Posted on: August 2, 2010 9:23 pm
Edited on: August 3, 2010 11:59 am
Despite lots of talk heading into the start of training camps about potential rookie holdouts, 29 of the league's 32 first round picks have signed contracts with their NFL teams in this, the first week of August.
The three remaining -- No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh, No. 6 overall pick Russell Okung and No. 9 overall pick C.J. Spiller -- were the three most celebrated senior players at their respective positions in all of college football last season. Obviously, the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills, respectively, want their first round picks in camp as soon as possible. Each are expected to be immediate impact starters for their clubs.
Suh and Spiller are the two more celebrated players and no doubt will generate more of the media attention. The Lions and Suh's agents -- Roosevelt Barnes and Eugene Parker -- are thought to be relatively close to a deal which could put NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated 2010 prospect in Detroit by the end of the week.
Spiller, represented by agent Gary Wichard, however, could be in for a longer holdout. The reigning ACC Player of the Year seemed resigned to that possibility by indicating in a chat with fans at The Sporting News that he was going to "... let my agent handle all of that. We're not going to rush. We're going to make sure we cross our T's and dot our I's, however long the process takes. I just have to be patient. I can't get antsy about the situation. I've talked to a lot of veteran guys. My teammates aren't concerned about me holding out. They know that I want to be there, but at the end of the day it's a business. You have to do what's best for your family. It was good to get that support from veteran guys already — before negotiations have heated up."
It is Okung, however, whose holdout could prove to be the story.
Like Spiller, Okung's contract talks have appeared to hit a significant snag. ProFootballTalk.com reported yesterday that a deal between the Seahawks and Okung's agent Peter Schaeffer is "not even close." Seattle Times beat writer Danny O'Neil noted that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll labeled his projected starting left tackle's absence as a "concern for him every day."
Suh and Spiller are readier to make an immediate impact. Suh is such a dominant player that I expect him to standout at defensive tackle as a rookie -- a truly rare feat. Spiller, due to his electricity and the relative "ease" of rookie running backs enjoying success in the NFL, projects as one of the league's surest highlight reel additions from the 2010 draft.
Okung, however, is being asked to play the position some believe is second only to quarterback in terms of difficulty adjusting from the NCAA to NFL. With the notable exceptions of Joe Thomas, Ryan Clady and Jake Long, few rookie left tackles have been able to come into the NFL and play well immediately.
I personally attended and scouted some of Okung's first practices as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during June OTAs. While Okung's length and strength were obvious, it was also clear that the former All-American still had a ways to go before understanding the intricacies of Alex Gibbs' vaunted zone-blocking scheme.
Okung is in charge of protecting the blindside of a soon-to-be 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck. If that wasn't enough pressure, he's being asked to replace Walter Jones -- the best player in team history.
The Seahawks certainly won't admit it publicly, but they know they need to get Okung in the fold. With Okung out, the Seahawks have former fourth-round pick Ray Willis, a natural right tackle, starting on the left side. When Willis was given Monday's practice off to rest, veteran guard Mansfield Wrotto, another former fourth round pick, was given the nod. Neither Willis nor Wrotto have demonstrated to this point the ability to consistently hold a starting position in the league. Both, due to marginal agility, are potential liabilities in Gibbs' system -- at any position -- much less the critical left tackle spot.
In a new offense with new coaches, the Seahawks could struggle to protect Matt Hasselbeck even with Okung starting. They're in a potentially dire situation without him.
It doesn't get any simpler for the Seahawks than this -- the more games Matt Hasselbeck starts for the Seahawks this season, the greater chance Pete Carroll has of improving on Seattle's 5-11 record last year. Until Okung signs, however, neither Hasselbeck remaining healthy nor the Seahawks improving in the win column seems likely.
Posted on: February 25, 2010 10:45 am
As mentioned in a previous post, San Francisco GM Scot McCloughan and head coach Mike Singletary led off today's interviews.
They will be followed by:
Posted on: January 9, 2010 2:43 pm
In prepping for what will be my tenth Senior Bowl, I was pleased to read that the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins will be the coaching staffs in place for the Mobile all-star game classic.
