Some assorted notes from around the NFL as we wrap up this Monday evening…
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he was not involved in the evaluation process in promoting BrettVeach to GM (Twitter link via James Palmer of NFL.com). The Chiefs promoted the 39-year-old earlier this month, and reports indicated that while Veach will have control over the roster, he’ll ultimately work in tandem with his head coach.
Here’s something that could affect the Browns‘ roster bubble: Duke Johnson profiles more as a wide receiver right now than a running back, Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer writes. Johnson is the leading candidate to replace Andrew Hawkins as the team’s No. 1 slot receiver and has been split out wide at times in practice. After carrying the ball 104 times as a rookie, Johnson ran the ball only 73 times in 2016 and he could be looking at another reduction this year.
The Colts have not had substantive extension talks with left guard Jack Mewhort as he enters his contract year, Stephen Holder of the Indy Star tweets. Mewhort has started at left guard with some appearances at tackle since entering the league in 2014. Unfortunately, the former second round pick saw his season cut short last year due to a knee injury. Mewhort has graded out as a starting caliber player for the Colts in each of his NFL seasons. In 2016, he was PFF’s 23rd ranked guard.
Titans guard Sebastian Tretola apparently suffered a minor injury from a bullet, and ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky tweeted a statement from the organization: “We are aware of the reports that Sebastian received treatment for a wound when he was grazed by a bullet…He has been released from the hospital and is thankful for only a minor injury.” The 2016 sixth-round pick appeared in only one game as a rookie last season.
Following news that Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams might need season-ending surgery on a herniated disk in his back, ESPN.com’s Eric D. Williams explored whether the team could bring back veteran Vincent Jackson. The writer ultimately believes that he wouldn’t be a fit, as the team could rely on a number of young players to fill the void. Alternatively, the team could opt for a number of free agents (including Stevie Johnson and Vincent Brown) who are more familiar with the team’s current offensive scheme. Jackson spent the first seven seasons of his career in San Diego, earning a pair of Pro Bowl selections.
Back in May, Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe and offensive guard Sebastian Tretola were accused of assault in a federal civil suit. Now, according to WKRN.com, the duo is countersuing the accuser, stating that he initiated the confrontation and the two players were purely acting in self defense.
The individual, Dante Satterfield, claimed that Sharpe and Tretola had beaten him until he was unconscious outside of a Nashville bar. Sharpe allegedly “took exception” to Satterfield’s comments about recent Titans draft pick Corey Davis, with the accuser reportedly stating that Sharpe’s playing time would now be reduced. After leaving the bar, Sharpe allegedly punched Satterfield in the face while Tretola kept watch. The individual claimed that he suffered from broken bones in his face, a perforated eardrum, and a concussion, leading to him asking for $500K.
In their countersuit, Sharpe and Tretola are saying that an intoxicated Satterfield continued to harass the duo inside the bar. When the duo eventually left, the individual followed them outside, threatening them and claiming to be in a gang. The two players admitted to “roughing up” the accuser, but they were adamant that their actions were in self defense.
The two players are asking for a jury trial and damages. The duo has not been charged, and Metro police recently said that their investigation was wrapping up.
“When my client sued Mr. Sharpe, his agent told the media that Sharpe ‘wasn’t even there at the time [my client] was allegedly beaten up,’” Satterfield’s attorney said in a statement. “In today’s court filing, Sharpe changes his story entirely and says he was there but acted in self-defense. We are confident that an impartial jury will be able to make out what actually happened that night.”
As our own Dallas Robinson wrote back in May, Sharpe could be in danger of not only earning a league-imposed suspension, but losing his roster spot altogether. Roster Resource lists Sharpe as the Titans’ fourth receiver behind Eric Decker, Rishard Matthews, and Davis.
Nashville police are investigating Dante Satterfield’s claims that Sharpe beat him until he was rendered unconscious outside a bar on April 27. Sharpe was allegedly upset at the Titans’ first-round selection of fellow wideout Corey Davis, and “took exception” to Satterfield’s comments about the draft choice. After the group left the bar out a back door, Sharpe reportedly punched Satterfield in the face while Titans offensive lineman Sebastian Tretola stood watch.
Satterfield is now dealing with broken bones in his face, a perforated eardrum, and a concussion, and is seeking $500K in damages. Sharpe’s lawyer, for what it’s worth, calls Satterfield’s claims “ridiculous.”
Clearly, given how the situation plays out, Sharpe could be in danger of not only earning a league-imposed suspension, but losing his roster spot altogether. Tretola, too, could face discipline depending on his level of involvement.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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, TreMcBride, Reece Horn and Andrew Turzilli all appear to be “warm bodies” for training camp at this position.
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 Thomasowns 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.
More than half of the players selected in the 2016 NFL draft have signed their rookie contracts within the last week and a half. As rookie deals have become more rigid, and more dependent on draft slots, holdouts have become a thing of the past for draftees, and more and more teams are securing their entire draft classes faster than ever.
Here are the latest draft pick signings from around the league:
The Bills have signed the first of their seven draft picks, and the first player to sign was the last one to be drafted. The team announced today on its website that it has locked up sixth-round cornerback Kevon Seymour. “Now that I’ve got this out of the way and can focus now on doing what I really love,” Seymour said. “I’m just blessed to be here and thankful.”
Like Buffalo, Denver also seems to be working backward with its draftees. The first Broncos pick to sign is the team’s seventh-round selection, punter Riley Dixon (Twitter link via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com). Dixon is expected to push Britton Colquitt – who has a $4MM cap hit – for the starting job this summer.
The Titans have agreed to terms with sixth-round guard Sebastian Tretola, the 193th overall pick out of Arkansas, writes Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. Tretola, the seventh of 10 Tennessee draftees to sign, is in line for a four-year contract worth $2.473MM, with a signing bonus of nearly $133K, per Over the Cap.