Tag:Jacksonville Jaguars
Posted on: March 9, 2011 9:44 pm
 

Pitt, Jax TE coaches head to Portland St Pro Day

Portland State tight end Julius Thomas is one of the fastest rising prospects in the draft. The former Viking is hoping to follow the same path as Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates as former basketball players whose unique combination of size, athleticism and soft hands make them playmaking tight ends in the NFL.

In a draft lacking great front-line talent at tight end, but strong in developmental prospects, Thomas ranks among the most intriguining. A strong effort during the all-star game circuit and an impressive showing at the Combine helped boost his stock further. Thomas was clocked at 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.31 in the short shuttle and demonstrated his explosiveness with a 37.5" vertical jump.

Thomas elected to sit on those numbers at his Pro Day Wednesday, instead focusing on positional drills for a number of teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers' tight ends coach James Daniel and Jacksonville Jaguars' tight ends coach Rob Boras were on hand to watch him run routes and catch passes.

Thomas was a standout hoops player with the Vikings, earning a repuation as one of the tougher post players in the Big Sky Conference and setting Portland State's team record for field goal percentage. He played only one season of collegiate football, after spending only one season on the gridiron in high school. Despite his inexperience, the 6-5, 246 pounder earned all-conference honors this season, catching 29 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns. 

He was one of the stars of the East-West Shrine Game practices, impressing scouts with a blend of athleticism that some compared to Jermichael Finley's. Thomas caught the West's only touchdown in the Shrine Game, itself, and caught the two-point conversion seconds later, as well.  

Posted on: December 1, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Bradford, Pierre-Paul earn Rookies of the Week

There have been few weeks this season easier to pick out my NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Week than this past weekend's action.

St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was spectacular in the Rams' defeat of the Denver Broncos. In completing 22 of 37 passes for 307 yards, a career high three touchdowns and zero interceptions, Bradford has passed the Rams into first place in the NFC West. St. Louis is currently tied with Seattle atop the divisional race at 5-6, but owns the tie-breaker after having beaten Seattle earlier this year.

The strong performance continues what has been a spectacular rookie campaign for Bradford. As Sports Illustrated's Peter King noted, Bradford appears well on his way towards unanimously winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award considering the spectacular performance he's put on lately while the Rams battled back into first place. Over the past six games, Bradford has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1,307 yards and a sparkling 11-1 TD to INT ratio.

This type of production is nothing new to  Bradford, of course, who used a dazzling 50-8 TD to INT ratio his sophomore season to win the Heisman Trophy and take Oklahoma to the 2009 BCS Championship game.

Unlike Bradford, who has started every game for the Rams, the Giants' first round pick, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had struggled to make a consistent impact this year.

Playing against a Jacksonville team that many thought would consider Pierre-Paul (and ultimately selected defensive lineman Tyson Alualu), the former South Florida product was spectacular, doubling his previous career highs in tackles (eight, including six solos) as well as registering the first two sacks and forced fumbles (two) of his young career.

While I was among Pierre-Paul's biggest critics heading into the draft, Pierre-Paul deserves credit for his breakout performance. The Giants, blessed with one of the league's best collections of pass rushers, have often moved Pierre-Paul inside to defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. There, Pierre-Paul's marginal hand technique and marginal strength is exposed and his best attribute -- his spectacular speed and overall athleticism -- has been more easily contained by opponents. This, of course, wasn't the case against an injury-depleted Jacksonville offensive line.

It is worth noting, however, that prior to Pierre-Paul's strong game against the Jags, he'd recorded only 11 tackles in 11 games.

Pierre-Paul's stellar play beat out New England cornerback Darius Butler, who on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions put on a show. McCourty's two interceptions in the Pats' 45-24 road victory showed off the athleticism, IQ and ball skills that made him one of the best all-around corners in the 2011 draft.


Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:03 pm
 

Ivory, Ward again winners for Rookie of the Week

Reviewing film from each NFL game, as well as talking to pro personnel scouts, I'm usually able to compile a fairly strong list of rookies to highlight in this space. It has led to my acknowledging the strong play of various players in this extraordinary rookie class.

A few players are making it difficult to highlight other rookie performances, however, as they week in and week out are proving that their respective teams can rely on them.

Entering this week's games only two players had earned Prospect of the Week more than once -- the Detroit Lion's defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Cleveland Browns' safety T.J. Ward .

With another strong performance in Cleveland's 24-20 loss to Jacksonville, Ward now has earned the Defensive Rookie of the Week three times, including twice in a row. He was featured last week in this space after expanding upon his rookie tackle lead with eight stops, including two passes broken up. That gave him 75 tackles, a full third more than any other rookie in the league regardless of position.

