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ESPN.com's Mel Kiper mocked Miami senior WR Phillip Dorsett to the Seahawks at No. 31.
"Dorsett would offer Seattle something they simply don't have on the roster right now, which is a player who can consistently create space with quickness in the passing game," Kiper wrote. "The Seahawks are simply far too reliant on Russell Wilson's ability to extend plays and allow wide receivers time to get open, and Dorsett is a Porsche in terms of acceleration and the ability to start fast and stop quickly. He also can beat you deep if you let him to run in a straight line." The 5-foot-9 5/8, 183-pound Dorsett expects to run a 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine in February, though he told ESPN recently that his best forty time in training was 4.21, a time that would break Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24 seconds.
Most in the media have ignored #Stickumgate. Fortunately, the folks at WFAN haven’t.
In the aftermath of Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice admitting to the application of stickum to his gloves and claiming that everyone did it, no other Hall of Famers (or other receivers) have come forward and said, “He’s right.” Instead, two of them (so far) have said they never used stickum.
First, it was Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Now, former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin has strongly denied using stickum in a segment with Evan Roberts of WFAN. “I love Jerry Rice, but that’s what everybody says. ‘Oh, everybody did it.’ That’s the oldest defense in the world,” Irvin told WFAN’s Evan Roberts. “I didn’t use Stickum. I never used Stickum, didn’t need Stickum, didn’t believe in Stickum. I wouldn’t do it. Troy [Aikman] would go off on me if I put Stickum on his footballs. You see what I’m saying? Stop asking me this junk. I didn’t feel like I should answer it. I have not answered one on it.”
And then things escalated. Quickly. And disturbingly.
“It’s almost like — and I hate to get this harsh — if Aaron Hernandez starts saying ‘Well, Michael murdered some people,’ don’t start asking me did I murder somebody,” Irvin said. “You know darn well I didn’t murder anybody. Just because somebody threw it out there — leave me alone with that mess. Get off my Twitter with that.”
Hopefully, Irvin’s comments will prompt more in the media to explore whether other receivers will be echoing Rice’s comments that all receivers used stickum or, as Carter and Irvin have done, stranding Rice on an island.
Miami senior WR Phillip Dorsett "40 time might end up being the fastest at the combine," speculates NFL.com.
"Still, as fast as he is, he never was a dominant college receiver, finishing with 121 career catches, albeit at 17.6 yards per catch and with 21 TDs; Amari Cooper had 124 catches this season alone," wrote College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin. "Still, expect Dorsett to excite scouts in the 40 and other drills." Colleague Daniel Jeremiah called him "probably ... the fastest player in this entire draft class." The 5-foot-9 5/8, 183-pounds Dorsett has 4.3 wheels.
The 49ers have a choice to make this offseason: whether or not to bring back their franchise all-time leading rusher, Frank Gore. To me, this decision is a fairly easy one. However, as it is with most things in life, it will come down to money.
This offseason has already been one loaded with change for the 49ers. They basically have a completely new coaching staff and will most likely be facing more roster turnover than they’ve experienced in recent years. What they need now is a strong presence on and off the field. And one of the most well respected guys in the 49ers locker room is Frank Gore. While his play on the field has started to decline a little bit recently, he’s still very capable and can teach young guys like Kendall Hunter and Carlos Hyde a few things.
Even though Gore is one of the most important players on the roster, this is still a business. General Managers can’t make decisions based on how well liked a player is by the fan base or because a player is the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. This is a “what have you done for me lately” league and it always comes down to money. Gore is set to be a free agent this offseason and the 49ers don’t have a ton of cap space. The 49ers will obviously try bringing him back on an extremely cap friendly deal but if Gore wants more money or more years than the 49ers brass thinks he deserves there’s a good chance he can walk. While I believe the 49ers should make a strong effort to bring him back, I don’t think they should handicap their salary cap situation just to bring him back.
As far as on the field performance and locker room contributions go, it’s not a hard decision about whether the 49ers should bring Gore back or not. What makes it difficult is the contract situation. If the 49ers and Frank Gore are on different pages about where the money should be, we could see this situation deteriorate very quickly. And for the record, Gore has made it known that he wants to be a 49er for life and I think he ends up taking a cap friendly deal to stay on for another season. Gore wants to make one final Super Bowl run with this team, which isn’t out of the question with the talent they have on this roster.
The first regular season game of 2015 is nearly eight months away, but Chris Myers is already preparing.
