While it reads like a happy ending today, the Chargers bought themselves little more than uncertainty and second-guessing by holding on to LaDainian Tomlinson. Now don't get me wrong, I both respect and admire L.T. for his achievements on the field and how he conducts himself off the field. He's a player and a man who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame someday. But his continued employment in San Diego certainly raises some questions regarding the team's direction with their running game.
After slapping the franchise tag on Darren Sproles, it looked like the Chargers' brass had fully committed to the little man who played such a large role during San Diego's playoff run. But with Tomlinson back in the fold, you have to wonder if Norv Turner will really let Sproles be the lead back, with Tomlinson trotting in from time-to-time to give the younger and potentially more explosive player a breather.
Since Tomlinson turns 30 this summer and is coming off his least-productive rushing season of his eight-year career, that's how the team should position the two players heading into training camp.
But I just don't see it happening.
An internal tug-of-war could ensue regarding which back gives the team the best chance to win. And if it doesn't get sorted out quickly this summer, it could become a nagging question that creates an internal tension that isn't healthy for the team.
USC linebacker Clay Matthews is showing NFL teams that he's truly special and worthy and first-round consideration. Despite placing in the top five among the linebackers at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jumps, the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle, Matthews plans to do a full workout at his Pro Day on April 1 at USC.
Clay Matthews at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
After talking to plenty of draft prospects over the last couple of weeks who were letting their numbers stand from their Combine workouts, I found it hard to believe that Matthews would want to try to top his already impressive numbers. A part of me truly admired his decision. The other part thought he was nuts.
"Most people have the same reaction you just did," he said. "It's just within my nature, I just want to get out there and compete again and show them that I am the fastest and that I can do the three-cone and the shuttle just as good as anyone in the nation. I want to solidify myself as a top draft pick and I think it will only help my chances.
"I believe that I'm only going to improve, so I decided to keep working at these drills for another month, show up on April 1 and give it everything I've got."
The skinny kid who walked-on at USC and emerged as a dominant player during his senior season has been wowing NFL talent evaluators through the entire postseason process so far. His work ethic and determination are simply off the charts. And team officials are noticing it as they get to know more about him on a personal level.
Matthews, who had more than 25 formal interviews at the Combine, said that the Broncos, Dolphins, Giants, Jets, Eagles and Titans were among the teams that he sat down with face-to-face. And the Dolphins and the Redskins are just two of the teams who have already set up a private workout with him this month.
With Fred Taylor out of the picture in Jacksonville, the Jaguars should
show Maurice Jones-Drew the money—now.
During his first three NFL seasons, Jones-Drew has rushed for 2,533 yards, 34 touchdowns, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and caught 148 passes for another 1,408 yards and four more touchdowns. And Mr. Do-It-All has tacked-on 1,952 kickoff return yards and 110 more on punt returns.
While Jones-Drew is only under contract with the Jaguars through the end of the 2009 season, if the league and the players' association can't hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the start of the 2010 league year, the fourth-year veteran wouldn't become an unrestricted free agent. During the uncapped year, only veterans with six vested years qualify for unrestricted free agency. While Jacksonville could try to use that as leverage, they'd be better off proactively cementing their long-term relationship with their franchise running back now.
But that's just my opinion. So I checked-in with MJD to get his take on the situation.
"I love Jacksonville. I wouldn't want to leave it, but Fred said it the best—it's a business," the charismatic and hard-working player said Tuesday night. "I definitely want to get a new deal done, but I want a fair deal. I'm not asking for a bunch of money, I just feel like there is a number where we could both settle and be happy."
Jones-Drew is convinced that one way or another, things are going to work out fine for him.
"All you can do is play and let everything else take care of itself," he said. "I think that's the best way to do it, just keep playing and let your play speak for itself."
Oklahoma OT Phil Loadholt at the Senior Bowl.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
At 6-foot-8, 332 pounds, Oklahoma offensive tackle Phil Loadholt is a commanding presence in this year's draft class. But I wondered whether or not his height was a pure asset or a bit of a challenge at times at his position.
"I think it's definitely an advantage for me. There's not too many guys in this draft that have my height and size," he told me just prior to his Pro Day this week. "It can be a challenge in regards to bending, but I think I've done a good job with bending my knees and my waist. So it's really turned out to be an asset for me."
Loadholt weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 343, and I remember thinking that he looked lean enough at that weight to add a few pounds to his frame. But he's actually dropped 11 pounds since then and wants to try dropping to the 320- to 325-pound range.
"I just want to see if I feel a little lighter on my feet. As long as I can keep my strength, I think that would be a good idea for me to play at that weight," he said.
