Jack Conklin

Jack Conklin Addresses Rehab Timeline

Last month, Mike Vrabel said Jack Conklin could begin Titans training camp on the PUP list. The third-year tackle discussed his recovery this weekend but did not confirm he’d be ready by the first Vrabel-era camp commences.

While Conklin stopped short of proclaiming himself ready to go, which can be expected since he tore an ACL in mid-January, he said no setbacks have occurred during his recovery.

I am still rehabbing, but things are going well, no setbacks,” Conklin said, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. “It is hard having a new staff, not able to be out there running around. But I have a great team and the staff has done a great job of getting me (healthy). I am excited.”

Conklin added that he’s down to 310 pounds from 320, with Wyatt pointing out that may be a better fit for the new offense the Titans will run under new OC Matt LaFleur. The Titans are exercising patience with their right-edge starter.

You don’t want to come back too early and hurt it again,” Conklin said. “You want to make sure you are full health and ready to go. If I come back too early, I am not only hurting myself, but I am hurting the team. If I can’t play at the level I need to perform at, there’s really no reason I should be out there playing. I think I need to earn my way back health-wise and practicing and that is something I am working toward and something I am excited to get back to.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Chubb, Conklin, Jags, Jets

Recently hired to coach some of his former teammates, DeMarcus Ware will likely be tasked with the early development of Bradley Chubb. Ware said during an interview with the Talk of Fame podcast the Broncos‘ first-round pick can have the type of career he had. But the future Hall of Famer identified Chubb’s larger frame as a different element that will thrive alongside Von Miller.

Chubb is probably 6-4, 270,” Ware said during the interview. “He’s the guy who can come in and be that power guy and really help Von out. The attributes that he really brings to the game — stopping the run and being able to be that strong-side guy for Von — that’s what you need. (The Broncos) have that tag-team again.”

The N.C. State-honed edge defender is noticeably bigger than fellow Miller sidekicks Shaquil Barrett or Shane Ray, and weighs more than Ware did during his Denver years. Whether that’s an impediment to speed rushes remains to be seen, but Chubb will factor into the Broncos’ pass rush immediately — especially considering Ray has encountered more wrist trouble. Since the Broncos primarily align Miller opposite of opponents’ right tackles, Chubb will have plenty of speed-rush opportunities on the blind side where Ware once played.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Mike Vrabel expects all Titans to be ready for training camp, with the exception of Jack Conklin. The third-year right tackle tore an ACL in the team’s playoff loss to the Patriots and has not participated in offseason work. Vrabel mentioned the PUP list as a possibility to start camp, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com notes. Wyatt adds that it’s too early to tell if Conklin will be ready for Tennessee’s regular-season opener.
  • The Jaguars look set at quarterback, despite fairly consistent scrutiny. Cody Kessler is positioned to back up Blake Bortles, John Reid of the Florida Times-Union writes, adding the only way he can foresee the defending AFC South champions signing a veteran passer will be due to a Bortles injury or Kessler being overwhelmed by the job. Bortles has been an oft-derided player during his time in north Florida, but the Jags just re-signed him to a three-year extension and did not make a serious investment in competition for the fifth-year QB this offseason. Kessler has fared well in the offseason, per Reid, who also envisions seventh-round rookie Tanner Lee being practice squad-bound.
  • Acquired via draft-weekend trade, Henry Anderson is in the running to replace Muhammad Wilkerson in the Jets‘ starting lineup. Todd Bowles said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post) the former Colts defensive end would be on the field when the team deploys a four-man front, which would mean an important assignment given how often nickel sets are utilized. The Jets also signed Courtney Upshaw recently and are planning to use third-round defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd as an end as well. Upshaw was a Ravens lineup regular from 2013-15 but settled in as a Falcons backup the past two seasons. Jettisoned by the Colts because of their impending move to a 4-3 look, Anderson started eight of the nine games he suited up for last year.