"The older you get, the earlier you have to start your grind," the Texans' 33-year old center said. "I've been working out. I've been kind of hanging with the family. For the most part, I'm just here working out and doing stuff with the kids."
Myers took part in a Texans Care event on Sunday in Seabrook, and he also took a timeout to talk football. In addition to his physical conditioning, he's also had a chance to interact with his new position coach Mike Devlin.
"I met Coach Devlin," Myers said. "Great guy. In speaking with a couple of the other guys that he coached up in New York before he got here. We're real excited to be able to have him. He's a grinder of a coach and we're looking forward to it."
The jump from 2-14 two seasons ago, to 9-7 and on the fringe of making the playoffs last season, has Myers and the Texans eyeballing more improvement in 2015.
"It's just being able to stay on a steady uprise," Myers said. "To be able to improve each year. I think we made drastic improvements from 2013 to 2014. That's the plan: to be able to do it again."
The Texans won't begin their official offseason workout program until April 20.
A year after joining the Baltimore Ravens, safety Will Hill wants a close friend to do the same.
On his Instagram account, Hill is openly campaigning for New York Giants free-agent safety Antrel Rolle to join him in Baltimore.
Hill started 10 games alongside Rolle when they were teammates in New York in 2013. The Ravens need a starting safety because Darian Stewart is a free agent and young players such as Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks have struggled.
"If things go the way I want me and big bro will be reunited," Hill wrote on a post that includes four photos of Rolle and himself while both played for the Giants.
Based on how Rolle played last season, it's debatable whether he would represent an upgrade. Rolle is on the downside of his career at the age of 32 and is coming off one of his worst seasons. He was ranked as the NFL's 81st-ranked safety by Pro Football Focus after missing 17 tackles and committing seven penalties.
It was a quick decline from 2013, when Rolle finished second in the NFL with six interceptions. He ranked No. 9 among safeties that season by Pro Football Focus.
Even if the Ravens were as interested as Hill is, it doesn't sound like Rolle wants to leave New York.
“I want to go back to the Giants for the fact I feel like I still have work to do,” Rolle told Sirius XM NFL Radio this week. “No matter how good or bad the season may have been for myself, you know, we’ve got one championship and I feel like that’s not enough. I feel like there’s more, obviously there’s more in the tank and more I need to provide as far as my services with that organization to try and help them win another title.”
Free agency begins March 10.
While it's unknown who will ultimately start at strong safety for the Ravens, Hill is likely to remain their free safety. He is expected to be tendered by the Ravens as a restricted free agent.
Andre Johnson has been a quiet giant in the NFL pass-catching industry for over a decade with the Houston Texans.
His blend of height, fierce competitiveness -- while running routes and with the ball in the air -- coupled with an always frighteningly toned body, deceptive speed and springy athleticism, made him one of the most productive receivers in league history.
Some have forgotten that Johnson had a 39-inch vertical at 230 pounds at his combine, and ran a 4.40 at his pro day.
(For perspective, a 220-pound Julio Jones had a 38.5-inch vertical at the 2010 combine.)
Now in the sunset of his NFL playing career, the soon-to-be 34-year-old wideout finds himself in an interesting situation.
Does he stay with the upstart Texans, who, at the very least, are a team that may be a few years away from Super Bowl contention? Or should he bolt to a squad ready to win a ring this season?
First, let's take a look back at how we got to this point.
The U Johnson was a foundational piece of the glorious Miami Hurricanes of the early 2000s, an epic collection of teams that redefined swagger and shipped an absurd amount of future All-Pros to the NFL.
In 2001, 10 of Johnson's 37 receptions went for touchdowns, and he averaged 18.4 yards per catch. Miami won the national title.
The next year, the heavily-favored Hurricanes lost in the championship game to the Ohio State Buckeyes in extremely controversial fashion, but the 6-foot-2, 230-pound rock of a receiver actually upped his yards-per-catch average to 20.0 while hauling in nine more scores.
In what ultimately became one of the worst draft decisions at wide receiver in NFL history, in the 2003 draft, the Detroit Lions picked speedster Charles Rogers from neighboring Michigan State No. 2 overall, which allowed the Texans to land Johnson with the third pick.
With David Carr and Tony Banks as his quarterbacks, the former All-American snagged 66 passes for 976 yards with four touchdowns as a rookie. The Best Ever Per Game
There aren't many who'd list Johnson as the greatest wide receiver ever, but on a game-by-game basis, the numbers, well, just take a look. Among those who played at least 120 games in their professional careers, Johnson is the only wideout in NFL history reach an average of 80 yards receiving per game.