Loadholt is one of the top talents at his position who has a reputation for being particularly dominant in the running game.
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards is going to regret that he got what he wished for. After hearing that Terrell Owens had been released by Dallas, Edwards sent a text message to Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon suggesting that the team go after the veteran wide receiver. It didn't take long for Buffalo to fulfill that request, signing the brash and talented pass-catcher to a one-year deal reportedly worth $6.5 million.
But it could end up being a very costly test-drive with the controversial player who will be starting for a fourth team in seven years.
"I think on the field, he?s going to create and need a lot of attention by the defense and that?s going to take a lot of pressure off of Lee (Evans), a lot of pressure off of our backs and tight ends," Edwards said this week. "And I think he?s going to help a lot just in terms of raising our competitive level off of the field, too. He?s going to make guys work in the offseason, make guys work in the weight room, in the film room, and I?m anxious to get started."
The Bills quarterback admitted that he hasn't actually talked to anyone who has played on the same team as Owens, and that's a real shame. Because whatever progress Edwards has made to date in establishing himself as the leader of the Buffalo offense, he'll likely see it publicly eroded once Owens settles in and starts flexing his veteran ego and his vocal chords.
Unless Owens has had an epiphany of some sort after being cast-out by Dallas and becomes a true team player at this late stage in career, the Bills are now poised for a season of dissension and regression. It'll certainly be interesting to see how a relatively young team of players reacts to a veteran who doesn't have the best track record for being a role model.
So grab your popcorn, Buffalo fans. The Terrell Owens circus has come to town.
I experienced a bit of déjà vu last weekend while interviewing Missouri's Chase Coffman, one of the nation's top tight ends in this year's draft class. As the gifted, yet hard-working tight end answered my questions about his numerous accomplishments, his formal interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine and his skill set at his position, I was truly struck by his low-key, level-headed modesty. And as the conversation continued, I realized that he reminded me a lot of an NFL rookie-hopeful I had interviewed two years ago—Western Oregon tight end Kevin Boss, who was selected in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft in 2007 by the New York Giants. Since then, Boss has earned a Super Bowl ring and earned a starter's role.
When I told told Coffman that his quiet, focused approach to football, his calm and humble demeanor, and even his tone of voice reminded me of Boss, he became a bit flustered.
Missouri TE Chase Coffman.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
"He's a great player. He's made a lot of good plays for the Giants and it's fun to watch him," the Tigers' star said with a sincere tone of respect. "It's definitely an honor to be compared to somebody like that who's doing well for himself in the NFL."
Now remember, this is the response from a guy who caught 90 passes during his senior year for 987 yards and ten touchdowns out of the Tigers' spread offense. And he won the Mackey Award, recognizing him as the nation's best tight end.
I couldn't let the opportunity slip by, so I called The Bossman a couple of nights later, eager to let him know that he had a distant twin brother of sorts among this year's draft class.
"Oh, geez. That's crazy," was his initial reaction. "To have a guy like him, who is from a big school and one of the top tight ends coming into the league, for him to even know me seems like an honor. I guess I still feel like a small-school kid. I mean, it feels like just yesterday that I was talking to you on Draft Day," he said. "It doesn't feel like it's been that long, or that I've achieved to a level to where a guy like that knows me or where college tight ends would look up to me. That's definitely a big honor."
I had to laugh a bit, knowing full well that Boss—the kind of guy you'd want as your next door neighbor, or even dating your daughter for that matter—would be stunned by Coffman's comments.
The Giants tight end didn't waste any time dishing the compliments right back at Coffman, a player who is clearly among the top-tier of talent in this year's draft class.
"I've definitely seen some highlights and he seems like a guy who's going to make a name for himself in this league," he said. "Catching as many balls as he did last year, that's a tight end's dream. I remember being kind of jealous about the number of times he was getting the ball.
"Now I'll definitely be keeping an eye on where he goes. And it'll be fun to hopefully meet him down the road."
NFL teams in need of an upgrade at outside linebacker should take a good look at free agent Freddy Keiaho. The former Colts linebacker has logged 25 starts over the past two seasons and emerged as one of Indianapolis' top tacklers. A third-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft, Keiaho has used good football instincts, intelligence and speed to wrap-up ball-carriers all over the field. According to the Colts, the 5-foot-11, 226-pound weakside linebacker finished the 2008 season with 114 tackles, including 72 solo efforts—second-highest on the team. He also recovered a pair of fumbles.
A true fly-to-the-ball defender who also enjoys representing his team in the community, Keiaho has already had a visit with the Buffalo Bills and should be in high demand by NFL clubs as free agency progresses.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter for NFL updates and insights. And you can contact him by email through this link.