Against the Jags, Ward was even better recording five tackles and the first two interceptions of his pro career. Ward's two picks -- both of which came off of deflections -- gave the Browns six turnovers on the day.

The Saints' rookie running back Chris Ivory , not to be out-done, earned the Offensive Rookie of the Week award for his 99 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. Ivory, who played three seasons at Washington State before transferring to Tiffin University, ran like a man who wanted the residents of Washington state to remember what might have been. Ivory was arguably the difference in a surprisingly competitive game between the Saints and Seahawks that featured some beautiful passing by Drew Brees and Matt Hasselbeck. Ivory expoded to and through the hole on various interior power plays for the Saints, dragging or stiff-arming his way through the Seattle defense.

Ivory had previously been recognized for his performance a month ago after a breakout performance Week Six against the Bucs. Ivory led all NFL backs with 158 rushing yards that week. 
Posted on: November 1, 2010 1:57 pm
 

La Tech OT Rob McGill earns Diamond in the Rough

With two prospects drafted last year (DT D'Anthony Smith and TE Dennis Morris), Louisiana Tech sent as many players to the NFL in 2010 as they had in the previous five years combined.

Smith, the Jacksonville Jaguars 3rd round pick, who went 74th overall, was the highest a Bulldog lineman had been drafted since the New Orleans Saints found 11-time Pro Bowler Willie Roaf with the 8th overall pick in 1993.

In two-time all-WAC left tackle Rob McGill the Bulldogs boast one of the better offensive line prospects they've had since Roaf dominated in the early 90s.

McGill and the Bulldogs had their hands full last week in a nationally televised game at Boise State. The outcome was as expected, with the No. 3 rated Broncos winning easily 49-20.

Early on, however, the game was more competitive than many expected. The Bulldogs may have exposed a chink in the Boise State armor, in fact, by rushing for 172 yards and winning the time of possession battle.

McGill, a four year starter, was a large part of the Bulldogs' success.

The 6-6, 304 pounder generates good depth on his kick slide and has the long arms and good upper body strength to catch defenders as they attempt to cross his face when in pass protection. McGill has the legitimate foot quickness scouts are looking for. Even when beat initially, McGill, at times, was able to recover due to his agility. During running plays, McGill's quickness off the snap and good positioning, allowed him to seal off his opponent from the action and set the edge when needed.

McGill's reliance on his quick feet, however, got him in trouble on a few occasions. He was beaten for a sack in the mid 3rd quarter when he dropped back too far and allowed DE Shea McClellin to jab-step outside and rush back inside to get the sack.

As impressive as McGill's foot quickness is, he has some technical flaws that will worry scouts. A classic waist-bender, McGill too often allowed Boise's undersized pass rushers to get their hands into his chest and bull rush him deep in the pocket. By bending at the waist, rather than at the knees, McGill is naturally off-balance and thus was driven back by smaller, weaker defenders. This lack of preferred balance was also on display when McGill was asked to cut block. He simply doesn't have the flexibility or balance to handle this assignment, resulting in some ugly missed blocks when attempting cuts.

McGill is far from a Roaf clone (as some have suggested), but does have enough of the physical tools to warrant a late round selection. He could see time as a developmental left tackle or be moved back inside to left guard, as he played for the Bulldogs as a freshman.


 
Posted on: September 17, 2010 5:36 pm
 

Sleeper pass rushers tonight in Cal-Nevada game

Their high power offenses are sure to be the focus of tonight's California-Nevada game (10 pm EST, ESPN2), but NFL scouts will be just as curious to watch two underrated pass rushers also playing in this contest.

I listed California defensive end Cameron Jordan among the top ten senior prospects in the Pac-10 heading into the year and, thus far, he's proving to be every bit worth the early attention.

Jordan was a consideration for Player of the Week honors for his performance last Saturday against highly touted Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder. Jordan, 6-4 and 285 pounds, earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 accolades last year with 43 tackles, eigh tackles for loss and five sacks. His solid game was often overshadowed by Tyson Alualu, who, of course, was the surprise No. 10 overall pick of the draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jordan, like Alualu, plays defensive end in Cal's 3-4 scheme. While he doesn't possess elite speed off the edge, he uses his hands well and plays with very good power. He projects nicely as a base end in the 4-3, or could simply remain as a five-technique in the 3-4 at the next level.

Nevada's Dontay Moch is the more explosive pass rusher of the two. At 6-2, 236 pounds, he lacks the bulk to remain at defensive end in the NFL, but he proved to scouts the overall athleticism to handle the transition to outside linebacker by clocking in at a verified 4.25 seconds in spring drills.

