Kelvin Sheppard

NFC North Notes: Brissett, Bears, Lions

The Vikings will have a decision to make today. They have clawed their way from 0-3 to 4-4, sitting firmly in the NFC playoff race. But Kirk Cousinsinjury threatens to deal a death blow to Minnesota’s hopes of making a second consecutive postseason trip for the first time since the 2008-09 seasons. The Vikings attempted to add ex-Kevin O’Connell charge John Wolford, but the Buccaneers’ practice squad QB will instead be promoted in Tampa. However, Jacoby Brissett looms as a name floating around the league as a possible solution, Tony Pauline of notes. While it remains unclear if Minnesota is truly intent on pursuing a notable outside upgrade, some around the league have mentioned Brissett as a sensible option.

Brissestt signed a one-year, $8MM deal with the Commanders but saw Sam Howell constantly mentioned as an ascending player this offseason. Howell won the job easily and has shown flashes. Brissett, 30, also has extensive experience as an emergency QB option. He took the Colts’ 2017 reins shortly after a trade, needed to replace Andrew Luck again after a surprise 2019 retirement and was called upon for an 11-game starter run during Deshaun Watson‘s 2022 suspension.

  • One theory regarding the Bears allowing Jaylon Johnson to pursue a trade centers around Chicago seeing what kind of extension the contract-year cornerback can command, per the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs. Johnson, 24, does not have to be extended immediately if traded; an acquiring team would have exclusive negotiating rights until the 2024 legal tampering period. Said team could also use the franchise tag, though the cornerback tag price — expected to be around $19.5MM — may not be realistic here. As of now, the Bears have until March to re-sign Johnson. Though, extension talks breaking off obviously does not represent a good sign. The 49ers and Bills are in on Johnson; the Bears have until 3pm CT to make a trade.
  • Staying on the quarterback topic, the Bears will once again go with Tyson Bagent. The rookie UDFA will start in Week 9, Matt Eberflus announced, with Justin Fields needing more time to recover from his thumb injury. This will be Fields’ third missed start. While Fields remains week to week, no surgery has taken place. But a Bears season that hinged on Fields making progress — after the team passed on using the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, trading the selection away — has morphed into a rare backdrop for a Division II-produced arm seeing extensive time.
  • The Lions have made good on their offseason hype, starting 6-2. This will naturally lead to expectations their coordinators will be in demand come 2024. In the event the Lions see Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn become head coaches in 2024, after both interviewed for jobs this year, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes that running backs coach Scottie Montgomery and Kelvin Sheppard are the most likely internal candidates to be promoted. Sheppard, 35, is in place as Detroit’s inside linebackers coach; he has been on Dan Campbell‘s staff for three years. The Lions added Montgomery, 45, this offseason, after he spent the past two years as the Colts’ running backs coach. Although continuity might be preferred, teams must interview at least one external minority candidate for coordinator jobs.
  • As trades dominate the news cycle ahead of the 3pm deadline, the Packers agreed to terms with Rashan Gary on a monster extension. The fifth-year defender is now the NFL’s fifth-highest-paid edge defender, signing a four-year, $96MM deal.

Latest On Lions’ LB Competition

Expectations will be raised on defense for the Lions in 2023 given the unit’s struggles through much of last year and the team’s investments on that side of the ball this offseason. Those endeavors have set up a notable training camp competition at the linebacker spot.

The Lions have Alex Anzalone in place as an entrenched starter after he parlayed his highly-productive 2022 campaign into a three-year, $18.75MM deal in March. A repeat of his career year would go a long way in helping Detroit make the needed improvements on defense to put the team in postseason contention. Who will be alongside him in the starting lineup remains unclear, however.

The Lions doubled down on their selections of non-premium positions in the first round of the draft by selecting Jack Campbell with the No. 18 pick. That decision made the Iowa product the top off-ball linebacker in the 2023 class, and led to the expectation he would be a plug-and-play starter. OTAs and minicamp demonstrated that the team’s veterans seemed to be in the lead, though, and Campbell still has a long road to a first-team position.

