* Left Tackle Not That Premiere Anymore
As noted in this space several times in the past, the offensive right
tackle position is one that has become fairly mediocre around the
league, and has been summarily disenfranchised in Pro Bowl choices in
In most years, the Pro Bowl selections feature no more than one right
tackle among the six players named to the game at the position.
And on All-Pro teams, voters typically opt for a pair of left tackles
to fill out their ballots.
But there is a feeling among personnel people that the higher-profile
left tackle spot is also the weakest it has been in several years.
That's somewhat surprising, given that franchises have placed so much
emphasis on the left tackle spot in the first round of the draft, and
that nearly half the projected left tackle starters in the NFL for 2012
are former first-rounders.
But it might indeed be the case, with the deficiencies of a few tackles
perhaps being masked a bit by the fact they play with quarterbacks
whose quick releases in general make all of their offensive linemen
Or in offensive designs that highlight the shorter, quicker passing
games. One NFC personnel chief opined this week that there are "maybe
four" premier pass-protection left tackles in the NFL, and that the
position is a bit overrated.
* Bigger Is Better In Philly
Indications are that there has been some emphasis during the
Philadelphia on-field workouts in getting the team's "bigger" wide
receivers more involved, perhaps attempting to take some of the
workload off undersized starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
"They are always going to be the main guys," one offensive lineman said
of Maclin and Jackson, "but there's some move to get bigger targets
down the field, too."
Veteran Jason Avant has been one of the NFL's most productive No. 3
receivers, averaging 48.0 catches over the past three seasons, and with
campaigns of 50-plus receptions each of the past two years. But the
Eagles feel that Riley Cooper, a fifth-round choice in 2010 and a rangy
guy with sneaky speed, can be a factor in his third year and that even
rookie Marvin McNutt, a sixth-round pick who is 6-3, can help.
Along, of course, with placing more emphasis on the tight ends. One of
the guys who has stepped up in workouts is miniscule (5-8) Damaris Johnson, a free agent from Tulsa, and the Eagles want some of the
bigger guys to follow his lead.
* No Trade For You (Mr. Jenkins)
As he has publicly insisted, Dallas owner/general manager Jerry Jones
has no intention of trading veteran cornerback Mike Jenkins, even with
the offseason additions of Claiborne in the draft and pricey free agent
The rationale of Jones, Dallas officials told The Sports Xchange, is
that the $1.05 million salary Jenkins will make in 2012 is still a
palatable price to pay for a projected No. 3 cornerback in a league
where you need at least three top-shelf corners.
Even if it means that Jenkins departs as a free agent next spring and
the team gets nothing in return. At least two teams, in addition to the
trade inquiries made by Indianapolis and Detroit, have made overtures
about Jenkins since the draft, and been rebuffed. The Dallas source
even discounted reports that Jenkins will be dealt much closer to the
openings of training camps.
* Eyeballing Starks
A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks, who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season but
sustained an ACL injury in the team's playoff loss at Denver, to keep
tabs on his rehabilitation.
Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either
suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle, but he isn't likely to
return to the Steelers again.
The Steelers appear ready to go with second-round rookie Mike Adams
(Ohio State) at left tackle or, if he fails, to move second-year right
tackle Marcus Gilbert (13 starts as a rookie in 2011), over to the left
In fact, before the team grabbed Adams, the plan was to transition
Gilbert to the left side, which he played most of his college career.
Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay told The Sports Xchange that, while
coaches feel Luck has a solid "mental picture" of the team's offense,
new coordinator Bruce Arians "can't wait" to get the top overall choice
on the field and involved physically with the team. Luck, of course, is
the most notable of the rookies around the NFL who have not been able
to participate in OTAs because the school year at their respective
universities is not concluded.
... A source close to Minnesota cornerback Asher Allen insisted that
concussions are only a part of the reason the three-year veteran
abruptly retired this week, but would elaborate no further. As reported
by Twin Cities-area media outlets, the Vikings will not pursue a
portion of the $725,000 signing bonus Allen received in 2009.
... As noted here last week, the Denver Broncos have broached the
possibility of an extension for left tackle Ryan Clady, who is entering
the final season of his rookie contract, and the two sides have even
exchanged a few proposals. But a deal isn't particularly close. The
Broncos seem to feel that Clady, regarded by many as one of the game's
top pass protectors, has slipped a bit the last couple seasons. The
Clady camp has countered the fifth-year veteran has protected well
despite playing with some quarterbacks who often held the ball too
long, and that last season was an aberration with the mid-season switch
to Tim Tebow and an option-based attack. Clady also feels the addition
of Peyton Manning, who rarely takes sacks, will only accentuate his
... On the subject of the Broncos and money: The team has yet to decide
how to proceed with defensive lineman Ty Warren, who has declined a
request to reduce his base salary for 2012 from $4 million to the $1.5
million range. Warren has missed each of the past two seasons, with New
England in 2010 and the Broncos last year, because of injuries. But the
Broncos want to evaluate some of their young lineman, in particular
rookie Derek Wolfe, before deciding on Warren's future.
... Miami coaches haven't settled yet on where third-year defensive
lineman Jared Odrick will line up -- not even on if it will be inside
or outside -- but the sense is that the former first-rounder (2010)
could have a breakout season in the 4-3 scheme being installed by new
coordinator Kevin Coyle. Odrick played just one game as a rookie in
2010, and started only seven games last season.
... Not surprisingly, given his track record of shooting from the lip
without all the facts, New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott was
misinformed when he contended this week that commissioner Roger Goodell
cannot cancel the Pro Bowl himself. The CBA affords Goodell and the
league to suspend the game without the approval of the NFLPA.
... Even without a coordinator, in the absence of the suspended Gregg Williams, the St. Louis Rams have made it a priority to rebuild their
linebacker corps. ... Rookie tailback Chris Rainey has impressed
Steelers' coaches with his quickness in OTAs, but people have cautioned
that the former Florida star and fifth-round pick hasn't put on pads
yet. First-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley envisions Rainey in
the same role in which he used Dexter McCluster in Kansas City, but
Rainey will have to demonstrate he's a solid receiver. Although he had
just 69 receptions in four college seasons, Rainey did have 56 catches
total in his final two years with the Gators.
... In the wake of comments from Detroit vice chairman Bill Ford Jr.,
that some Lions' players lack maturity and have brought criticism on
the franchise with recent indiscretions, the Lions have asked some of
the more senior players on the young team to shoulder increased
* The last word:
"What else is he going to do? He can't sing or dance." -- New Orleans
interim head coach Joe Vitt, on his belief that franchise quarterback
Drew Brees, who has been absent from OTA workouts, will be at training
ATL: Tackle Not A Premiere Position?
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