WHERE JOHNSON RANKS AMONG WRS WITH MORE THAN 120 GAMES
That's top-of-resume, Hall-of-Fame-worthy stuff right there.
Johnson led the NFL in receptions (103 and 115) in 2006 and 2008 and receiving yards (1,575 and 1,569) in 2008 and 2009.
That remarkable two-year run was followed by an 86-grab, 1,216-yard, eight-touchdown 2010, a dazzling stat line he accomplished while playing in just 13 games. A few other records Johnson owns: he's the only player in league history with 60-plus grabs in his first eight seasons, and the only player with four seasons with both 100-plus catches and 1,400-plus yards
Oh, and no player has more 10-plus reception games than Johnson's 22. Jerry Rice had 17 such games in the regular season.
Not exactly playing for a contender Because the Texans were in their second year as a franchise when they drafted Johnson, most realized it would take a few years for the team to become competitive in the AFC.
But a few years turned into nearly a decade in the NFL for Johnson before Houston advanced to the postseason.
On both occasions -- at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons -- the Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round but were defeated by Baltimore Ravens the first time around and the New England Patriots in his last postseason appearance.
In four playoff games, the consistently prolific Johnson amassed 25 receptions for 358 yards with a touchdown.
During his pro career, Houston has only managed an 84-108 record, and Johnson's been on a pair of two-win teams.
Not that the lack of success the Texans have had diminishes the achievements of the stud wideout, but unfortunately, it would have been a treat to witness him in the spotlight of many more super-important games.
The fight The Texans' continuous struggles likely irked Johnson, and his frustration bubbled over in the fourth quarter of a late November 2010 outing against the divisional rival Tennessee Titans and chippy cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
After being pressed at the line by Finnegan aggressively and high, Johnson instantly retaliated by ripping the defensive back's helmet off. The two spun around, and Johnson's lid flew yards down the field before the much larger wideout landed punches to Finnegan's head.
It was one of the ugliest on-field brawls between two players in a long time and led to a fine of $25,000 for each.
Something tells me both Johnson and Finnegan probably would have been suspended if the fight went down last season. What's next? Occasional injuries have nagged Johnson throughout his career. He missed seven games in 2007, three games in 2010, and nine games in 2011.
However, he's been on the sidelines for only one game over the past three years.
After Matt Schaub's drastic decline that led to his release, Houston has started T.J. Yates, Matt Leinart, Case Keenum, Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unsurprisingly, with some of those signal-callers, Johnson had his worst season in 2014 since his rookie campaign.
Then again, he still racked up 85 catches, 936 yards with three scores. As a part of the seven-year, $62.7 million contract he signed in 2010, Johnson is set to be a $16.1 million cap hit in 2015.
In December, he said "I hope it all works out, where I can finish my career here and hopefully get this organization a Super Bowl before I retire," per the Houston Chronicle.
Will Johnson be willing to take a pay cut by way of a contract restructure? If not, a handful of playoff-ready teams would likely love to add a player of Johnson's caliber despite his age.
Regardless of what happens, Johnson, one of the consummate NFL receiving technicians of the 21st century, has had a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration.
Lauryn Williams announced her retirement from bobsled Thursday, ending one of the most unique and accomplished U.S. Olympic careers.
“As an athlete I am exhausted having done sports since age 9 and competing professionally for the last 10 years,” Williams said, according to U.S. Bobsled. Williams, 31, is one of five athletes to win Summer and Winter Olympic medals. She competed in three Olympics in track — 2004, 2008 and 2012 — taking silver in the 2004 Olympic 100m and gold in the 2012 Olympic 4x100m relay.
Then she retired from sprinting, picked up bobsled, made the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in her first season in the sport and won a silver medal pushing for Elana Meyers Taylor in Sochi.
Williams all but retired after Sochi but came back for four World Cup races this winter before ending her career.
“I fell in love with bobsled after just six months and wish I had found it sooner,” Williams said, according to U.S. Bobsled. “It really poured a refreshing sense of life into my heart, which was just what I needed at this point in my life.”
In his latest mock draft released Wednesday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Phillip Dorsett, the former Hurricanes standout wide receiver, going 31st overall to the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks. He is one of three UM players Kiper projects to go in the first round, along with offensive tackle Ereck Flowers (16th overall, Houston Texans) and inside linebacker Denzel Perryman (28th, Denver Broncos).
