New York Giants
--The Giants' fourth round draft choice last month was a running back who is clearly too big for the job, too heavy for the job and probably miscast.
"Not at all," said 6-4, 267-pound Brandon Jacobs, the running back in question. "I have always been called too big, but I have always been a running back and I have always succeeded."
He is a phenom, at least until he proves he can't play. A man that tall and with that much weight ran a certifiable 4.40 speed in the 40-yard dash, and on Pro Day at Southern Illinois University, he was clocked in 4.4.
"Did you truly run a 4.4?" he was asked at the Giants' rookie camp.
"Yes, sir, I truly did," he smiled. "I have always been fast."
Well, big and fast and rock hard are all good qualities for a running back, but why, then, did it take until the fourth round for him to find a home in the NFL?
"I don't know, and I'm not much interested," he said, although affably. "At least six teams told me I would be looked at, by them, as a tight end or an H-back. I told them I was a running back."
Jacobs' speed in the "takeoff" at the Combine, the first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash, was 1.55 seconds. It was the second fastest "takeoff" at the Combine, second only to the 1.53 registered by Kansas State RB Darren Sproles, who is 5-6 and 185.
"Yeah," Jacobs smiled. "He is a little guy, isn't he?"
As to his unlikely size, Jacobs just smiled. "I love being a big running back," he said. "It gives me a major advantage in my stride. I have always been the biggest kid on the team, in class, always. As a running back I get down low and I can hit hard and I know if I need just a yard or two, nobody is going to deny me. I do not have to concentrate to run low, it just is a natural thing. I am very confident and I am glad the Giants drafted me."
Jacobs was at Auburn, playing behind Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, when the obvious became his motivation and he transferred to SIU. He could have transferred to a Division 1-A school (SIU is Division 1-AA) but that would have meant sitting out a year, whereas moving from 1-A to 1-AA doesn't impose a penalty. "I thought about that," he said, "and then I decided that if I thought I could play in the NFL, it was time to get moving."
He will soon get moving, staying low even though he might be the biggest RB in the league this season.
After an unsettling offseason in which Redskins fans began to doubt their former idol, Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, an assistant coach with the club stepped forward with some much-needed perspective.
Assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, whose currency is sky-high following an improbable run to the No. 3 defensive ranking in 2004, broke a spring-long silence by strongly supporting the club's recent moves.
Although he ironically said he hadn't been speaking because he wanted to defer to Gibbs, his words resonated because of his recent success compared to Gibbs'.
"Sometimes, sometimes, taking a more patient, cautious approach, you end up winning in the long run," Williams said. "We'll see. I believe the Redskins have won so far in how we've addressed our offseason. I know from a work standpoint, from a character standpoint, the few additions we have made will fit right in."
The Redskins have absorbed plenty of criticism while losing two top defensive players in free agency, dealing No. 1 wide receiver Laveranues Coles for erratic Santana Moss, watching linebacker LaVar Arrington go on a tirade and having Moss and safety Sean Taylor skip the offseason workout program.
Then came the draft, in which the Redskins traded three picks for a first-rounder, which was used to select Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, who could create a quarterback controversy with fourth-year passer Patrick Ramsey the current starter.
But Williams rejected the widespread criticism. As far as he's concerned, not every free agent loss needs to be replaced with a free agent addition, and sometimes organic growth is better than the quick-fix type that stimulates fans.
"At some point in time, we've got to grow our own around here," Williams said. "We can't jump out and be worrying about correcting other peoples' draft choices."
Williams also put in his two cents about Taylor, whose absence from the workout program is considered a sign of how the former Hurricane still hasn't gotten his act together and how a renegade mentality is overtaking the team.
"We'd like for him to be here, but you know what -- and you can quote me on this -- I'm a Sean Taylor fan," Williams said. "I love the kid. ... He is so much fun to coach, and so much fun to have on our team. It'll work out."
The ball that wide receiver Greg Lewis caught from Donovan McNabb for a 30-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 24-21 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in February sits on a mantel in Lewis' home. It's the first, but he hopes not the last, piece of career memorabilia he will put up there.
Two years ago, Lewis was an against-the-odds undrafted free agent with a seemingly slim chance of making the Eagles roster. But he did make it and has quickly seen his role with the team grow. He caught 17 passes last season and came on strong in the playoffs when he had eight receptions for 182 yards in three games, including that late Super Bowl TD.
He was the club's No. 4 wideout last year. But with Freddie Mitchell released and Terrell Owens threatening to sit out the season if the Eagles don't redo his one-year-old contract, Lewis' role could increase by leaps and bounds in '05.
This is a guy who couldn't even break into the starting lineup at Illinois, but is starting to blossom as a pro with a team that has been to four straight NFC title games.
"His movement reminds me a lot of a Chad Johnson-type guy," Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "He's slender, and he's able to move in and out of his cuts, because of his body type, without giving any indication of what he's doing.
"He's an excellent football player. If he's on the field more, then I have just as much confidence in him as I have in (the players he would replace)."
Lewis is going to be around for a while. Reid and offensive coordinator Brad Childress saw the potential the kid had last year and signed him to a five-year contract extension. He can play all three wide receiver positions. Assuming Owens returns in time for the season, Lewis likely will replace Mitchell in the slot, though he'll probably be utilized more by McNabb than Mitchell was.
"He's a smart guy," Childress said. "He's not thinking out there at all. Right from the first day of his first minicamp with us, he kind of flashed at us. He's not just straight-line fast. He (changes directions well), and he's got very nice hands."
Lewis is confident in his abilities and feels he'll get plenty of playing time and reception opportunities regardless of what happens with Owens.
"I could care less who's here and who's not here," he said. "I just go out and do what Greg can do. That's what's gotten me this far, so that's what I'm going to stick with."
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