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Tag:NFL
Posted on: November 11, 2010 3:55 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2010 3:58 pm
 

Don't have NFL Network? Scout Pitt-UConn w/ me

As most football fans know, the slate of Thursday games on NFL Network begins later today with a potential Super Bowl preview between the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons. Each club is riding high at 6-2 and in first place in their respective divisions.

Those fans that don't have NFL Network, however, needn't be wanting for good football on this Veteran's Day holiday. ESPN is offering an key Big East conference matchup between first place Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

Pitt's underclassmen talent at wide receiver (Jon Baldwin ) and running back (Ray Graham, Dion Lewis ) will get much of the media attention, but for scouts the real focus in this game will lie along the Panthers' defensive line.

There is a possibility that reigning Co-Defensive Player of the Year Greg Romeus will make his way back onto the field for the first time since the season opener. The 6-5, 268 pound Romeus entered the season among the nation's top-rated defensive ends and a likely first round prospect, but a back injury and resulting surgery to correct a lower disk problem has kept him sidelined.

In his absence, Pitt has received stellar play from their "other" defensive ends. Scouts knew all about senior Jabaal Sheard , who had played well opposite Romeus in the past and has elevated his play since Romeus went down. Sheard, in fact, has emerged as one of the nation's best pass rushers. He leads the Big East with nine sacks and as Pitt head coach Dave Wannestadt noted recently, his tenacity is one of the characteristics that is boosting Sheard's stock with scouts.

"Jabaal Sheard is having a phenomenal year. You have to really appreciate what he is going through to get to the passer. He just keeps coming and coming. He's rushing the passer as good as any defensive end in the country. "

As I mentioned in a previous post detailing the news of Romeus' impending return , the Panthers don't have to force their star back onto the field early. Junior Brandon Lindsey has done a great job of replacing Romeus (eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss so far).

Pitt's talented defensive line is arguably the biggest reason why the Panthers sit atop the Big East.

Baldwin and, most notably, Lewis, haven't been as dominant this season as perhaps some had expected, but with turnover along the offensive line and at quarterback from last year, it simply has taken them a little while to get rolling. Lewis, who entered the year as the favorite to be the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, has actually been overtaken by the sophomore Graham, himself a future NFL prospect. The Pitt offense has been playing well recently, however.

One bright spot along the Pitt offensive line is left tackle Jason Pinkston , a potential top 75 prospect for the 2011 draft, whose pro future may lie inside at guard.

Connecticut entered the season as a trendy pick to win the Big East and offers some interesting Day Three talent at linebacker and running back. Outside linebacker Lawrence Wilson is the headlining prospect on a senior-laden group in the middle. Junior running back Jordan Todman has emerged as the next big play runner from Randy Edsall's offense. Todman is helped with the blocking by fullback Anthony Sherman , who quietly rates as one of the better all-around senior prospects at the position in the entire country.

As always, those who would like to scout "alongside" me can follow my thoughts on this game (as well as the Ravens-Falcons contest) on Twitter. Follow me there @RobRang.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 1:43 pm
 

Impressive rookie Lions: Best, Suh tops this week

Each Tuesday I'll list two first year players -- one on offense, one from the defense -- as my official NFLDraftScout.com's Rookies of the Week.

Various rookies enjoyed strong performances in Week One. On offense, Denver wideout Demaryius Thomas had a strong first game to his NFL career against the Seahawks with 98 receiving yards and a touchdown. Dallas' Dez Bryant, who I recognized last week in this space as a "honorable mention" Rookie of the Week, enjoyed a strong second game as well, with 52 receiving yards and a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears. I try to look beyond just the "skill" position players for these awards and I was mightily impressed with the drive blocking of San Francisco left guard Mike Iupati last night against the Saints, as well as that of Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey in the Steelers' win over the Titans.

In the end, however, this week's Offensive Rookie of the Week was a no-brainer.  