Kiper’s reasoning for his Dorsett-to-Seattle projection:
Another player who shined in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, Dorsett would offer Seattle something they simply don’t have on the roster right now, which is a player who can consistently create space with quickness in the passing game. The Seahawks are simply far too reliant on Russell Wilson’s ability to extend plays and allow wide receivers time to get open, and Dorsett is a Porsche in terms of acceleration and the ability to start fast and stop quickly. He also can beat you deep if you let him to run in a straight line. Remember that Paul Richardson will be coming off an ACL surgery recovery period as the 2015 season starts, so an already thin wide receiving corps isn’t a given to be better without any additions.
Dorsett, from Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas, led UM with 871 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior and averaged 24.19 yards per catch, the best among non-College Football Playoff FBS teams.
Kiper’s reasoning for his Flowers-to-Texans projection:
Analysis: This is a spot where I can see the Texans going in a few directions, and I like the fit of a cornerback here as well. And while taking a high-upside talent at tackle isn't a flashy pick, I think it fits a pattern of taking the best player available. Flowers has emerged as a potential top-12 pick and a challenge to some of the more well-known tackles available in this draft -- and depending on free agency, it's a possibility the Texans will be looking for a rookie to come in and take over starting duties at right tackle. Flowers plays with an edge, is a coachable kid who could get better quickly, and could become an elite pass protector if he can be better with his hand placement. (As to the cornerback possibility: I'm not sure they go after Peters if Waynes is off the board.)
Kiper’s reasoning for his Perryman-to-Broncos projection:
Analysis: The Broncos were solid along the defensive line last year and made important additions in the secondary before 2014 in the secondary. Perryman could be an immediate help as an inside linebacker, an area where they could use it as a team that remains in "win now" mode, assuming No. 18 is back under center. And even if Peyton Manning isn't back (I assume he will be at this point), it's not like they're looking for a replacement at this point in the draft.
The Hurricanes haven’t produced three first-round picks in a single draft since 2007, when Brandon Meriweather (24th), Jon Beason (25th) and Greg Olsen (31st) were chosen late on opening night.
The last Cane to be selected in the first round was Kenny Phillips (2008). That streak, UM’s longest first-round draft drought since 1960-67, will almost certainly be broken this year.
The Hurricanes had 14 consecutive first-round picks from 1995-2008. UM has had at least one player drafted every year since 1974.
Miami RB Duke Johnson's "times in the 40 and several other drills should be impressive [at the combine]," observes NFL.com.
"Johnson is a good receiver, which adds to his value and is a reason he could be the third back selected," wrote College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin. "He has had some injury issues, and his medical report will be scrutinized." NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein compares Johnson to C.J. Spiller. "Like Spiller, Johnson has ridiculous foot quickness and lateral agility," Zierlein wrote. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield with ease. He is a very natural runner, but like Spiller, Johnson faces questions about whether he can hold up to the pounding he'll take in the NFL." The 5-foot-9, 194-pound Johnson had 1,652 rushing yards on a 6.8 YPC average and 10 touchdowns in 2014, adding 38 receptions for 421 yards and three scores. CBS projects him as a Day 2 pick.
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein notes that Miami senior WR Phillip Dorsett "takes the top off the defense and throws it in the trash."
"Takes the top off the defense and throws it in the trash. Elite explosiveness. Gets to top speed quickly and is a seamless glider on crossing routes, leaving man-to-man defenses in his wake," Zierlein wrote. The Hurricanes prospect was easily the fastest player at the Senior Bowl, and put on a show for evaluators recently. It's been said that Dorsett's best forty time in training was a 4.21, and he'll have a shot at breaking Chris Johnson's record 4.24 forty time at the combine. While Dorsett showcases explosive straight-line speed, he can also can get in and out of breaks quickly, and does a great job staying under control with his routes.
Green Bay — The back-up quarterback position was not addressed before the 2013 season… and it came back to bite the Green Packers. The inside linebacker position was not addressed before the 2014 season… and that didn’t help, either.
By mid-season, the Packers mashed together a combination that sparked the run defense. Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington took on larger roles and the Packers’ last-ranked run defense finished the regular season strong.
Then, with Matthews out, Marshawn Lynch cut loose in the NFC Championship.
