Chase Blackburn

AFC Coaching Notes: Titans, Jets, Bills, Steelers, Raiders, Patriots

After parting ways with the Panthers early this year, former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn has joined the Titans as the team’s assistant special teams coach. After playing ten years in the NFL for the Giants and Panthers, Blackburn transitioned into the coaching world working his way up to the role of the Panthers’ special teams coordinator, a position he held for four seasons.

Panthers’ head coach Matt Rhule initially retained Blackburn from former head coach Ron Rivera‘s staff, but fired him this January. He finds second life with fellow former NFL linebacker and current Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel. Additionally, after season-long tryouts, the Titans have promoted Clint McMillan (defensive line assistant) and Kylan Butler (offensive assistant) to full time positions.

Here are a few other coaching updates from around the AFC:

  • The Jets announced a series of assistant coach hirings including Ben Wilkerson and Dan Shamash. Wilkerson moves from one New York team to another, taking the same position as assistant offensive line coach on head coach Robert Saleh‘s staff. Shamash is a New York native that returns to the tri-state area after five seasons as the Chargers’ assistant tight ends coach to become the Jets’ situational football/game management coordinator. He’s worked with Saleh before in Jacksonville.
  • Elsewhere in New York, the Bills announced that they’ve added Mike Shula as a senior offensive assistant. The former college head coach and NFL offensive coordinator spent the past two seasons in Denver as the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach. They also announced the promotion of Eric Washington. The Bills’ defensive line coach of the past two seasons will have the title of senior defensive assistant added to his billing.
  • The Steelers announced the hiring of their new assistant line coach earlier this month. Isaac Williams joins the NFL coaching ranks after years in college football. Williams has been the offensive line coach at North Carolina Central University (2021), Morgan State (2018-20), and Northern Colorado (2016-17).
  • Las Vegas has hired former college coaching assistant Frederick Walker as a new offensive assistant assigned to work with quarterbacks, according to Myles Simmons of NBC Sports. Walker most recently worked as the quarterbacks coach for the UMass Minutemen. His time in the college ranks saw him working with Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones at Duke University as well as Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott during his time at Mississippi State. He’ll work underneath new head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi to assist Derek Carr and company on their road back to consecutive playoff seasons.
  • After being passed up by Matt Groh for the director of player personnel promotion, Eliot Wolf was announced as the Patriots’ new director of scouting on Friday, a promotion from his previous title of front office consultant. According to Wilson, the team also announced that Camren Williams would be named college scouting director.

Panthers, Titans Coaching Updates

There’s been a few updates with respect to the changes in the Panthers’ and Titans’ coaching staffs. The largest change so far, of course, is the hiring of Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator for Carolina. On Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport confirmed that the team has made that hire official (Twitter link). 

The 44-year-old comes in with a successful background at the OC level, having helped the Giants to top-ten rankings in 2014 and 2015. That earned him the head coaching position in New York, although it certainly didn’t end the way he would have wanted. Still, there are high hopes he can turn around a Panthers offense that struggled mightily in 2021, leading to the mid-season firing of Joe Brady.

Meanwhile, Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk reported that Carolina is conducting a second interview with Chris Tabor for the special teams coordinator vacancy. The Panthers fired Chase Blackburn earlier this month, and already met with Tabor, who has previously been a ST coordinator with the Browns and Bears. Unlike the first interview, this one will take place in person. Alper notes that the Panthers had offered the job to current Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey, “but the two sides could not agree on a contract”.

As for the Titans, the disappointing loss on Saturday has led to at least four changes on their staff. As Sport Illustrated’s John Glennon tweets, the coaches being let go include: inside linebackers coach Jim Haslett, assistant defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze, assistant ST coach Matt Edwards and assistant strength and conditioning coach Mondray Gee. Tennessee finished the year atop the AFC, but lost in their opening playoff game for the second straight season.