Though his Detroit Lions lost to the Eagles Sunday, Jahvid Best was absolutely electric. He had 232 total yards from scrimmage (17 attempts for 78 rushing yards and nine receptions for 154 yards) and scored three more touchdowns. His five touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season lead the NFL. Some anticipated that an athletic and aggressive Philadelphia defense would tee off on Best considering the marginal downfield passing of Detroit backup quarterback Shaun Hill. With the Eagles crowding the line of scrimmage against the run, Hill simply found Best as an outlet receiver. Once in the open field, Best's agility and straight-line speed make him a matchup nightmare. Best is the first rookie to score five touchdowns in his first two NFL games since another Lion, Billy Simms, accomplished the feat 30 years ago.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were again several worthy candidates, though in my opinion this week's award was just as much a no-brainer. Sean Weatherspoon (Falcons), Koa Misi (Dolphins) and last week's honoree T.J. Ward (Browns) were impressive again. I was also impressed with the coverage supplied by Denver cornerback Perrish Cox. His coverage helped shut down the Seahawks reclamation project, Mike Williams, and his interception of Matt Hasselbeck ended any chance of a Seahawk comeback.

However, Ndamukong Suh proved to be every bit the dominant player against the Eagles we projected he'd be in the NFL. Suh posted eight tackles -- second most in the league by an interior defensive lineman -- and recorded his second sack in as many games. The Lions featured Suh and Best on the same play twice Sunday, with Suh lining up as Best's fullback.

Posted on: September 8, 2010 9:06 pm
 

'Tis the season, so here are my NFL predictions

My CBS collegeagues Clark Judge and Pete Prisco made their NFL predictions here and here .

I thought I'd chime in with my thoughts, as well.

AFC East: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Bills
AFC North: Ravens, Bengals*, Steelers, Browns
AFC South: Colts, Texans*, Titans, Jaguars
AFC West: Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos

NFC East: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins
NFC North: Packers, Vikings*, Lions, Bears
NFC South: Saints, Falcons,* Panthers, Buccaneers
NFC West: 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams

*Wildcard teams

Super Bowl pick: Packers over Ravens

MVP: QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers. Most talented combination of QB, skill position and OL. He's a strong, strong favorite in my mind.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Favre struggles this time, so Viks are forced to rely on AP (who gets over the fumblitis). 
Defensive Player of the Year: ILB Patrick Willis, 49ers: When Willis leads the league in tackles this time (he did in 2010), fans will notice as the 49ers will run away with the NFC West (and potentially a bye).
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers. Mathews has talent and Norv Turner is going to give him every opportunity to be a star.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Brandon Graham, Eagles. Perfect fit for this defense. Watch out for Oakland MLB Ro McClain too. Another perfect fit.
Comeback/Breakout Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams, Seahawks. Remember this guy? Pete Carroll does. I've seen it myself . Williams is back.
Stepback Player of the Year: RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants. I considered Favre, but he's too easy of a target with Sidney Rice's injury. Jacobs looked washed up last year and in the preseason. With the Giants giving Ahmad Bradshaw the nod, Jacobs could disappear in 2010.
Team on the Rise: Dolphins. Solid running game, Henne has the arm to keep Brandon Marshall focused, and DC Mike Nolan is among the best in the biz.
Team on the Decline: Bears. Spent their free agent millions on positions of relative strength, rather than their gaping weakness (OL).
Best Free Agent Pickup: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lions. Love this player for this team. Steady vet helps Suh make this D formidable.
Worst Free Agent Pickup: WR Antonio Bryant, Bengals. Considering he's already off the team, how can there be a worse move?
Posted on: September 8, 2010 9:06 pm
 

'Tis the season, so here are my NFL predictions

My CBS collegeagues Clark Judge and Pete Prisco made their NFL predictions here and here .

I thought I'd chime in with my thoughts, as well.