“Probably in 20 other rooms that player is starting and there’s nothing you can do about it as a position coach,” linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said of Campbell, via Tim Twentyman of the team’s website“Well, that’s not the case here. If Jack isn’t the top two or three Jack will continue to go through the process of rookie development until he’s hit that mark.”

Detroit also has 2021 fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes and 2022 sixth-rounder Malcolm Rodriguez as options for a starting role. The latter missed signficant time during the spring, allowing the former to take first-team reps alongside Anzalone. Rodriguez proved himself to be productive as a rookie, though, totaling 87 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble despite logging only a 57% snap share. Increasing his workload this year could come as a result of a strong training camp, and doing so would consign Campbell to a special teams role to start the year.

After a standout college career, Campbell (like fellow first-rounder Jahmyr Gibbs) will need to perform at a high level to justify the Lions’ investment in him – and their avoidance of other, potentially more attractive options based on position – in the eyes of many evaluators. His pro tenure will no doubt involve a heavy workload at some point, but he finds himself behind Rodriguez and Barnes on the depth chart heading into his first training camp.

NFC Coaching Notes: 49ers, Buccaneers, Falcons

After getting canned as Jaguars special teams coordinator, Nick Sorensen has found a new gig in San Francisco. The veteran coach will join the 49ers staff as a defensive assistant, reports Aaron Wilson of Prior to his one-year stint on the Jaguars coaching staff, Sorensen had a stint with the Seahawks as their special teams assistant and assistant secondary coach.

The 49ers are also hiring Stephen Adegoke as a defensive quality control coach (per Charean Williams of Adegoke last served as a graduate assistant on the University of Michigan’s staff.

Meanwhile, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area reports that veteran running backs coach Bobby Turner is stepping away from his role with the 49ers, although the 72-year-old isn’t necessarily retiring. Turner has been a RBs coach in the NFL since 1995, and he’s been with the 49ers since 2017. Former Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who joined the 49ers as assistant head coach, is expected to work closely with the running backs.

More coaching notes out of the NFC…

  • The Buccaneers announced that Larry Foote will move from outside linebackers coach to inside linebackers coach (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman on Twitter). Veteran assistant Bob Sanders, who worked with head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona, will be taking over as OLBs coach. Auman also tweets that the Buccaneers hired two new quality control coaches in Jeff Kastl (offense) and Joey Fitzgerald (defense).
  • The Commandeers announced today that they’ve promoted four coaches (via Williams): Todd Storm (offensive quality control coach to assistant tight ends coach), Luke Del Rio (offensive quality control coach to assistant quarterbacks coach/offensive quality control), Vincent Rivera (defensive quality control to assistant linebackers coach/defensive quality control), and Cristian Garcia (coaching intern to defensive quality control coach).
  • The Falcons are hiring Steven King as a special teams assistant, according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein (via Twitter). King served as the Tar Heels special teams quality control coach in 2021. He’ll report to Falcons special teams coordinator Marquice Williams.
  • Mark DeLeone is out as the Lions inside linebackers coach, reports Tim Twentyman of the team’s website (on Twitter). Kelvin Sheppard, who spent last season as outside linebackers coach, will move to inside linebackers coach. Meanwhile, following the promotion of Ben Johnson to offensive coordinator, Tanner Engstrand will be the Lions new tight ends coach.
  • Ramsen Golpashin, who recently served as an offensive line and defensive line analyst with UCLA, will join the Packers staff as an offensive quality control coach, per Bruce Feldman of The Athletic (on Twitter). Golpashin has also become a hot name on the draft circuit, working with top linemen prospects like Ickey Ekwonu and Aidan Hutchinson.

