Steve Jackson

COVID-19 Latest: Bubble, Bengals, Dalton

With the NFL passing an in-case-of-emergency amended playoff bracket and having a tentative Week 18 in place in case games need to be rescheduled, the league is planning ahead. Its months-long anti-bubble stance remains, but the prospect of one taking place in the postseason has not been ruled out. The NFL will consider holding conference championship games at neutral-site bubbles, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post. Like the 16-team bracket, this would be a contingency plan. Should the NFL proceed with bubbles for its penultimate postseason round, Maske notes warm-weather cities would be the likely sites.

Here is the latest on the NFL’s navigation of the coronavirus pandemic:

  • As cases spike nationally, the NFL has seen a significant uptick as well this month. Forty-seven percent of the league’s positive coronavirus tests this season came during November’s first two weeks, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones notes. As such, the NFL is bracing for more COVID-related trouble after Thanksgiving. The league expects cases to surge after the holiday, with high-ranking execs informing Jones the bulk of its cases thus far this season occurred because of in-home gatherings. No games have been rescheduled since Week 7, but given the protocol adjustments and postseason contingency plan, the league appears to be preparing for postponements to re-emerge.
  • Beginning Saturday, all NFL teams will be thrust into the intensive COVID-19 protocol. The recently implemented higher-security format will be the new norm, per NFL.com’s Judy Battista. Positive tests were previously necessary to move teams into the intensive protocol — which calls for all meetings to be held virtually, masks to be worn at all times at team facilities and no player congregation to occur outside of teams’ headquarters — but the league’s Thanksgiving-related concerns have prompted precautions.
  • The Bengals were without four coaches during their Week 10 game against the Steelers and will be without three staffers this weekend as well. Cincinnati cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson, wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell and safeties coach Robert Livingston will not be with the team in Washington due to COVID-19 protocols, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Last week, the Bengals were without Jackson, Bicknell, linebackers coach Al Golden and senior defensive assistant Mark Duffner. Bengals DC Lou Anarumo will assume more responsibility this weekend, per the team, in overseeing the team’s defensive backs.
  • Former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton will be back in the Cowboys‘ starting lineup this week, but he has not yet fully recovered from the coronavirus. The 10th-year veteran developed symptoms and has not fully regained his taste and smell senses, via Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News (on Twitter). Dalton’s wife and one of his sons also contracted the virus. The Cowboys activated Dalton from their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Coaching Notes: Giants, Bengals, Titans

The Giants’ offensive line has been a bit of a mess the past few years, so who rookie head coach Joe Judge decides to hire as his O-line coach is a crucial call. One familiar name is getting consideration, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets that New York will interview Dave DeGuglielmo for the vacant job. DeGuglielmo has been in the NFL for the past 15 years, and was Miami’s offensive line coach this past season. The year before that he coached Indy’s league-best offensive line, but was surprisingly let go after the season. As Graziano points out, DeGuglielmo coached alongside Judge with the Patriots in 2014-15, so there’s plenty of familiarity there.

Here’s more from the coaching ranks:

  • The Bengals have a new cornerbacks coach, and it’s coming at the expense of the Jets. Cincinnati is hiring Steve Jackson to coach their cornerbacks, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post (Twitter link). Jackson had previously served as the Jets’ assistant defensive backs coach for the past two years. Jackson played with the Oilers/Titans for nine seasons from 1991-1999. He’s served as safeties coach for the Redskins and Titans in the past.
  • The Titans are also losing an assistant coach. Kerry Coombs, Tennessee’s secondary coach, is leaving to become the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (Twitter link). There are plenty of connections between the two teams, as Titans head coach Mike Vrabel played at Ohio State and was an assistant coach with the Buckeyes before returning to the NFL. He brought a lot of guys from OSU with him to Tennessee, including Coombs.
  • In case you missed it, ESPN analyst and former backup NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky is drawing interest as a coach.

Adam Gase Finalizes First Jets Staff

Adam Gase finalized his initial Jets coaching staff, and several new names will be added to the mix. In addition to the interesting setup reuniting ex-Saints staffers Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt, along with Blake Williams‘ arrival, the Jets announced five other new coaches will be joining their staff.

Longtime defensive end Andre Carter will come aboard as Gang Green’s defensive line coach. This will be Carter’s first chance at leading a position group. The 39-year-old former 13-year NFL veteran broke into coaching as the Dolphins’ assistant D-line instructor the past two seasons.