 

Panthers Reworking Staff

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has had some difficulties making the same immediate impact in Carolina that gained him notoriety in Waco. In two years at the helm, Rhule hasn’t succeeded in improving his team’s win total from the season before he was hired. In an attempt to make some needed improvements, the Panthers announced that they were letting go of offensive line coach Pat Meyer, defensive line coach Frank Okam, and special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn.

The team struggled on both sides of the line this year and it looks like any attempts to improve will be made by new position coaches, while the special teams unit saw four different kickers and three punters throughout the year, including the preseason.

Meyer has been with Rhule since the move to Carolina. He’s been coaching in the NFL for 8 years with stops at the Chargers, Bills, and Bears. Meyer entered the NFL with Marc Trestman, moving with the coach from the CFL to Chicago.

Okam joined Rhule at Baylor and followed the notably loyal coach to the Panthers. Rhule had brought much of his staff from Temple with him to Baylor, so it was safe to assume some of the Baylor staff would end up in Carolina, as well. Despite coaching up young draft picks like Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Bravvion Roy and seeing career numbers from Brian Burns, Efe Obada, and Marquis Haynes, it seems Rhule is wanting a bit more from this position group.

Chase Blackburn was a longtime linebacker for the Giants before spending his final two years playing in Carolina. After about a year of retirement from playing, Blackburn became a special teams intern in Ron Rivera‘s staff. When Rhule came in to replace Rivera, Blackburn was one of two holdovers from the staff along with Jake Peetz, who is now the offensive coordinator at LSU.

It’s yet to be seen who will replace them, but Rhule continues to show hints of what made him successful at the college level by attempting to make the necessary changes to succeed. With young talent on both sides of the ball, Rhule may yet turn this team around.

Coaching Rumors: Blackburn, Bears, Browns

The Panthers will be making a change atop their special teams staff. Incumbent special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey is out, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer tweets, and the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez reports (on Twitter) Chase Blackburn will now run Carolina’s special teams units. A former linebacker who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and finished his career with the Panthers, Blackburn had been working as the Panthers’ assistant ST coach for the past two years.

Here’s the latest from the coaching ranks.

  • For the first time since 2010, someone other than Chris Tabor will oversee the Browns‘ ST units. Amos Jones will relocate to Cleveland to take over as the team’s special teams boss, Marvez tweets. Jones coached the Cardinals’ ST groups during Bruce Arians‘ five-year stay in Arizona. Tabor is now the Bears’ ST coordinator.
  • Rumored to be a candidate to stay in Chicago despite the Bears‘ coaching change, Dave Ragone will indeed stay on as the team’s quarterbacks coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports. This comes after the Bears interviewed both ex-Raiders OC Todd Downing and Texans assistant Pat O’Hara for the job. Ragone could be in line for an extension, Biggs notes, with one year remaining on his Bears contract.
  • Biggs also notes Vic Fangio believes most, if not all, of his defensive assistants will remain on staff. The Bears finished as the No. 14 DVOA defense in 2017 and retained Fangio despite his contract having expired.
  • The TitansSteve Wilks HC interview took place Thursday. Both Wilks and Texans DC Mike Vrabel interviewed for this job today. Wilks remains a candidate for the Cards’ HC job.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals‘ HC position, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic tweets James Bettcher likely won’t need a second interview to be hired. Should the Cards determine their current DC is the right man for the job, Somers notes his five years of experience working with the team should be a sufficient judge rather than a second meeting for the HC job.
  • The Raiders continued to add to their coaching staff this week, bringing aboard four new assistants to Jon Gruden 2.0’s first staff. Recently jettisoned Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac will land in Oakland as its D-line instructor, and Byron Storer will be the team’s assistant special teams coach. Trgovac coached Green Bay’s defensive lines from 2009-17. The 33-year-old Storer played for Gruden as a fullback in Tampa Bay from 2007-08 but hasn’t coached in the NFL since working with the 2013 Chargers. Additionally, Tim Berbenich and Travis Smith will be offensive and defensive quality control coaches, respectively. Smith’s been a Raiders assistant for most of this decade. He served as outside linebackers coach in 2017 after being promoted from the quality control group last year.