Moch operated last year opposite Kevin Basped. You might remember Basped as the outside linebacker whose troublesome knees forced the Jets to cut him on an early episode of the HBO series, Hard Knocks.

Basped and Moch working in tandem gave the Wolfpack one of the more ferocious pass rushes in the entire country last year. Moch, in fact, entered his senior year with 42 tackles for loss and 22.5 sacks.

Without Basped, Moch has struggled to make the same impact thus far in 2010. Through the first two games of the season, the reigning WAC Defensive Player of the Year has only five total tackles -- though, not surprisingly, he also has a sack and a forced fumble.

Whether you watch the game for the underrated NFL prospects, or just to see an intriguing inter-conference battle between two western schools, this should be a fun game. If nothing else, it will make for interesting Friday night drama, as California enters the game as the nation's top-rated defense. Nevada is the top-rated offense.
Posted on: August 14, 2010 10:43 am
 

Kolb impressive in first game as Eagles' starter

It is admittedly easy to get caught up in the hype of a strong preseason performance, but Kevin Kolb looked every bit the part of a future NFL star in his 2010 debut as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback last night against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Kolb's stat line -- 6/11 for 95 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions -- is far from jaw-dropping, but in one quarter of action Kolb engineered two scoring drives and seemed on his way to another before being lifted mid-drive for Michael Vick once the second quarter began.

What was most impressive about Kolb's performance was his poise and accuracy on a variety of routes.

Kolb's first pass was a perfectly placed slant to DeSean Jackson for 21 yards. His next was a crossing route for 29 yards to Jeremy Maclin. Both passes caught his athletic wideouts in stride and allowed them to use their agility and straight-line speed to generate significant yardage after the catch. The first pass came from under center. The second from the shotgun.

In between the two throws, Kolb was forced to scramble to get a first down. On third and five, Kolb, out of the shotgun, sensed the pressure and scrambled left, faking a throw to freeze Jaguar defenders just enough for him to get six yards, escape untouched out of bounds and pick up the first down. In doing so, he ran to the Philadelphia sideline, where his excited teammates congratulated him with yells and slaps on the helmet.

Kolb, however, didn't look excited. He looked poised and ready for the next play. The pocket sense, balance and athleticism he showed in running for the first down were elements of his game Kolb for which is rarely recognized. Some, in fact, have argued that mobility is one of the areas in which the Eagles will miss Donovan McNabb the most, but not in this game.  Kolb ran twice, picking up 15 yards total.

Kolb's stat line would have been better if not for a couple of rare drops from his tight end (and training camp roommate) Brent Celek. Each of the passes, including what should have been a touchdown from the 11-yard line, came in hot, but hit Celek in the hands.

The Eagles surprised us all by trading McNabb to division-rival Washington in April. It was natural to characterize head coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman's decision to trade the potential Hall of Fame quarterback as risky, especially considering that Kolb had only two starts in three seasons since being drafted in the second round (No. 36 overall) out of Houston.

Kolb's impressive performance, however, was eerily similar to the one that Aaron Rodgers had in his first preseason action as Green Bay's starter after trading Brett Favre to the New York Jets. Rodgers was 9 of 15 for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception (deflection).  The stats might be a little different, but the moxie, accuracy and mobility that Rodgers showed in that contest had to be comforting to general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy.

It is far (FAR!) too early to think that Kolb will be able to make the same seamless transition from former high pick biding his time behind a superstar to emerging as one in his own right as Rodgers has done for the Packers.

But the fact that Kolb was successful in his first start since taking over for McNabb is encouraging. Even more so was how he engineered that success.


Posted on: May 3, 2010 6:01 pm
 

Five biggest gambles of the draft

Considering the money and time invested, every draft selection ever made is, by definition, a gamble.

However, there are always a group of picks made each year that surprise me with their brazen and obvious risk. These are the picks that either earn general managers and scouting directors the admiration of fans and foes, alike, or result in unemployment.

These are the five moves that I thought were the boldest gambles of the 2010 draft.