South Notes: Titans, Conklin, Saints, Falcons

A look at the AFC and NFC South:

  • Titans right tackle Jack Conklin is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in January and head coach Mike Vrabel says he doesn’t anticipate seeing him being on the field this spring (Twitter link via Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com). Training camp would be the earliest that Conklin can start individual drills. There’s no word of Conklin missing regular season action, but it’s a situation to keep an eye on. While Tennessee’s offensive line regressed as a unit in 2017, Conklin still stood out, grading as the No. 12 offensive tackle in the league, per
    Pro Football Focus.
  • It sounds like defensive tackle Jay Bromley and offensive lineman Michael Ola, who were signed earlier this month by the Saints, have a real chance at making the final cut. “Both guys we have a vision for,” coach Sean Payton said this week (via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune). “They’re positions that are hard to find once the season gets started.”
  • The Falcons will work out offensive lineman Kevin Bowen on Wednesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweetsBowen recently auditioned for the Texans, but left Houston without a deal.

Titans OT Jack Conklin Suffered Torn ACL

Titans right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a torn ACL in Tennessee’s Divisional Round loss to the Patriots, head coach Mike Mularkey announced today.Jack Conklin (vertical)

Conklin, 23, has played nearly every offensive snap for the Titans since being selected eighth overall in the 2016 draft. While Tennessee’s offensive line regressed as a unit last season, Conklin still stood out, grading as the No. 13 offensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus, which gave Conklin excellent marks in both the run and pass game.

Given the recovery timeline associated with a torn ACL, Conklin may not be healthy when the 2018 regular season gets underway in September. As such, he’s potentially a candidate to be placed on the physically unable to perform list, which would mandate a minimum absence of six games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Impact Rookies: Tennessee Titans

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 Dave-Te Thomas’ insight on the Tennessee Titans’ draft class:

First Round – Jack Conklin, OT (Michigan State, No. 8 overall)

It was apparent after last season that the Titans needed to address their lack of depth on defense, but they also had to add speed on offense. Ultimately, Tennessee started the draft by placing a higher priority in protecting their franchise quarterback and opted to build a formidable front line that already featured two first rounders and four starters selected by the team since the 2013 draft phase. Jack Conklin (vertical)

The Titans watched Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil slide down the board, but he wasn’t the tackle that they wanted when they traded up from No. 15 to No. 8. When they owned the first overall pick in the draft, many draft experts expected that Tunsil was a shoe-in, but all along the Titans were eyeing either Conklin or Notre Dame standout Ronnie Stanley.

Being a Top Ten choice does not always spell instant success, at least where offensive tackles are concerned. Among the 179 offensive tackles to ever be drafted in the first round, four never even played in any NFL games and seven others never started any contests during their pro careers. Since the 1970 draft, five other first round offensive tackle selections never reached double-digit starting figures.

Still, Conklin’s future looks bright and his presence is doubly appreciated following Byron Bell‘s season-ending ankle injury. His injury leaves the door open for Conklin to immediately step in as the new starter at right tackle, joining 2013 first round right guard Chance Warmack, 2014 first round left tackle Taylor Lewan, 2015 third round left guard Jeremiah Poutasi, and 2013 fourth round center Brian Schwenke up front.

Second Round – Austin Johnson, DT (Penn State, No. 43 overall)

Dick LeBeau is placing more emphasis on the 3-4 game this season and second round pick Kevin Dodd is currently sidelined with a foot injury, which means that the team could experiment with Jurrell Casey playing on the edge and DaQuan Jones on the opposite side. That would leave Johnson to battle Al Woods for time in the middle of the front wall.

The former journalism major graduated from school early and was eligible to compete at the 2016 Senior Bowl, where he put on quite a performance throughout the week-long practices. Johnson ranked second among interior defensive linemen in the major college ranks and finished third overall on his team with 70 tackles. That was the most tackles for a Penn State defensive lineman since Jimmy Kennedy (87) in 2002. He also recorded 6.5 sacks among his fifteen stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2015.

With his thick-cut frame, Johnson can play either the zero-gap or line up as a traditional under-tackle when the team utilizes the 4-3 scheme. He’s proven last season that he can be very stout at the point of attack and you have to be impressed with his balance and coordination when attacking the rush lanes, along with his great leg drive and core strength to anchor vs. double teams.

Second Round – Derrick Henry, RB (Alabama, No. 45 overall)

DeMarco Murray is a ball-hungry veteran intent on proving that last season’s debacle in Philadelphia was a one-time thing. If Murray looks strong off the bat, it remains to be seen how playing time in the backfield will be divvied up. Murray only had 193 carries (3.6 avg) last season, but he had his best year when he carried the rock for 392 times for Dallas in 2014.