NFC Notes: Fitzgerald, DeHaven, Lions, Redskins

Larry Fitzgerald recently signed an extension with the Cardinals that would take him through the 2017 season. However, when asked if he’d retire before completing the contract, the veteran wideout dodged the question.

“That’s kind of self explanatory, right?” Fitzgerald told Kent Somers of AZCentral.com. “I hope so. We’ve got a good thing going right now. We’ve got a really good football team. But not only that, management, Steve Keim (General Manager), Coach (Bruce) Arians, Michael Bidwill. We’ve done a great job in all phases of organization football, and it’s been fun to be around here the last couple years.”

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven is taking a leave of absence to resume cancer treatments, writes Joseph Person of The Charlotte Observer. The coordinator title has been handed to assistant Thomas McGaughey, and former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn will slide into the assistant role. DeHaven, who has been coaching for 46 years, is hoping to return for the team’s Week 2 game against the 49ers. In the meantime, he’ll serve as the Panthers’ senior special teams advisor.
  • Lions rookie running back Zach Zenner got a longer look during the team’s preseason opener than veteran Stevan Ridley. The two backs have been splitting reps in practice, and ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein believes both players will ultimately make the roster. However, the writer notes that if Zenner continues to get playing time over Ridley, the veteran could find himself on the “roster bubble.”
  • Rich Tandler of RealRedskins.com writes that the Redskins were expected to only carry a pair of quarterbacks on their roster (Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy) with the hope that rookie Nate Sudfeld would end up on the practice squad. However, Tandler writes that the signal-caller is making a case to make the roster.
  • Tandler notes that cornerback Greg Toler‘s play has led to some tough decisions for the Redskins coaching staff. If the former fourth-rounder ended up on the team, the organization would either cut Quinton Dunbar or Dashaun Phillips, although the team’s lack of safeties makes the latter unlikely.

NFC Notes: Mathieu, Lions, Panthers

A January report indicated that getting an extension done with Tyrann Mathieu will be a top priority for the Cardinals this offseason, and GM Steve Keim confirmed as much during an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7FM on Thursday (link via Adam Green of ArizonaSports.com).

It’s hard to say that that we’ll be able to get something done for sure, but we certainly have that goal in mind and there’s no doubt that this organization wants Tyrann Mathieu to be a fixture here for years, Keim said.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Lions are set to hire Broncos offensive assistant Brian Callahan as their new quarterbacks coach, according to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (via Twitter). With Jim Bob Cooter having been promoted from QBs coach to offensive coordinator in the fall, Detroit needed someone to fill his old role.
  • The Panthers are making some changes to their special teams staff, with Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer tweeting that the club has parted ways with assistant ST coach Russ Purnell, and Marvez tweeting that Curtis Fuller will return to a defensive role rather than helping out with special teams in 2016. According to Person and Marvez (Twitter links), Buccaneers ST coach Kevin O’Dea, 49ers ST coach Thomas McGaughey, and former Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn are getting interviews for spots on Carolina’s special teams staff.
  • Marvez also reports (via Twitter) that the Giants are hiring Jeff Zgonina as their assistant defensive line coach, which should complete Ben McAdoo‘s staff.
  • The Panthers were one game away from a championship this past season, but GM Dave Gettleman vows he’ll remain patient this winter when it comes to making roster decisions, and won’t force any moves in an effort to get the team over the top. Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review has the details and the quotes from Gettleman.
  • Despite one report suggesting he hopes to land a $5MM annual salary, it would be an upset if tight end Zach Miller leaves the Bears this offseason, says Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. Dickerson doesn’t predict a potential price tag for Miller, but suggests he’d be next in line for a larger role if the team trades or cuts Martellus Bennett.

