Kerryon Johnson

NFC Notes: Donald, Giants, Cash, Lions

The Aaron Donald saga may finally be nearing a conclusion. Rams GM Les Snead indicated earlier this week that team and player were progressing towards a new deal, and head coach Sean McVay echoed those sentiments last night. Per Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic (Twitter link), McVay said, “there’s increased dialogue. There’s more…we feel positive about the direction that these things are going. I think there’s a level of urgency that’s being displayed from us.” That probably sounds like music to the ears of Rams fans, who have legitimate championship dreams this season.

Now let’s take a quick look at a few more notes from the NFC:

  • Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com tweets that Giants quarterback Kyle Lauletta is getting reps with the second team today, which is the first time Dunleavy can recall that happening. 2017 third-rounder Davis Webb was said to have a big lead on Lauletta for Big Blue’s backup job coming out of minicamp, but this could be a sign that Lauletta, a 2018 fourth-round pick, is closing the gap. Webb, of course, was selected by New York’s prior regime, while Lauletta has the benefit of being chosen by the team’s new crop of decision-makers.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter) that Cardinals LB Jeremy Cash sustained a knee injury during last night’s preseason game that is believed to be season-ending. That is a tough blow for the Duke product, who has bounced around a few different teams since entering the league but who had a real chance of cracking Arizona’s 53-man roster this season. The Cardinals claimed him off waivers in March.
  • Good news for 49ers fans, as right guard Joshua Garnett has returned to practice after missing two weeks to deal with his right knee issue, per Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter). Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets that Garnett’s primary competitor for San Francisco’s right guard job, Jonathan Cooper, is also on hand, so perhaps the competition can finally begin in earnest. This comes just a week after a report that the 49ers were growing increasingly concerned about Garnett’s knee problems.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press offers his take on the prospects of a few different Lions after the team’s first preseason game several nights ago. He says it is only a matter of time before rookie Kerryon Johnson becomes Detroit’s starting tailback, though Ameer Abdullah also looked good and was the first man up on kick and punt returns. Birkett adds that Jake Rudock‘s rough night, combined with Matt Cassel‘s ties to head coach Matt Patricia, have increased Cassel’s chances of opening the season as the club’s backup QB.
  • The Bears signed running back/return specialist Knile Davis earlier today.

Poll: Which Rookie RB Will Rush For Most Yards In 2018?

In selecting their third first-round running back of this century, the Giants continued to show how they regard this position despite its marginalization over the past several years. Saquon Barkley is the odds-on favorite to win offensive rookie of the year.

However, the running back position produces annual mid- or late-round surprises — from Devonta Freeman to Jordan Howard to Kareem Hunt — that end up providing immense value to certain teams. The Giants obviously have an incredibly gifted ball-carrier set to take handoffs from Eli Manning, but which of Barkley’s peers is in the best position to challenge him (and the quarterback contingent) for the OROY honor?

The other two first-round RBs look to be less equipped for a strong challenge due to circumstances.

Sony Michel‘s prospects of being an immediate ground producer may have been better on a different team. While the Patriots boast one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, Bill Belichick notoriously finds myriad usages for his backs and involves nearly all of them. Although, Dion Lewis‘ departure after a 180-carry season opens the door for someone to take over as New England’s primary back. And Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 totes at Georgia last season. Rashaad Penny looks to be behind Chris Carson to start the season, and the surprise first-rounder may be given time to develop for a Seattle team that’s struggled on the ground for a few years now.

After Round 1, however, it becomes a bit more interesting. The Buccaneers did not possess a formidable depth chart at running back prior to investing their second-round pick in USC’s Ronald Jones. In 2017, Jones rushed for 1,550 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He could well be an early-season starter, with the likes of Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in his path toward a first-string role. Chosen just before Jones, Nick Chubb will have to contend with Carlos Hyde in Cleveland this season for the revamped Browns. Chubb, though, notched three 1,000-yard seasons in the nation’s toughest conference.

Kerryon Johnson looks to be set to start in a committee in Detroit, but the Lions have been desperate for a surefire ground producer for years now. And they view Johnson as a three-down backLeGarrette Blount and Ameer Abdullah reside in the Motor City carries picture, but neither would impede Johnson from a major role if he proves ready from the outset. Derrius Guice could have a quicker path to playing time in Washington. Considered by some the second-best back in this draft, the LSU product fell largely because of character concerns. However, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry in 2016 on nearly 200 attempts and is expected to push for the Redskins’ starting job from the start.

Also expected to challenge for an early role: the Broncos’ Royce Freeman. The Oregon-developed talent posted three 1,300-plus-yard seasons with the Ducks, amassing a staggering 947 college carries. With the Broncos having moved on from four-year starter C.J. Anderson, only Devontae Booker (299 rushing yards last season) resides in the third-rounder’s path. Is he a threat to be the 2018 version of Hunt?

