The failures of Colts' first-round pick Jerry Hughes as a rookie in 2010, with the former TCU standout collecting only six tackle and no sacks in his NFL debut season, are magnified by the Robert Mathis situation. If the Colts were able to count on Hughes, the 31st overall pick in 2010, they'd possess some leverage beyond the fact Mathis is under contract for '11 and can be fined for his absences from any mandatory events.
But Hughes, ostensibly chosen to provide the Colts a pass-rush threat beyond the Freeney-Mathis pairing, was a monumental washout in his first season in the league. Only seven first-round choices appeared in fewer games than Hughes, and five of them either came into the season with injuries, or experienced injuries once the campaign began, and a sixth was a quarterback, Tim Tebow. The only other three first-round picks not to log a star were all defensive linemen: Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants), Derrick Morgan (Tennessee), and Jared Odrick (Miami).
Bill Polian acknowledged during the season he may have erred in not choosing offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, who started 16 games at left tackle after St. Louis grabbed him in the second round, instead of Hughes. Hughes might blossom as a pass-rush force in 2011, because a player generally makes his most meaningful progress in his second season. But the Colts would like to have had him as a realistic negotiating tool when dealing with Mathis' demands.
The Price isn't right
People who have seen the Tampa Bay unofficial workouts seem convinced that second-year defensive tackle Brian Price won't be ready for training camp, no matter when it begins, and that he is a likely candidate to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. A second-round pick in 2010, Price was expected to join first-rounder Gerald McCoy to provide the Bucs a strong, young interior around which to rebuild the defense. But Price appeared in just five games (no starts) before pelvis surgery landed him on injured reserve.
His recovery from extensive surgery has been slow. There haven't been any major setbacks, but Price remains nowhere close yet to being able to play. The good news, if it can be termed that, is that Tampa Bay discovered that Price's replacement, Roy Miller, is a pretty solid player in his own right. Miller is only a two-year veteran, so when Price is ready, the upstart Bucs should have an excellent inside rotation.
Sly ol' Fox
DE Charles Johnson
Mary Ann Chastain/Getty
In transitioning back to the 4-3 under new coach John Fox, the Denver Broncos plan to use 3-4 linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers at end. And the Broncos grabbed Von Miller, the consensus best pass-rusher in the draft, in the first round. But it's still expected that Fox will push for the team to be suitors for Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson, a pending unrestricted free agent. Fox, of course, coached Johnson with the Panthers.
Only a four-year veteran, and just 24 years old, Johnson had 11.5 sacks in 2010. Fox, whose track record with ends and "edge" players in general, is pretty solid, believes you can't have enough pass rushers. Even if a lot of people feel the Broncos' biggest defensive need is at tackle, a position they did not address in the draft.
Punts--Good to see that former Bengals' star quarterback Ken Anderson confirmed this week that he is mentoring Terrelle Pryor and his preparation for the supposed supplemental draft this summer. Last Friday, The Sports Xchange reported that Anderson was one of the candidates for the job. A day later, The Sports Xchange noted that Anderson was supervising Pryor's workouts.
--Speaking of the Pryor practices, a person who has seen at least two of them says the most impressive wide receiver of the bunch assembled by agent/mouthpiece Drew Rosenhaus has actually been free agent Donte Stallworth. The itinerant Stallworth has played for five teams his last five seasons in the league -- he missed the 2009 campaign because of legal problems -- and caught only two passes in Baltimore last year. But word is that, at age 30, the eight-year veteran hasn't lost any speed, is in good shape, and can force secondaries to respect his deep burst.
--On the subject of guys who haven't lost any speed, Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told The Sports Xchange that Bills' seven-year veteran Lee Evans "still runs as good as ever." Evans, 30, posted caerer lows in receptions (37) and receiving yards (578) in 2010, and scored only four touchdowns. The occasionally offensively-challenged Bills have a blossoming, young wideout corps led by Steve Johnson (82 catches and only 25 years old), but Fitzpatrick seems confident Evans will have a rebound season in the second year under coach Chan Gailey.
--The mention of Peyton Manning prompts the rumor that his agent, the powerful Tom Condon of CAA, is pushing for a CBA agreement that would do away with all franchise designations, and, thus, make his client an unrestricted free agent. Condon represents a ton of high-profile players/quarterbacks, with Drew Brees among them, and such a provision would obviously benefit them. It's worth noting, though, that, even with the CAA imprimatur, Condon doesn't have quite as much influence over CBA negotiations as he once did. Condon was represented the late Gene Upshaw, the former NFLPA executive director.
--The Cincinnati home of Carson Palmer sold this week, the latest suggestion that the eight-year veteran has no intention of returning to the Bengals in 2011 and will retire instead, but team officials still contend they will not cave and trade the veteran quarterback.
--Many of the draft choices at the NFLPA Rookie Seminar this week told players association officials they are running short of money and that their agents, some of them also cash-flow impacted, are reluctant to grant them further advances. As for the NFLPA, well, we're still waiting for them to respond to questions about why they told The Sports Xchange they expected 177 players to turn out for the seminar, and the actual number was closer to 150.
--Make Atlanta offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, one of the best in the business and a man who has achieved great results in his three seasons with the Falcons, one of the guys most on the spot in 2011. The Falcons are expected to build on a '10 season in which they had the NFC's best record. But the club figures to lose three of its five line starters -- guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl, and right tackle Tyson Clabo -- in free agency. The Falcons have three young players they feel are prepared to move into the starting lineup. But Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley have a total of zero regular-season starts among them.
The last word
"I honestly think social media has made people cowards. Where I'm from, if you had a problem with somebody, you said it to their face, and that was it. I think now, people are hiding behind computers and smart-phones to get out something (they've) got on their chest." -- New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, on the recent Twitter battle between Philadelphia tailback LeSean McCoy and teammate and defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.