NFC Notes: Cardinals, Falcons, Giants

With less than one hour remaining until the trade deadline for 2014 passes, there’s been little Tuesday action around the league. If the Cardinals don’t make a move though, it won’t be for lack of trying, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Somers tweets that the Cards have made “many calls” in search of a pass rusher, but haven’t had any luck so far.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • In explaining his philosophy on roster-building to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, Falcons owner Arthur Blank indicated that he prefers his team to make most of its major moves in the offseason rather than during the season.
  • While the Giants will miss Jon Beason, there shouldn’t be much of a step down at middle linebacker when the team plugs in Jameel McClain, writes Jordan Raanan of NJ.com. As Raanan observes, the Giants signed Beason to a three-year deal in the offseason, but given his frequent battles with injuries, the club could look to get out of the contract this winter.
  • In a separate NJ.com piece, Raanan writes that the Giants don’t seem particularly interested in signing any of their players to in-season extensions. That includes top defenders Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle, whose contracts expire at season’s end.
  • According to David Newton of ESPN.com (Twitter links), Panthers coach Ron Rivera said today that placing linebacker Chase Blackburn on injured reserve was a tough move and that he doesn’t think Blackburn will require surgery on his injured knee.

Panthers Cut Reaves, Put Blackburn On IR

Facing a short week, the Panthers have made a handful of roster moves today as they prepare to host the Saints on Thursday night. The team announced today that it has signed tackle Mike Remmers off the Rams’ practice squad, promoted safety Robert Lester from its own practice squad, cut running back Darrin Reaves, and placed linebacker Chase Blackburn on season-ending injured reserve.

The Panthers are facing some injury issues on the offensive line and in the secondary, with tackles Byron Bell and Nate Chandler, and defensive backs Thomas DeCoud and Bene Benwikere all dealing with health problems to varying degrees. Those nagging injuries necessitated adding a player at each of those positions, and it makes sense that Reaves was one roster casualty — he subbed in when Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert were are all on the shelf, but with both Stewart and Williams expected to play this week, his services aren’t required for now.

As for Blackburn, he suffered a knee injury in Week 6, and had been sidelined since then. Even when he was healthy, the 31-year-old saw a reduction in playing time this season, with Carolina relying on nickel formations more frequently. In his six games in 2014, Blackburn logged 12 tackles and forced a fumble. He’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end.

Extra Points: Burnett, Long, Adams

ESPN’s staff put together a list of each team’s starter whose job is in jeopardy. Among the most notable are 49ers running back Frank Gore, Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and Packers safety Morgan Burnett. On Burnett, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky says, “When the Packers drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, the thinking was that he would start alongside Burnett. Now, there’s a chance he could start instead of Burnett. Coach Mike McCarthy likes what Micah Hyde has done at free safety, and when Burnett strained his oblique muscle this week, he put Clinton-Dix in Burnett’s strong safety spot. The Packers made a major investment in Burnett last summer with an $8.25 million signing bonus as part of a four-year extension, but he followed it with an unproductive season.”

Here’s a few miscellaneous links from around the league:

  • Panthers veteran linebacker Chase Blackburn is on that list, as second-year man A.J. Klein is pushing for the starting job, but Blackburn is embracing his role as mentor, writes Scott Fowler in the Charlotte Observer.
  • With the Eagles in Chicago to play the Bears tonight, Zach Berman of Philadelphia Inquirer writes about the relationship between Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long and Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who helped Long get his career back on track during their time together at Oregon.
  • The Steelers were hoping 2012 second-rounder Mike Adams would challenge for a starting tackle job, but that’s not happening, writes ESPN’s Scott Brown. Adams has been inconsistent, and “It would be charitable to put Adams among the Steelers’ best seven offensive linemen through the first 11 practices,” according to Brown. Adams started 10-of-15 games played last season, but struggled and “earned” a -4.9 overall rating from Pro Football Focus.
  • Cowboys rookie safety Ahmad Dixon’s ‘Welcome to the NFL’ hit left him with a concussion, reports Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram.
  • The Seahawks’ secondary has established itself as the “Legion of Boom.” The Buccaneers are trying to establish the offensive equivalent, with the trio of Vincent Jackson, first-rounder Mike Evans and second-rounder Austin Seferian-Jenkins going by the “Three Dunkateers,” writes USA Today’s Jim Corbett.