  1. Denver's trading up to get Tim Tebow: You knew this would be on the list, but I believe it belongs No. 1 for reasons you may not have considered. The gamble isn't just that Tebow is, in the opinion of most, at least a year away from contributing. If you've followed my blog at all you know that I've argued for three years now that Tim Tebow could be a successful NFL quarterback and warranted second round consideration. I acknowledge that Tebow is a gamble in himself, but to trade up so aggressively to get him -- the Broncos gave up 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks (OLB Sergio Kindle, TE Ed Dickson and TE Dennis Pitta) to Baltimore makes the selection significantly more brazen. Add to this fact that by drafting two wide receivers coming off foot injuries (Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) in the first three rounds to package with Tebow, the team may not get much out of the early round picks in 2010. It is in this way where I really believe Denver's pick of Tebow was especially gutsy (some might say foolish), as the Broncos received stunningly little from their top picks of the 2009 draft, as well. The team got 19 tackles (and no sacks) from first round pass rusher Robert Ayers and 14 tackles (no INTs) from second round cornerback Alphonso Smith. By the time some of Josh McDaniels' talents start to contribute, the Denver head coach may be standing in the unemployment line. This team needed immediate contributors and they, instead, gambled on potential.  
  2. Carolina trading up to make QB Armanti Edwards a WR: Like the Tebow pick, I'm not as surprised with the fact that Carolina drafted Edwards or that he is being asked to convert to receiver or even that he went in the third round (despite NFLDraftScout.com ranking him as a 5th round pick). I'm stunned that Carolina was so aggressive in trading up to get him. The Panthers traded their 2nd round pick (to the Patriots) next year for the right to draft Edwards in the third round (No. 89 overall). Using what amounts to two top 100 picks on a project just seems like too much gamble for a team with as many holes as Carolina. 
  3. Tyson Alualu at 10: I don't consider this to be the gamble that many others, apparently do. Sure, I get that Alualu was a reach at No. 10. He likely would have been on the board in the early 20s. Sources throughout the league tell me the Jags actively worked the phone attempting to trade back out of this pick as they knew taking Alualu this high would invite criticism. When they weren't able to get a decent deal, they stayed put and took their guy. I like Alualu's game and feel that his underrated athleticism, incredible work ethic and position versatility made him one of the safer picks in the draft. While I don't believe Alualu will ever be a superstar, I do believe he'll prove a quality starter in the NFL for ten years or so. Despite what I think, the perception is certainly that GM Gene Smith and the Jaguars reached. If Alualu is a disappointinment -- even if just at first -- Smith could be on the hot seat.   
  4. Dallas/Buffalo/Kansas City ignoring OTs: In Dez Bryant, CJ Spiller and Eric Berry, respectively, I believe the Cowboys, Bills and Chiefs may have three of the most impactful rookies from the 2010 draft. However, the cost of ignoring offensive tackle in the first, second, third and fourth rounds may come back to bite these clubs. All three teams have significant questions at offensive tackle and considering how talented this year' crop was at the position, I'm stunned these clubs didn't make adding help upfront more of a priority. 
  5. San Diego trading up to get Ryan Mathews: I believe Ryan Mathews is the best all-around back in this draft and that his skill-set perfectly fits what was missing in the San Diego offense last season. That said, in making the biggest jump in the first round (trading up from No. 28 to No. 12), the Chargers are investing an awful lot in a running back that was unable to stay healthy during any of his three seasons at Fresno State. San Diego general manager AJ Smith is one of the league's gutsiest on draft day and this could pay off big, but this deal is like doubling down on 12 in black jack. It only looks brilliant if it works out. 


Posted on: April 23, 2010 2:13 pm
 

AFC South First Round Comments

Following the conclusion of the draft, I'll be providing grades for all 32 teams. I've begun the process of writing these grades up based on what transpired in the first round yesterday. I'll be posting comments for each team, by their division, in the blog over the next few hours.

Here is how I saw the action from the AFC South perspective:


Houston Texas:
Many forecasted that the Texans would take a cornerback in the first round to replace free agent defection Dunta Robinson, but the team surprised by adding Alabama’s Kareem Jackson over other highly touted prospects. Jackson is a good fit for Houston’s scheme, however, possessing similar physicality in coverage and against the run that Robinson had shown.


Indianapolis Colts:
For all of the talk that the Colts might change their defensive style under Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis made a very Tony Dungy-like pick with the undersized pass rusher Jerry Hughes with the second to last pick of the first round. Hughes has an explosive first step as a pass rusher, but at only 6-2 is considered a bit of a ‘tweener. Funny, that ‘tweener label hasn’t seemed to hurt Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis’ production.


Jacksonville Jaguars:
The Jaguars will be blasted by some for making the biggest reach of the draft and in terms of value, perhaps Tyson Alualu was a reach. He likely would have been available at least 10-15 picks later. However, considering the number of busts seen each year from first round athletes, spending a high pick on a versatile, blue collar player that fits your scheme well shouldn’t be questioned. I don’t believe Alualu will ever go to the Pro Bowl, but he’ll earn a starting role immediately and won’t give it up for a decade.


Tennessee Titans:
The Titans had to be pleased to see defensive end Derrick Morgan, rated by many as the best at his class, still on the board at No. 16 after three other pass rushers had already been selected. Considering that Tennessee needed help in the pass rush immediately after the loss of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth in successive years, the pro-ready Morgan is an ideal fit. 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com