For one, Jim Schwartz and Tony Sparano are innovative, high-energy coaches that will push the players throughout the week of practice. If everything I've heard about these teams' practice habits are correct, the drills and scrimmages will be run efficiently. Teaching and coaching will be a focus, but the players won't be over-worked on scheme or re-working their technique. They'll be allowed to play and, more importantly, audition for the hundreds of scouts in attendance.
Secondly, with their varied offensive and defensive schemes, we'll get an opportunity to see these prospects preparing to play in or prepare for the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, as well as pro-style and Wildcat offenses. The variety of scheme is particularly important for judging whether 'tweener players could effectively transition to an NFL system -- as in the case of undersized pass rushers potentially making the jump to the rush OLB position in the 3-4 or "Slash" quarterback types.
Considering the coaching choices, I'll not be at at all surprised when some of the more hotly debated senior prospects that fit in these two categories -- Tim Tebow, Dan LeFevour, Sergio Kindle, Ricky Sapp, Wille Young, etc. are ultimately invited to this game.
Posted on: September 7, 2009 1:59 pm
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced after practice today that #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford will be the starter over veteran Duante Culpepper for Week One against the Saints.
Schwartz, like the head coach of any team that used a first round pick on a quarterback, is in a tough spot. The financial commitment made to Stafford forces the team to consider using him, even if he isn't necessarily ready. This isn't to say that Stafford isn't. He is as physically talented as any quarterback I've scouted in the 10+ years I've been doing this. His mental toughness and poise consistently impressed me throughout his collegiate career and in the workouts leading up to the draft.
I believe, however, that the greatest single reason why there continue to be so many first round busts at quarterback is that too many rookies are thrown into the fire. I do not believe the success from Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco last season are reason enough to believe that rookie quarterbacks are suddenly more ready for the rigors of an NFL season. Atlanta and Baltimore had the luxury of strong running games and defenses to foster development of a young passer. Detroit hasn't yet shown either. The New York Jets, on the other hand, do have these factors working in the favor of Mark Sanchez. Should the Jets capitalize on their talent and the enthusiasm Rex Ryan has brought to the franchise by winning early with Sanchez, the pressure will only increase on Stafford to duplicate the success. Some will question if Sanchez shouldn't then have been the #1 pick rather than Stafford.
I believe Stafford has the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback -- someday perhaps even a Pro Bowl quarterback. And I certainly understand the impulse to start him now and allow him to develop a relationship with Calvin Johnson and the rest of the starting Lions.
But for a quarterback who completed 54.5% of his passes over the preseason with a touchdown to interception ratio of 1-4 over four preseason games, it might be too soon.
And starting any rookie quarterback too soon is a huge gamble.
Posted on: March 31, 2009 8:03 pm
According to multiple sources throughout the league, the Detroit Lions staff are raving about the workout put forth Tuesday by Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford.
Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz spoke to media at the owners' meetings last week and characterized Stafford's performance in Tuesday's workout as another critical element in the Lions' assigning their final grade on him. The Lions' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was expected to orchestrate the workout -- a key difference from Stafford's Pro Day workout earlier in the month, when some suggested that Georgia quarterback coach/offensive coordinator Mike Bobo scripted the passing drills to highlight Stafford's strengths.
Schwartz explained how the Lions expected to change the workout to see if Stafford was indeed worthy of #1 overall consideration.
"You can put him in some situations and all of a sudden sort of throw some curveball, so to speak, at him -- see how he reacts, see how he handles that, see how he interacts with the other guys," Schwartz said. "Those are all things that you're probably going to see in a workout that you really couldn't see anywhere else."
Due to the fact that Stafford did not throw at the Combine, his performance at Georgia's Pro Day was important. Scouts in attendance told me that his throwing there was better than Matt Ryan's last year at Boston College's Pro Day. If the reports circulating through the scouting community are accurate -- that Stafford was even more impressive Tuesday -- the race to be the first pick of the draft could be nearing an end.