Henry is a one-time starter who needs room to operate and build his acceleration. He will have the benefit of seeing fellow Tide backfield mate, Jalston Fowler, serving as the team’s lead blocker out of the backfield, but he will still have to vie for “scraps” that Murray leaves on the table. Further complicating the touches available for Tennessee players is the fact that Bishop Sankey, David Cobb, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, and David Fluellen will all be fighting for the two available slots behind Murray on the depth chart, though Sankey could be traded. Only time will tell if Henry can be a successful runner in the NFL and the same goes for his opportunity level in 2016.

Third Round – Kevin Byard, FS (Middle Tennessee State, No. 64 overall)

Kevin Byard (vertical)Ever since LeBeau became a coordinator, he has surrounded himself with smart, instinctive safeties. Last year, the Titans made a great move by securing the services of former Bills strong safety Da’Norris Searcy. Now, in Byard, they believe they have a ball-hawk free safety to pair with to Searcy’s hard-hitting style. Byard has nineteen interceptions to show for those ball-hawking skills at MTSU, but despite his pedigree and fine performances in practice at the 2016 Senior Bowl, he was not invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. The Titans realized what he can offer, as he not only set the school all-time theft mark, but also returned those interceptions for 377 yards and four touchdowns.

Byard’s arrival does not mean he will be the instant starter at free safety, which is where Arizona castoff Rashad Johnson resides. His versatility (he played every secondary position in college) will see him be called upon to play the slot corner spot in passing situations and he could also be utilized as a Cover-2 linebacker vs. the run. All that stands in his way for playing time is a challenge from veteran Marqueston Huff, along with Daimion Stafford and Lamarcus Brutus for the two safety spots on the second unit.

Fifth Round – Tajae Sharpe, WR (UMass, No. 140 overall)

To hear Marcus Mariota and the offensive coaches during mini-camp, you’d think that they’d hit the lottery with this fifth round find. Nagging injuries limited the UMass receiver to eleven games last year, but he still pulled in 111 balls, breaking the school season-record. He also holds the career marks with 271 receptions for 3,348 yards. His addition gives Mariota another big, physical possession-type receiver, one with very reliable hands and excellent route-running ability.

Sharpe’s arrival could take playing time away from 2015 second rounder Dorial Green-Beckham, who will now compete with aging veteran Harry Douglas for outside receiver chores. Kendall Wright should line up outside on the right side, and Sharpe expected to challenge Miami castoff Rishard Matthews for the slot receiver role. The team plans on keeping five receivers, putting Douglas and 2013 second round pick Justin Hunter on the bubble. Ben Roberts, Tre McBride, Reece Horn and Andrew Turzilli all appear to be “warm bodies” for training camp at this position.

Fifth Round – Sebastian Tretola, OG (Arkansas, No. 193 overall)

Bell’s loss also gives Tretotala a great opportunity for playing time. Bell was also projected to serve as the top reserve guard, but that role will likely fall to the former Razorback. What Tretola lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his high level of aggression, especially in the running game. He should easily steal away playing time from fellow Titans reserve blockers, Josue Matias, Andy Gallik, Quinton Spain, and Nick Ritcher. That quartet holds one distinction: none of them were ever drafted. The Titans also signed Ben Jones away from the Texans, but he was mainly brought in to challenge Schwenke for the center spot.

Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service which has provided insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog. 

 

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans To Sign Jack Conklin

The Titans have agreed to sign first-round draft pick Jack Conklin, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com writes. With the No. 8 overall pick in the fold, the Titans have now signed eight of their ten draft picks from this year’s class. Jack Conklin (vertical)

Conklin is currently working at both left and right tackle in his early practices with the Titans. Conklin is projected to start at right tackle this season, but he could also be the team’s top option in the event that left tackle Taylor Lewan gets hurt. Conklin played at right tackle in his first three games at Michigan State before taking over the left tackle spot.

In recent years, the Titans have pushed for offset language to be included in their first-rounders’ rookie contracts. It will be interesting to see whether the Titans got their way when it comes to offset language or whether they made an exception for the Michigan State product. Last year, the Titans and Marcus Mariota had protracted contract talks over that exact issue.

The Titans, of course, started out with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. When they still had the top pick, Tennessee was widely connected to Ole Miss lineman Laremy Tunsil. When the Rams offered up a bounty of picks to get into the top spot, the Titans likely had Conklin in mind, which made them comfortable enough to move down. At Conklin’s introductory press conference late last month, Titans GM Jon Robinson described Conklin as a perfect fit for the team.