Lions To Hire Todd Wash, Kelvin Sheppard

Todd Wash spent eight seasons with the Jaguars, rising to the role of defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley‘s final season and keeping that job throughout Doug Marrone‘s ensuing tenure. Following the Jags’ decision to reboot around Urban Meyer, Wash has located a landing spot.

The Lions are hiring Wash as their defensive line coach, Field Yates of tweets. Additionally, Detroit will add former linebacker Kelvin Sheppard — whose eight-year career ended with the Lions — as a defensive assistant and Seth Ryan as their assistant wide receivers coach. Seth is Rex Ryan‘s son.

Prior to becoming Jacksonville’s DC in 2016, Wash was an NFL D-line coach for the previous eight seasons. He followed Bradley from Seattle to Jacksonville in 2013, previously serving as the Seahawks’ D-line coach from 2011-12. Wash, 52, will work under first-time coordinator Aaron Glenn.

Wash’s Jacksonville tenure became complicated once the franchise began stripping parts from its dominant defense in 2019. Behind their “Sacksonville” defensive line, Jaguars led the NFL in defensive DVOA in 2017. Wash’s defense had the team on the precipice of Super Bowl LII. Despite the Jags’ 3-13 record in 2016, they ranked sixth in total defense. In 2018, the last season in which Wash’s unit had its host of high-end cogs, the Jaguars boasted a top-five defense.

After the franchise gutted the group over the next two years, its effectiveness predictably worsened. Amid its 15-game losing streak, the 2020 Jags edition allowed a franchise-record 492 points. By Week 17, only Myles Jack was left from Jacksonville’s 2017 defense.

A 2011 third-round Bills pick, Sheppard played for five teams through the 2018 season. He started 63 games, primarily for the Bills and Dolphins, in that span and landed with Detroit for the second half of the ’18 slate. Seth Ryan, just 26, spent the past two years as a quality control staffer with the Chargers.

Lions Sign LB Kelvin Sheppard

The Lions signed linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, according to a team announcement. Sheppard will fill the roster spot left vacant by Tuesday’s Golden Tate trade

Sheppard worked out for the Lions earlier this week – his first audition since meeting with Detroit in late July. The 30-year-old linebacker was a three-year starter with the Giants from 2015-17 but has been a free agent all offseason. He’s just the latest ex-Giants front seven member to join the Lions and he’ll reunite with former teammates Damon Harrison and Devon Kennard in Detroit.

Sheppard played with the Bills, Colts, Dolphins, and Giants over the course of his seven-year career. He notched a 102-tackle season with the Giants in 2015 and intercepted two passes — the first two of his career — despite being a midseason Big Blue addition last year.

NFL Workout Updates: 10/30/18

Here’s the latest from the workout circuit. All links to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account, unless otherwise specified.

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

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Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

LB Kelvin Sheppard Visiting Lions

The Lions are checking in on Kelvin Sheppard. Again. The free agent linebacker visited the Lions in July but is back again for another meeting, Adam Schefter of reports (on Twitter).

Sheppard is not believed to have participated in a workout or a visit since the late-July meeting in Detroit. It’s not certain if the Lions were again working out Sheppard, as they did over the summer, or if this was a follow-up visit. The Lions have been the only team connected to Sheppard this offseason.

The 30-year-old linebacker was a three-year starter with the Giants from 2015-17 but has been a free agent all offseason. Detroit signed former Sheppard teammate Devon Kennard to a high-end deal earlier this offseason. Jarrad Davis played through a calf injury on Sunday after being limited during Week 8 practices.

Sheppard’s played with the Bills, Colts, Dolphins and Giants in a seven-year career. He notched a 102-tackle season with the Giants in 2015 and intercepted two passes — the first two of his career — despite being a midseason Big Blue addition last year.

Kelvin Sheppard Working Out For Lions

Former Bills, Dolphins, and Giants linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is working out for the Lions today, reports Adam Schefter of ESPN (Twitter link).