Chances are — whether its free agency or the NFL draft — general manager Ted Thompson won’t be ignoring the inside linebacker position again. Whether it’s a veteran in free agency or a prospect in the draft, the Packers could use more muscle in the middle.
And that’s where Miami (Fla.) inside linebacker Denzel Perryman enters the discussion.
Wearing the No. 52 carries a heavy responsibility in Miami. Both Ray Lewis and Jonathan Vilma cemented legacies in South Florida. Coaches gave Perryman that number and now the 5-foot-11, 244-pounder is considered the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect by many.
“He’s so powerful,” Hurricanes linebackers coach Hurlie Brown said. “He’s so strong in his hips and legs. All of his tackles are real big hits. But he’s so powerful and explosive, you don’t see many people make those plays and bend at the hips like he can.
“He’s extremely strong. And he’s smart. He really understands the defense. He understands the philosophy and how offenses are trying to attack him. He’s pretty much the total package.”
A throwback at middle linebacker, he first brought an attitude. All of his point-blank collisions inspired teammates, Brown said.
He points to two hits specifically — one fourth and 1, one third and 1. Against Cincinnati, on fourth down, Perryman delivered what Brown described as “one of the biggest hits I’ve ever seen."
“It wasn’t one of those hits where you’re coming down as a safety at 10, 12 yards full speed,” Brown said. “He steps right on your toes and the next thing you know, you’re going backwards. He’s just so powerful like that.”
Then, there’s the leap over South Carolina’s offensive line.
Perryman front-flipped over the offensive line, contorting his torso on the way down, grabbed quarterback Dylan Thompson and pulled him back behind the line. One of those “dream plays,” Brown said, that “you never see.”
“He studied film,” Brown said. “He felt he knew the play was coming. He took a chance, took a shot. The ball was snapped and he jumped over the line and it was perfect timing. Even the way he jumped over the line, his body twisted to where he was able to land facing the back of the quarterback to where he could pull the quarterback back.
“It was one of those freak things it takes a special person to do.”
On an up-and-down Miami team, Perryman had 110 tackles last season — 50 more than anybody else — with 9.5 for loss, two sacks, six pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. Vocally, Perryman was the one usually speaking up in practice and barking on game day.
While that leap over South Carolina was athleticism at its finest, athleticism may be one concern with Perryman. Can he cover? Can he play three downs? For all of the wincing hits into next week, he’ll also need to cover backs and receivers in the NFL. The next level is a game of match-ups with coordinators always isolating 1-on-1 situations.
“We didn’t do a lot of that,” Brown said of linebackers covering. “So obviously, he’s going to have to work on it. But he can do it. When he’s called upon to do it, he’s fast enough and athletic enough to do it.”
He’ll also face questions about his height, the same questions Wisconsin's Chris Borland faced last year. Both are sub-6 feet.
Yet the playing style — triggering decisions quickly vs. the run, setting a tone with big hits — is something that can apply. In 14 games (eight starts), the third-round pick Borland finished with 108 tackles and two interceptions.
Possibly Barrington did enough to warrant an opportunity to start in 2015. Meanwhile, the careers of A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones in Green Bay may have ended in Seattle.
Perryman is one violent option via the draft.
“You’ve got to have a guy in the middle who can control the defense and spark everybody’s play — get everybody lined up, is smart enough, physical enough and athletic enough to make plays,” Brown said. “That’s what he does for us. That’s what he did for us.”
He believes Perryman can do what former 52’s Lewis and Vilma did before him, too.
The last game Andre Johnson played in 2014 is the type of performance Fantasy owners still expect from him on a weekly basis. We always cling to the hope our favorite stars will never get old and never stop playing well.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case.
Johnson ended his season with 10 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville in Week 17. He saw 15 targets in the game and looked like he could still be a dominant force.
But that was Johnson's only 100-yard game of the season. And he scored just three touchdowns on the year. He finished with 105 Fantasy points, which made him the No. 41 receiver in standard leagues, and this was after finishing in the Top 12 the previous two seasons. His final stats were 85 catches, 936 yards and the three scores.
It's clear Johnson, 33, is losing the fight with father time when it comes to his career. He's no longer a dynamic playmaker -- DeAndre Hopkins is now the better receiver in Houston -- and poor quarterback play is also slowing Johnson down. He averaged just 11.0 yards per catch, which was his lowest total when playing at least 13 games since 2006. That average has also been on a steady decline from 14.9 yards per catch in 2011.