Gase hired John Dunn as tight ends coach. Dunn spent last season as the University of Connecticut’s assistant head coach. He’d previously worked with Jets OC Dowell Loggains in Chicago as an offensive assistant, his lone NFL experience to date.

Mentioned as another Miami-to-New York relocation candidate, Frank Bush will coach the Jets’ inside linebackers and carry an assistant HC title. Bo Hardegree will serve as an offensive assistant, and Eric Sanders will follow Gregg Williams from Cleveland to the Big Apple and work as a defensive assistant. The Browns jettisoned Sanders and the Williamses from their staff last month.

Gase will retain a few Todd Bowles-era coaches, most notably the special teams (Brant Boyer and Jeff Hammerschmidt) and defensive backs staffs (Dennard Wilson and Steve Jackson) will remain intact. Every other position group will have new leaders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Interested In Rick Dennison

The Jets announced today that they’ve fired offensive line coach Steve Marshall, and the club may already have a replacement lined up. New York has reached out to former Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in relation to their offensive line coach/run game coordinator vacancy, according to Manish Mehtha of the New York Daily News.Rick Dennison (vertical)

Dennison, a longtime NFL coach and play-caller, was fired earlier this month after spending only a single season as Buffalo’s OC. He hasn’t generated any other known interest, but he’d add experience to a Jets coaching staff that will continue rebuilding a young roster in 2018. Dennison also enjoys a relationship with new New York offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, as the two overlapped with the Broncos from 2006-08.

If Dennison does land with the Jets, he’ll take over an offensive line that struggled immensely last season. New York’s front five ranked just 27th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards a year ago, and could be playing a new center in 2018. Wesley Johnson, who started 15 games for Gang Green last season, will hit unrestricted free agency in March.

In other Jets staff news, New York is hiring former Titans coach Steve Jackson as their new assistant defensive backs coach, per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Titans, Lions, Packers

Although at least one report indicated new Titans head coach Mike Vrabel would overhaul the majority of Tennessee’s coaching staff, that’s not necessarily the case, says Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com (all Twitter links). Tight ends coach Arthur Smith, assistant special teams coach Craig Aukerman, and assistant wide receivers coach Luke Steckel will join previously-reported defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend in interviewing with Vrabel during the Senior Bowl. Among the coaches who will part ways with the Titans include offensive line coach and NFL Hall of Famer Russ Grimm (who is retiring), quarterbacks coach Jason Michael, running backs coach Sylvester Croom, defensive assistant Brandon Blaney, and assistant defensive backs coach Steve Jackson.

Here’s more from the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • The Lions are expected to revamp their defensive coaching staff under new head coach Matt Patricia, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). That should come as no surprise given Patricia’s defensive background, and the current Patriots DC spoke with members of the Detroit staff last week to inform them they aren’t part of the club’s 2018 plans, per Birkett. Specifically, Lions linebackers coach Bill Sheridan and defensive backs coach Alan Williams have been fired, reports Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. The Lions, of course, have already lost a number of defensive staffers to other teams, as former defensive coordinator Teryl Austin joined the Bengals while ex-defensive line coach Kris Kocurek landed with the Dolphins.
  • The Packers will continue their staff overhaul under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine by hiring former Bowling Green safeties coach Ryan Downard, likely as a defensive quality control coach, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links). Downard was an assistant under Pettine in Cleveland before heading to BGSU, so there is a level of familiarity between the two. Downard’s addition does not have an effect on the status of incumbent cornerbacks coach Darren Perry, per Silverstein. Meanwhile, La Canfora (via Twitter) has clarified Jason Simmonsrole change with Green Bay, noting that he’s been moved to secondary coach.
  • The Panthers are interviewing Seahawks assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell for the same position, reports Alex Marvez of the Sporting News (Twitter link). If hired, Farwell would work alongside former NFL linebacker Chase Blackburn, who was recently named Carolina’s new special teams coach. Farwell, an ex-NFL ‘backer in his own right, joined the coaching ranks in 2016.
  • The Seahawks have mutually parted ways with senior defensive assistant Travis Jones, the club announced today. Jones had served as Seattle’s defensive line coach from 2013-16 before being bumped to a new role last season. He’s just the latest coach to leave the Seahawks’ staff this month, adding to a growing list that includes OC Darrell Bevell and DC Kris Richard.