As for Barkley, he has the most obvious route to a full-time gig. Despite Jonathan Stewart now being in the Big Apple, the Penn State dynamo will factor in from the start of the Giants’ season. And the three-down back totaled at least 2,300 yards from scrimmage in back-to-back years for the Nittany Lions. The Giants have questions up front, having lost Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg, but they added multiple UFAs — spearheaded by Nate Solder — and chose likely Day 1 starter Will Hernandez in Round 2.

So, will Barkley’s situation be too much for the rest of this class to overcome, a la Ezekiel Elliott? Or will one of the later-round picks emerge in Hunt fashion? Is there a Day 3 dark horse in this year’s class in the mold of Freeman or Howard? Take PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rodgers, Eagles, Johnson

It was reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network on Thursday that Aaron Rodgers was looking to have more control over his future, perhaps in the form of an out clause in his next contract with the Packers. Now more information has been revealed by Garafolo and his colleague Ian Rapoport (Twitter links).

Garafolo followed up his original report by saying there won’t be an “automatic trigger” to void years of the contract like some had speculated, but that Rodgers was “looking for more player control over his deal than the average NFL contract.”

Rapoport added that he was hearing “A proposed contract would include a series of player options.” As Rapoport notes, it’s a fascinating situation. After Kirk Cousins became the first quarterback to ever get a multi-year fully guaranteed deal, it isn’t surprising that more of the league’s top signal-callers will be looking for unconventional contracts. For years, contracts in the NFL more or less all followed the same rigid process that was very much controlled by the teams and owners, a dynamic that appears to now finally be shifting. Whatever contract extension Rodgers does end up signing, it’ll likely make him the NFL’s highest paid player.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood is a “long-shot” to make the 53-man roster, according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com. Smallwood played a big role as a rookie in 2016, carrying the ball 77 times for 312 yards, but saw his role greatly diminished last season. Now Shorr-Parks thinks the Eagles’ suddenly crowded running backs room will end up pushing Smallwood off the team altogether, saying “At this point Smallwood is facing a steep uphill battle to make the roster.”
  • Shorr-Parks also thinks cornerback Ronald Darby may not be on the team much longer. He writes that the Eagles have been impressed with fourth-year undrafted cornerback De’Vante Bausby, who’s been running with the first-team during OTAs. Shorr-Parks says “The Eagles won’t cut Darby, but a strong training camp from Bausby could put Darby on the trade block.”
  • The Lions have apparently been impressed with second-round running back Kerryon Johnson, and envision him playing a big role as a rookie. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions see Johnson as a three-down back. If Johnson is playing the majority of snaps, with recently signed LeGarrette Blount in the fold, it could mean the end of the Ameer Abdullah era in Detroit. Abdullah has been mentioned as a possible cut-candidate by Lions reporters all offseason, and Johnson’s emergence could seal his fate.

 

Lions Sign RB Kerryon Johnson

Kerryon Johnson is officially a member of the Lions. On Friday, the Auburn running back inked his rookie contract. 

The Lions sent their No. 51 overall choice plus a fourth-round pick to the Patriots for the 43rd pick in order to select Johnson. He’ll have an opportunity to get significant playing time right out of the gate in the Lions’ mishmash backfield. Veteran LeGarrette Blount still projects as the team’s top ball carrier with Theo Riddick as a pass-catching specialist, but Johnson could tilt things in his favor with a strong summer. For what it’s worth, Riddick says he’s not concerned about losing ground to Johnson.

It’s never a conflict,” Riddick said recently (via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press). “I put my teammates first. I was always taught that as a player, as a young kid, and I continue to put that out. So, it really doesn’t affect me. Even, again, with Blount being here I’m just trying to get him to soak up the playbook as fast as possible, because if I can do that then that helps us all. I just want to win.”

In addition to Blount and Riddick, the Lions also have Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, and former second-round pick Ameer Abdullah under contract.

Johnson holds the potential to be a three-down back in the NFL, but some evaluators worry that his running style and frame will make him injury prone. He didn’t seem to have any trouble at Auburn, however, as he ran for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final year on campus. He also recorded 24 catches for 194 yards and two scores.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bulaga, Foles, Cowboys

Given that the Packers could save nearly $5MM by releasing RT Bryan Bulaga, and given Bulaga’s recent injury history, there was some chatter that Green Bay could part ways with the ninth-year pro (especially since Bulaga is not even guaranteed to be ready for the start of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL on November 6). But we recently heard that Bulaga remains in the team’s 2018 plans, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga’s rehab is ahead of schedule (per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Therefore, it certainly sounds as if Bulaga will be back for the fourth year of the five-year pact he signed prior to the 2015 season.

