 152) and Washington State quarterback Luke Falk (Round 6, pick 199). The latter will attempt to develop behind Marcus Mariota and Blaine Gabbert.
  • Following suit in bringing aboard the back half of their draft, the Bills agreed to deals with four rookies. Jacksonville State safety Siran Neal, Virginia Tech guard Wyatt Teller (Round 5, pick 166), Clemson wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (Round 6, pick 187) and North Carolina wideout Austin Proehl (Round 7, pick 255) signed their initial Buffalo deals.
  • Second-round Panthers pick Donte Jackson (No. 55 overall) signed his rookie contract. Indiana tight end Ian Thomas (Round 4, pick 101), Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes (Round 4, pick 136), Maryland linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. (Round 5, pick 161) and Miami defensive tackle Kendrick Norton (Round 7, pick 242) followed suit.

South Notes: Titans, Hubbard, Bucs, Saints

Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard is scheduled to meet with the Titans this week, tweets Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports. During his final season with the Buckeyes, the 6’5″, 265-pound Hubbard posted seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, and is widely viewed as a late-first- or early-second-round selection. While Hubbard reportedly ran a disappointing 4.96-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, his three-cone time places him in the 96th percentile among defensive ends, and he ranks 15th among 2018’s edge rushing prospects in SPARQ, a composite score that measures athleticism. Tennessee ranked 12th in pressure rate a season ago, but could be searching for a young edge rusher to play behind starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan.

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

  • The Buccaneers are hosting LSU cornerback Donte Jackson on Wednesday, according to Josh Norris of Rotoworld (Twitter link). Even after re-signing veteran Brent Grimes, Tampa Bay is still on the lookout for additional defensive backs after not only ranking 31st in pass defense DVOA, but giving up a ton of big plays in the passing game. Last season, the Buccaneers allowed allowed 57 completions of at least 20 yards, which was third-most in the league. A three-year starter, Jackson “may be the fastest player in this year’s draft,” as Lance Zierlein of NFL.com writes, adding Jackson offers “plus body control to handle tight or off coverage.”
  • Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander visited the Titans today, reports Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com (Twitter link). Tennessee has invested heavily its in secondary over the past two years, adding free agents such as Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan while expending a first-round pick on Adoree’ Jackson. Alexander would give the club yet another option, and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com — who ranks Alexander as the draft’s 16th-best prospect — says the ex-Cardinal is “rarely out of position” and has “elite ball awareness.”
  • Fullback Zach Line‘s new two-year deal with the Saints is worth $2.2MM, per Nick Underhill of the Advocate (Twitter link). Line will collect a $200K signing bonus, which is the only guaranteed portion of the contract. New Orleans signed Line to replace the injured John Kuhn last October, and the 27-year-old went on to play on 16.3% of the Saints’ offensive snaps (12th among NFL fullbacks) and 27.6% of the club’s special teams snaps.