When coach (Mike) Mularkey and I set out three months ago, we talked about building a tough, team-first, accountable football team and we were able to add a player (in Jack) to this roster that embodies everything that Tennessee Titans football is going to be about,’’ Robinson said. “He is an outstanding football player, and more importantly for us he is an outstanding young man. He is going to represent this football team, his family and the Tennessee Titans family and (make) the city of Nashville proud.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Notes: Ihedigbo, Texans, Conklin

James Ihedigbo is looking for work and he says he’d love to play for his hometown team, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle writes.

I would love to play for the Houston Texans,” Ihedigbo said. “I think it’s a great fit. It could be a great fit for both of us. I could definitely add to an already stout defense.”

The Texans currently have six safeties behind presumptive starters Eddie Pleasant and Andre Hal. It remains to be seen whether they would displace one of their reserves to give the 32-year-old a chance.

Here’s more from the AFC South:

  • First-round pick Jack Conklin is working at both left and right tackle in his early days with the Titans, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com writes. Conklin is projected to start at right tackle this season, but he could also be the team’s top option in the event that left tackle Taylor Lewan gets hurt. Conklin, taken with the No. 8 overall pick, played at right tackle in his first three games at Michigan State before moving to left tackle primarily.
  • Bjoern Werner‘s minimum salary deal with the Jaguars gives him an $80K bonus if he makes the roster and an extra $300K if he reaches a certain sack total, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. Werner, 25, inked a prove-it deal with Jacksonville last week. The former first-round pick appeared in 38 games over the last three years for the Colts, including 16 starts. In that time, the Florida State alum registered 77 tackles (61 solo), 6.5 sacks, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. However, the majority of Werner’s production came in his first two years in the league.
  • The Colts named Todd Vasvari as their senior player personnel scout, Matt Terpening as the assistant director of college scouting, and Brandon Brown as an advanced scout, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets. The Colts also named Chad Henry as their east regional scout and Joey Elliott as a pro scout (Twitter link).

AFC Notes: Fitzpatrick, Conklin, Wake, Texans

Several Jets players – two current and one former – have weighed in on the Ryan Fitzpatrick situation this week, including wide receivers Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. As Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes, Decker continues to believe Fitzpatrick is the right man for the starting job in New York, suggesting that Gang Green is “a team that’s ready to win now,” and one that requires a “veteran presence” at the QB position.

Marshall, on the other hand, sounds more willing to accept the possibility that Fitzpatrick may not be back, telling Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post that the Jets would survive with Bryce Petty or Geno Smith at QB: “Just seeing Bryce and Geno grow so much the last year is really encouraging, and I’m just proud of those guys. We’ll be OK.”

Meanwhile, former Jets linebacker Bart Scott has been less tactful about his opinion on the matter, as Brian Costello of the New York Post details. During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Scott said that Fitzpatrick isn’t worth the money he’s seeking, suggesting he’s more of “a bridge guy,” who would be a backup for “20 teams in the league.”

As we wait to see whether the Fitzpatrick situation reaches a resolution in the near future, let’s round up some other Wednesday morning notes from around the AFC…

  • While new Titans general manager Jon Robinson may get his team’s draft class secured in a more timely manner than the team has done in the past, Tennessee’s negotiations with first-round tackle Jack Conklin are worth watching, writes Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com. In recent years, the Titans have pushed for offset language to be included in their first-rounders’ rookie contracts, and there are indications that trend will continue, according to McCormick.
  • Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake took a pay cut from $8.4MM to $7.125MM for 2016, but can make up the difference if he reaches certain sack incentives, says Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter links). For 2017, Wake has another $7MM due, including $3MM fully guaranteed — he can also earn an extra $2MM in ’17 if he racks up 15 sacks this season, per Pelissero.
  • Peter King of TheMMQB.com takes a look at the Texans‘ approach to free agency and the draft within the last couple months, writing that the team has made it a priority to add speed to its offense. In King’s view, Houston’s offense rivals Jacksonville’s defense when it comes to teams that underwent the most significant changes on one side of the ball.