AFC East: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Bills
AFC North: Ravens, Bengals*, Steelers, Browns
AFC South: Colts, Texans*, Titans, Jaguars
AFC West: Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos

NFC East: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins
NFC North: Packers, Vikings*, Lions, Bears
NFC South: Saints, Falcons,* Panthers, Buccaneers
NFC West: 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Rams

*Wildcard teams

Super Bowl pick: Packers over Ravens

MVP: QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers. Most talented combination of QB, skill position and OL. He's a strong, strong favorite in my mind.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings. Favre struggles this time, so Viks are forced to rely on AP (who gets over the fumblitis). 
Defensive Player of the Year: ILB Patrick Willis, 49ers: When Willis leads the league in tackles this time (he did in 2010), fans will notice as the 49ers will run away with the NFC West (and potentially a bye).
Offensive Rookie of the Year: RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers. Mathews has talent and Norv Turner is going to give him every opportunity to be a star.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: DE Brandon Graham, Eagles. Perfect fit for this defense. Watch out for Oakland MLB Ro McClain too. Another perfect fit.
Comeback/Breakout Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams, Seahawks. Remember this guy? Pete Carroll does. I've seen it myself . Williams is back.
Stepback Player of the Year: RB Brandon Jacobs, Giants. I considered Favre, but he's too easy of a target with Sidney Rice's injury. Jacobs looked washed up last year and in the preseason. With the Giants giving Ahmad Bradshaw the nod, Jacobs could disappear in 2010.
Team on the Rise: Dolphins. Solid running game, Henne has the arm to keep Brandon Marshall focused, and DC Mike Nolan is among the best in the biz.
Team on the Decline: Bears. Spent their free agent millions on positions of relative strength, rather than their gaping weakness (OL).
Best Free Agent Pickup: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, Lions. Love this player for this team. Steady vet helps Suh make this D formidable.
Worst Free Agent Pickup: WR Antonio Bryant, Bengals. Considering he's already off the team, how can there be a worse move?
Posted on: August 27, 2010 1:15 pm
 

Allen Bradford losing reps, may not start opener

Some overrated college football and NFL draft analyst recently listed USC senior running back Allen Bradford among the Pac-10's top ten senior prospects for the 2010 draft.

While Bradford remains a noteworthy NFL prospect, his chances at improving his stock with scouts appear to be dwindling with the apparent news that he's been overtaken by redshirt junior Marc Tyler atop the Trojans' depth chart, at least according to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times.

USC head coach Lane Kiffin wouldn't announce Tyler as the winner of the starting running back position, but did admit he's met with Bradford invididually prior to Tyler earning increased carries in recent practices, according to Arash Markazni of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

"I never put [Bradford] as a No. 1 guy," Kiffin said when asked why Bradford was now receiving less reps, despite entering the year atop the depth chart in USC's preseason media guide. "Maybe other people had him as the No. 1 guy but I said all along the competition was open. I did talk to [Bradford] two days ago because the reps had started to shift a little bit and I wanted him to know that before he came out here so there weren't any surprises. The competition is still open but we're going to give Marc more reps." Even if Tyler wins (and keeps) the starting job, Bradford will remain on the NFL radar. The powerfully built 5-11, 235 pound Bradford has proven to be an effective grinder between the tackles. He earned honorable mention all-conference honors last year with career-highs in rushing yards (668) and rushing touchdowns (8) despite splitting time with speedster Joe McKnight.

As Klein notes in his article, Bradford hasn't had much of an opportunity to impress Kiffin this summer. He's been nursing a sore left knee, which has kept him limited. Furthermore, Bradford's game lies with his physicality. With much of USC's practices held with a "no-tackle policy," Bradford hasn't been able to show off his ability to run through legitimate tackle attempts. 

The no-tackle policy carried over into yesterday's scrimmage. Tyler led the way with five attempts for the Trojans, but only averaged a yard per attempt in doing so. He did, however, score a touchdown (two yards). Bradford, on the other hand, only had two carries, but rushed for 17 yards, according to USC's official blog .

Posted on: August 7, 2010 2:25 pm
 

Top-rated fullback Havili banned at USC

A few days ago I noted that the talent level at USC had dropped so much that arguably their best senior prospect was fullback Stanley Havili.