Sheppard, 30, has made quite a few stops in his NFL career. Originially drafted in the third round by the Bills back in 2011. After a couple years there he was traded to the Colts, but released after just a season. He then signed in Miami for the next two years, and started 13 games for the Dolphins in 2015. He was a starter in 2016 with the Giants, then signed with the Bears the following offseason. He was cut before the regular season started and ended up re-signing with the Giants mid-season. A true journeyman, Sheppard will be looking to latch on with his sixth team in just eight seasons.

It’s been a quiet market so far for Sheppard, who’s drawn little known interest. Lions coach Matt Patricia should have some familiarity with Sheppard, having coached in the same division as him during his time with the Patriots while Sheppard was playing for the Bills and Dolphins. Sheppard received poor marks from Pro Football Focus in 2017, earning a low 46.5 grade, 59th among linebackers.

Giants Notes: Darkwa, Richburg, Bromley

Although he’s drawing interest from the cross-town Jets, the Giants still want to re-sign running back Orleans Darkwa, according to Jordan Raanan of Darkwa, 26, broke out with Big Blue in 2017, posting career-highs in starts (11), yards (751), and touchdowns (five). A former undrafted free agent out of Tulane, Darkwa had only managed 287 rushing yards in the three prior years of his NFL tenure. The Giants could conceivably lose both Darkwa and fellow free agent Shane Vereen to the open market, which would leave them with Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Terrell Watson, and Jalen Simmons on their running back depth chart.

Here’s more on the Giants, all courtesy of Raanan:

  • Teams around the league are viewing Giants free agent Weston Richburg as both a center and a guard, per Raanan. Richburg has played at the pivot for the past three years, but he spend time at guard during his rookie season in 2014. Although injuries limited him to only four games in 2017, Richburg will be the best center available on the open market, leading a positional group that also includes Ryan Jensen, John Sullivan, Russell Bodine, and Travis Swanson, but he could increase his number of suitors by exhibiting versatility.
  • The Giants could field five new starters along their offensive line in 2018, a source tells Raanan. While that overhaul likely wouldn’t removing Brett Jones, who filled in for Richburg at center last season, but it would still represent a massive overhaul. Notably, changeover at all five positions would mean New York has moved on from former first-round pick, and incumbent left tackle, Ereck Flowers. Panthers guard Andrew Norwell could be part of the renovation, as Giants general manager Dave Gettleman reportedly “loves” the Carolina free agent, Raanan writes in a separate piece.
  • A number of Giants free agents are unlikely to remain with the club next year, per Raanan. Defensive lineman Jay Bromley and Kerry Wynn aren’t expected to re-sign, as neither is a good fit for new defensive coordinator James Bettcher‘s 3-4 scheme. Bromley, notably, is reportedly looking for a larger role on defense, according to Raanan, as he’s spent the majority of his career as a reserve. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas, additionally, doesn’t appear to be on the Giants’ radar, as the club is looking to get younger at the second level of its defense.
  • Gettleman will likely try to improve the Giants’ locker room culture by inking established veterans on the defensive side of the ball, and Raanan lists incumbent linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and Dolphins’ special teams ace Michael Thomas as players New York could sign for their leadership.

Giants Sign LB Kelvin Sheppard

The Giants have signed free agent linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, the club announced today.Kelvin Sheppard (vertical)

Sheppard, of course, is no stranger in New York, as he appeared in 16 games (11 starts) as the Giants’ middle linebacker in 2016. In those contests, the 29-year-old Sheppard managed 47 tackles and two passes defensed while earning poor overall marks (grade of 39.1 on a 100-point scale) from Pro Football Focus.

The Giants, though, need linebackers — both B.J. Goodson and Jonathan Casillas missed Sunday’s game against the Rams with injury, while fellow ‘backer Calvin Munson is also dealing with a nagging health question. With a record of 1-7, New York isn’t going anywhere in 2017, but Sheppard will give the club experience and familiarity as it closes out the season.