NFC Rumors: Cards, Giants, Cravens, Lions, Vikings

A participant in the NFL draft since the inaugural selection gathering in 1936, the Giants did not take a lineman for the first time in team history this weekend. However, offensive line was a priority going into the draft, a source tells Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, and Jack Conklin was a top-two choice on the Giants’ board before he went No. 8 to the Titans.

There were discussions here or there,” Giants VP of player evaluation Marc Ross told media, including Vacchiano. “But nobody at the time who was the highest-ranked player on our board, or close to that.”

After cutting Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz prior to the start of free agency, the Giants spent wildly to upgrade their defense but have left their offensive front unchanged. Marshall Newhouse and John Jerry remain atop the depth chart at right tackle and right guard, respectively. Ben McAdoo told media after the draft the right side of the Giants’ line is far from settled.

Here’s the latest from the NFC coming out of draft weekend.

  • A hybrid linebacker/safety at USC, Su’a Cravens will begin his career with Washington at safety, Stephen Czarda writes for the team’s website. The 20-year-old Cravens started his career as a true freshman in 2013 as a strong safety before moving to an outside linebacker/safety hybrid role in the ensuing two seasons in Los Angeles. He compiled 10.5 career sacks and nine interceptions in three seasons.
  • Thanks to former teammate Laremy Tunsil‘s unfortunate Thursday night, Robert Nkemdiche‘s name didn’t come up much during Round 1 until the Cardinals took the polarizing Ole Miss defensive lineman at No. 29. The Cardinals did their due diligence on the former No. 1 overall recruit, meeting with him on four occasions, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic writes.
  • Drafting for need has become a somewhat of a frowned-upon phrase in modern drafting, but the Cardinals were pleased their picks filled some of their depth chart’s key voids, Mike Jurecki of Fox Sports 910 reports (TwitLonger link). “This is not always the goal, because we said we were going to trust our board,” GM Steve Keim said, “but we filled needs with players we’re excited about. That’s not always the case when you walk away from the draft.” After Nkemdiche in the first and a second-round pick that went toward fortifying their pass rush in the Chandler Jones trade, Arizona selected two corners — Brandon Williams and Harlon Miller — and after losing Ted Larsen in the offseason selected a center in Evan Boehm.
  • Under new GM Bob Quinn, the Lions are expected to give UDFAs base salary guarantees, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports (on Twitter). This is a tactic the Lions haven’t used in the recent past, although Quinn’s former organization, the Patriots, as Birkett writes, do so often. Although the Lions haven’t unveiled their UDFA contingent yet, offensive lineman Chase Farris is expected to be among them. Birkett reports (via Twitter) the Ohio State product will have $10K of his base salary guaranteed in addition to a $10K signing bonus.
  • The Vikings are expected to place Mackensie Alexander behind Captain Munnerlyn at slot corner, Matt Vensel of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Vensel offers that Alexander’s selection — the Vikings’ third cornerback taken in the top two rounds in the past four years, joining Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes — could bring about an end to Munnerlyn’s tenure in Minnesota after 2016. Munnerlyn was the Vikings’ top corner in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. The 28-year-old corner is entering the final season of a three-year contract.

Pauline’s Latest: OTs, Steelers, Packers, Bucs

League insiders believe that as many as six offensive tackles could be selected in the first round of tonight’s draft, according to Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com. Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin, and Taylor Decker are the obvious names, but Jason Spriggs, Le’Raven Clark, and Germain Ifedi are also candidates to go off the board tonight. The clubs that have put the most research into offensive tackles, per Pauline? The Colts, Packers, Seahawks, Broncos, Panthers, and Steelers.

Let’s check out the latest draft rumors, all courtesy of Pauline:

  • Among the teams hoping to trade down tonight are the Falcons, Colts, Vikings, and Jets, according to Pauline. On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals, Panthers, and Broncos may like to trade up. Denver, presumably, would be targeting a quarterback in a trade-up scenario.
  • The Steelers will consider a cornerback at pick No. 25, but they’ll also look at offensive tackles, writes Pauline. Pittsburgh returns Alejandro Villanueva at tackle, and signed Ryan Harris this offseason, but an upgrade wouldn’t be out of the question.
  • The Packers might also like to find a new left tackle, says Pauline, as Green Bay would like to transition incumbent David Bakhtiari to left guard.
  • If pass rusher Noah Spence is still available at the end of the first round, a club might trade back up in order to draft him, per Pauline. The Buccaneers are one team to watch in such a situation.