The Texans have to address their quarterback situation, and who starts could have a big impact on Johnson. Ryan Mallett is a free agent, but he could be Johnson's best bet for a return to form over Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tom Savage.
But even with the right quarterback, barring a trade for Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck, it's hard to count on Johnson as an upper-echelon Fantasy receiver this year. He's expected back in Houston even though he might have to restructure his contract (he's due $10.5 million guaranteed and will count $16.1 million against the salary cap), but Hopkins is now the Texans receiver to covet.
Hopkins had 76 catches for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns and was the No. 15 Fantasy receiver, and he's worth drafting as early as Round 4 in the majority of leagues. Johnson is a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best, and he's better in PPR formats. I wouldn't draft Johnson before Round 7 or 8 in PPR leagues and likely Round 9 in standard leagues.
He could easily surprise us this season a la Steve Smith, who had a Top 20 Fantasy season in 2014 at 35. And Anquan Boldin was also a Top 24 Fantasy receiver in 2014 despite being 34.
More often than not, however, Johnson will leave us disappointed this season. He's worth drafting with a late-round pick, and hopefully there are enough positive moments like we saw in Week 17 last season to keep us happy.
Just understand he's no longer the same dominant receiver we've seen for most of his career. Those days are behind him, and it's unlikely he can recapture that sustained excellence again.
Years ago, Miami Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson would have been categorized as a scatback once he made the transition to the NFL. In today's game, Johnson would fall under the more common designation of a third-down back. What Johnson won't be is projected as a feature back who can carry the load for an NFL offense.
But that doesn't mean his value is completely diminished.
In a class that features an elite, albeit injured, talent in Georgia's Todd Gurley, a potential first-round pick in Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and a wild card in Boise State's Jay Ajayi, Johnson holds advantages over all three of them.
Johnson is healthier at the moment than Gurley. The Miami product is far more polished in the passing game compared to Gordon. And Johnson's overall speed and quickness are superior to Ajayi's.
This combination will help place Johnson among the top five running backs in this year's class. The problems, though, stem from concerns over Johnson's size and durability.
The Miami native is listed at 5'9" and 206 pounds.
Weight certainly fluctuates for all athletes, and some of those listed measurements most likely haven't been updated in years. But the general consensus is that only one of the league's top rushers claims a smaller frame than Johnson.
Johnson's durability also remains in question due to his size.
The running back fractured his right ankle in a 2013 contest against the Florida State Seminoles. The same ankle was injured during the Hurricanes' 24-21 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2014 Independence Bowl. However, Johnson told The State's Josh Kendall it wasn't a severe injury.
A running back's durability extends beyond his ability to stay on the field, though.
A player takes a beating at the position throughout his career. A running back's shelf life isn't expected to be more than a handful of years, or whenever that player is about to reach 30 years old.
While fewer carries at the collegiate level can be seen as a positive for running back prospects, it also leaves room to question the back's ability to thrive as a team's No. 1 option out of the backfield.
Comparisons to the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy and the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles will be cited to place Johnson in a favorable light due to their similar statures.
McCoy, though, showed during his time with the Pitt Panthers that he could be the team's primary runner and carry a heavy load. In his two seasons compared to Johnson's three in Miami, McCoy actually accumulated more carries.
Charles' career path at Texas was much closer to Johnson's, but the current Chief still isn't the ideal comparison. The Cincinnati Bengals' Giovani Bernard's career path, which started with the North Carolina Tar Heels, may be the best example for how Johnson will transition to the NFL level.
During his first season with the Chiefs, Charles learned behind Larry Johnson. Bernard, meanwhile, only carried the ball 10.6 times per game as a rookie after being drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft.
This type of scenario would be ideal for Duke Johnson.
But even if the Miami running back is eventually placed into a similar situation, it doesn't guarantee success.
After exploding onto the scene as a rookie, Bernard was viewed as the new No. 1 running back in Cincinnati. Bernard's increased role didn't last long.
Through the initial five games of the 2014 season, Bernard averaged 17.2 carries. He then injured his ribs against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 19. The running back also suffered an injured shoulder and knee as the season progressed. By the end of the campaign, Bernard missed three games and averaged only 10.2 carries over his final eight games.
The Bengals instead turned to Jeremy Hill, a 238-pound rookie. Not only did the LSU product assume the lead back duties, but he went on to be one of the NFL's most productive running backs.