  • In a series of tweets, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com passes along more details on Nick Foles‘ reworked deal. Foles’ cap number is now $9.6MM, fourth-highest on the Eagles, but if the team were to trade him after June 1, it would save $7MM in cap space, more than it would have saved prior to the restructure. As such, the restructure looks like a win-win in that Foles gets more money and incentives and it’s easier for the Eagles to deal him if someone comes along with a great offer. Shorr-Parks, though, still does not expect Foles to be traded.
  • The Cowboys selected Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White in the fifth round of this year’s draft, which marked just the sixth time Dallas has drafted a QB since Jerry Jones purchased the franchise in 1989. White is expected to compete with Cooper Rush for the backup job, though Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that executive vice president Stephen Jones is open to carrying three signal-callers in 2018.
  • Per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Saints head coach Sean Payton does not know if the team will bring in a fourth QB to compete with Tom Savage and Taysom Hill. Payton said the Saints considered drafting a signal-caller this weekend, but they are anxious to see what Savage and Hill can do.
  • Brady Henderson of ESPN.com says the Seahawks see Shaquem Griffin, whom they selected in the fifth round of this weekend’s draft, as a weak-side LB at the next level, and he also reports that Seattle viewed fourth-round pick Will Dissly as the best blocking tight end in the class (Twitter links).
  • The Lions apparently disappointed at least a couple of teams in this weekend’s draft. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Detroit selected Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson one pick before the Redskins were prepared to take him, and the Panthers were going to take UL-Lafayette CB Tracy Walker with the No. 85 overall pick, but the Lions nabbed him with their No. 82 pick.

NFL Draft Rumors: Patriots, Key, 49ers

After losing Nate Solder in free agency, the Patriots are on the lookout for offensive tackle help. With that in mind, the Patriots hosted Texas tackle Connor Williams on a visit on Wednesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade earlier this offseason, the Pats are armed with two picks late in the first round. Williams could be available when the Pats are called to the podium at No. 23, though the league-wide need for tackles could result in the 6’6″ lineman going higher.

Here’s the latest batch of NFL draft news:

  • LSU outside linebacker/defensive end Arden Key worked out for the 49ers on Wednesday and will move on to the Raiders on Thursday, Rapoport tweets.
  • South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert, who could be the first tight end to come off of the board, visited the Dolphins on Wednesday, Rapoport tweets. Miami is reportedly high on him, but he has also met with the Seahawks, Chargers, and Lions, according to Rapoport. As previously reported, the Vikings met with Goedert last week.
  • Cornerback Isaiah Oliver has had workouts/visits with the Eagles, Falcons, Bears, Texans, 49ers, Cardinals, Panthers, Patriots, Saints, Broncos, and Cowboys, sources tell Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Miller personally believes that he would be a great fit for Arizona. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has Oliver ranked as the 36th best prospect in this year’s draft and it would be no surprise to see him go in the first round.
  • Georgia running back Nick Chubb will visit with the Buccaneers on Wednesday, according to Josh Norris of NBC Sports (on Twitter). Chubb has been lauded for his power and ability to run on the inside and figures to be a second round pick.
  • The Lions hosted Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson for a visit on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. Johnson was recently bumped from Jeremiah’s top 50 but should still garner consideration in the second round.

Draft Notes: Nelson, Jackson, Johnson

We’ve already seen many underclassman opt to enter the 2018 NFL Draft with the January 16 deadline fast approaching. Below are three more high profile players that have made the decision to the jump to professional football:

  • As expected, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson has thrown his name into the NFL Draft pool. Nelson revealed his decision on Twitter after the team’s victory over LSU on New Year’s Day. The offensive lineman has been touted as one of the best prospects available in April. It’s a little bit unusual for guards to be taken in the top five, but Nelson has certainly has a good chance because of his dominant play for the Fighting Irish. He’s currently rated as the top offensive lineman and fifth best overall prospect by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.
  • Perhaps the best cornerback prospect has declared for the draft as well. Iowa corner Josh Jackson tweeted his intentions to go pro this morning in which he thanked his coaches, teammates and fans.“Growing up, it has always been my dream to play in the National Football League,” Jackson wrote. “I am excited for this next step and humbled by this great opportunity. I will always bleed Black and Gold.” The junior defensive back was named as an unanimous All-American, received the Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year honors and finished as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2017. He’s currently rated as the top cornerback on Miller’s draft board. He also comes in graded as the second best draft eligible corner, according to Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com.
  • Breakout college running back Kerryon Johnson has also entered the 2018 NFL Draft. Auburn’s junior back released his decision in a statement posted on his Twitter page last night. Johnson finished his final collegiate season as the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year. He totaled 1,391 rushing yards in his junior season, which was significantly more than what he produced in his first two years with the Tigers. He also rushed for 18 touchdowns during what turned out to be his final season with Auburn. Kiper currently ranks Johnson as the seventh best running back available in possibly the deepest positional group in this draft class.