Lane Kiffin's Trojans are that much less talented now with the news that Havili has been banned from USC practices and other team activities indefinitely after punching teammate T.J. Bryant during a fight at practice.

Havili reportedly apologized "profusely" to his teammates and the coaching staff for the incident. Bryant, a junior cornerback competing for a starting role this fall, was forced to undergo surgery Thursday after x-rays revealed more significant damage had been done than originally thought. Despite the injury and his expected month-long rehabilitation putting him behind in his quest for playing time, Bryant reportedly "begged" the USC coaching staff to not discipline Havili.

Kiffin, however, felt he had no choice but to ban Havili, a three year starter who currently ranks as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated fullback and a potential mid-round selection.

"I continue to be very disappointed in Stanley's decision-making," Kiffin said. "We talk about protecting this team, and it's just very disappointing from somebody I don't know if I've ever been disappointed in. I've been so disappointed because it's so unexpected."


Posted on: July 21, 2010 2:41 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2010 2:44 pm
 

Dareus another NCAA worry; Saban calls out NFL

Alabama junior defensive Marcel Dareus, already viewed by scouts as a potential first round prospect, is the latest high profile player to be under NCAA investigation for his possibly inappropriate relationship with a sports agent, according to an ESPN report by Ivan Maisel and Mark Schlabach.

Dareus, according to the report , is being investigated after attending an agent's party in South Beach, Florida earlier this summer.

Whereas the Universities of North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida have all been relatively tight-lipped about the investigations into their student-athletes, Alabama head coach Nick Saban unleashed some wrath on the two elements he believes are at the root of the epidemic -- sports agents and the NFL.

"What the NFL Players Association and the NFL need to do is if any agent breaks a rule and causes ineligibility for a player, they should suspend his [agent's] license for a year or two," Saban is quoted in the article. "I'm about ready for college football to say, 'Let's just throw the NFL out. Don't let them evaluate players. Don't let them talk to players. Let them do it at the combine.' If they are not going to help us, why should we help them?"

"Right now, agents are screwing it up," Saban said. "They are taking the eligibility of players. It's not right that those players do the wrong thing. We have a great education process here. We have a full-time worker who meets with players and their families and does everything else."


Saban, who, of course, coached the Miami Dolphins for a brief time, probably understands the issue greater than most coaches. He's seen the recruiting of players by agents from the perspective of being a college coach, as well as from the NFL side.

While his potential solution to the problem seems rash, it also could work.

With the NCAA apparently taking the illegal player-recruiting by agents more seriously, get ready to see a steady stream of these stories. Unfortunately, Marvin Austin, Weslye Saunders, Maurkice Pouncey and Marcel Dareus may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Posted on: July 20, 2010 12:01 pm
 

Pitt DE Sheard suspended indefinitely for fight

Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard, one half of the Panthers' set of future NFL pass rushers, has been suspended indefinitely from the team after an arrest early Sunday morning.

Sheard was arraigned Sunday morning on charges of aggravated assault, resisin ting arrest, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. According to this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , Sheard ignored commands from police to stop fighting. He was hitten with a baton and pepper-sprayed and yet continued to fight 27-year old Edward Parker.

At one point Sheard picked up Parker and threw him through the glass door of La Fond Art and Photography Gallery. According to the article, Sheard walked into the gallery and continued to punch the bloodied Parker, who was laying on the ground.

Sheard, who has started each of the past 26 games for Dave Wannestadt's Panthers and was expected to contend for All-Big East accolades this season playing opposite Greg Romeus, is a legitimate NFL prospect. The 6-3, 255 pound defensive end posted 42 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and a team-high 12 quarterback pressures in 2009 and with opposing teams likely to focus much of their attention on Romeus, a potential Top 20 talent, the opportunity for Sheard to put up even better numbers in 2010 looked promising.

Scouts working for teams operating out of the 4-3 and 3-4 told me that each was quite interested in Sheard. They felt he had the combination of size, athleticism and natural pass rush skills to potentially fit into their scheme.

Instead, Sheard's NCAA and NFL future, for that matter, is very much in doubt.




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