This is the concern that surrounds Duke Johnson. Can he hold up to the rigors of the NFL, or is he merely a rotational player among a team's running back stable? Like Bernard, Duke Johnson's value truly lies in his versatility.
During his final season on campus, Bernard averaged 6.7 yards per carry compared to Johnson's 6.8. The North Carolina standout snagged 47 receptions, while Duke Johnson grabbed 38. Both also proved to be dynamic returners during their careers.
As a pure runner, the Miami running back owns elite straight-line speed, tremendous lateral quickness and the ability to make a cut without slowing down. After running for 1,652 yards as a junior, Duke Johnson declared early for the draft. During his final collegiate campaign, he became Miami's all-time leading rusher.
Think about that for a second.
During his time in Coral Gables, Duke Johnson was more productive than Ottis Anderson, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Frank Gore.
However, Duke Johnson isn't the most physical runner. His speed makes him a valuable commodity, but he shouldn't be expected to break tackles or excel as a short-yardage runner at the next level.
The running back starts to separate himself as a receiver out of the backfield. Duke Johnson caught 38 passes for 421 yards as a junior. He isn't simply a check-down option either; the running back ran wheel and seam routes during the season. He can be a downfield threat when placed in the right situations.
Current players such as Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles bring the same value to their teams. Neither is counted upon to carry the ball more than 10-12 times per game, but each serves as one of his respective team's best receivers.
The running back is also a willing blocker. While Duke Johnson can be overwhelmed at the point of attack, he does a good job recognizing pressure and picking up the right blitzer or free rusher.
Duke Johnson even brings added value as a dynamic kick returner. While he wouldn't be the team's top option out of the backfield, the upcoming rookie can prove to be a major presence on special teams.
Prior to his junior season in which Miami coach Al Golden decided to use him only as a running back, Johnson averaged 31.4 yards per kick return. He also recorded a pair of touchdowns as a true freshman.
The Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are organizations that require running back depth and also finished 22nd overall or worse in kick return average.
As the NFL becomes more and more specialized with each passing season, the ability to contribute in multiple areas makes prospects like Johnson valuable commodities.
The Miami product's speed with the ball in his hands, ability to contribute in a team's passing attack and brilliance in the return game as a special teams ace will make Duke Johnson a early-round pick in April's NFL draft.
Just don't ask him to be a workhorse in a run-heavy offense.
Once an area of strength for the Giants, the safety position became something of a black hole for the team in 2014.
At the conclusion of 2013, the Giants had to be feeling good about their safety depth chart. Defensive captain Antrel Rolle was coming off of a Pro Bowl season, Stevie Brown, who recorded eight interceptions in 2012, would be returning from a torn ACL, they had the talented but troubled Will Hill on the roster, and had just signed Quintin Demps and drafted Nat Berhe to provide some depth.
Unfortunately, nearly every single one of those players disappointed in some way. Rolle finally started to show his age, and Hill was cut before training camp after violating the league's substance abuse policy, incurring a six-game suspension, and wound up on the Baltimore Ravens. Brown struggled to recapture his big-play form and lost his starting job, while Demps was overexposed as a starter.
Now Rolle, Brown and Demps are free agents, meaning the opportunity is ripe for the Giants to revamp the position through free agency. They will have at least $15 million in cap space to work with, possibly more if they make some roster cuts, which should give them the flexibility to throw some money at some of the top safeties on the market.
The big question Giants fans have been asking is whether the team will give Rolle another contract. Looking at the top free agent safeties, it's difficult to determine where Rolle would rank. If a team is paying him for past performance, he would easily fall in the top 10, but his performance really slipped in 2014, with very few big plays, a lot of missed tackles, and poor coverage.
For that reason, I placed Rolle at the bottom of the list of top free agent safeties on the free agent market. Keep in mind that some of these guys might not be available for the Giants, as their respective teams can always re-sign them before March 10, when the free agency floodgates officially open.
Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin saw the highest of highs and some lows in 2014.
Benjamin was at the forefront of Cleveland’s 29-28 Week 5 win over the Tennessee Titans – you know, the victory that became the largest come-from-behind road win (25-point deficit) in NFL history
“That’s a game I’ll remember until I die,” Joe Thomas said in a recent interview.
Two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Brian Hoyer were secured in the back of the end zone by Benjamin. The following week, representatives from the Hall of Fame made the trip to Berea to collect Benjamin’s jersey for display in Canton.
“It feels like a kid going to Disney World,” Benjamin said.
But the 2014 season wasn’t all roses for Benjamin. Known as a dynamic punt returner in his first two seasons with the Browns, Benjamin saw his production take a dip. In 2013, Benjamin averaged 11.7 yards per return and boasted a 79-yard touchdown before tearing his ACL. In 2014, his average fell to 8.5, and Cleveland was forced to experiment with Jordan Poyer and even 32-year-old safety Jim Leonhard.
“I have to come in and keep pushing,” Benjamin said in an October interview.
On Dec. 7 with the Indianapolis Colts in town, the special teams unit would face their biggest challenge yet. Both specialists, Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee, were ranked first at their positions. Further, former Browns return man Josh Cribbs was making all of the headlines after he said he would jump in the Dawg Pound if he scored a touchdown.
The special teams unit rose up to the challenge, stifling Indianapolis in the field position battle. Benjamin took the encounter personally, as he ran back a first-quarter punt 37 yards to give Cleveland a heap of momentum.
But the play that best embodied Benjamin’s competitive “Play like A Brown” nature was in Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. In the fourth quarter, quarterback Brian Hoyer underthrew Benjamin on a deep route near the right sideline. Carolina cornerback Josh Norman intercepted the pass and sprinted up field.
After sprinting and weaving 40 yards through would-be Browns tacklers, Norman felt someone behind him. It was Benjamin, who poked the ball free and recovered the fumble, giving the Browns another chance.
“That play, to me, shows you what Travis Benjamin is all about,” linebacker Barkevious Mingo said. “He just never gives up anything.”
Said Mike Pettine: “If you had said to me that happened and guess who did it, Travis probably would have been the first or second name that I would have come up with. That’s the type of play that he would make for sure.”
All in all, Benjamin ended up leading Cleveland in touchdown receptions, battled through adversity as a punt returner and proved to his teammates and Browns fans he will fight on every single down.
“I still have room to grow as a playmaking receiver,” Benjamin said in his exit interview. “And I hope I can prove that.”
Jon Jay and the Cardinals have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year contract. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch says it’s worth $10.975 million.
Jay was arbitration eligible for the second time after hitting .303 with three homers and a .750 OPS in 140 games last season while holding off Peter Bourjos to remain St. Louis’ starting center fielder.
He requested $5 million for 2015 and the Cardinals countered at $4.1 million. The two-year deal will also buy out his third and final season of arbitration eligibility and Jay can still become a free agent following 2016.
NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein believes NFL teams "are going to want to see [Miami ILB Denzel Perryman's] athletic numbers."
"He's not very tall (measured 5-foot-10 5/8 at the Senior Bowl last month) and he played heavier than he should have at Miami (240-plus pounds)," Zierlein wrote. "If his weight is lower and he tests faster, that's going to help his stock." An AFC director of scouting told NFL.com earlier this week that Perryman is a "thumper" and a "badass." NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects him as the No. 30 pick in the first round to the Packers.
If you want to talk about the best ways to start off your NFL career, winning a free Porsche for being ridiculously fast ranks right near the top. According to ESPN, Adidas will be putting three Porsche 911 Carreras up for grabs at the NFL Scouting Combine for the three fastest participants in the 40-yard dash who sign with the company.
Three players will win Porsche 911 Carrera cars.
The offer comes from Adidas, which is promising the cars, worth about $83,000 each, to the three fastest players in the combine's 40-yard dash who sign with the company before they step up to the line. The cars are wrapped in a cheetah print that matches the company's new Uncaged adizero 5-star cleat. The ultralight shoe hits shelves Thursday.
Phillip Dorsett from the Miami Hurricanes may be the man to beat, though. According to Susan Miller Degnan of The Miami Herald, Dorsett actually set a University of Miami all-time record for the 40-yard dash at 4.21 seconds.
This month, Dorsett set a University of Miami all-time best of 4.21 seconds in the 40-yard dash, bettering former Hurricane Sam Shields’ 4.26 record.
Both those times, said UM Canes strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey, were averages of a few stopwatches timing the players for each 40.
One stopwatch, Swasey said, had Dorsett running a 4.18.
The Seahawks have signed guard/center Jared Wheeler, according to a Tweet from the player's agent.
Wheeler, 24, was an undrafted free agent out of Miami in 2014, spending time with Buffalo and Carolina in the preseason. He's listed at 6 feet 5 and 320 pounds.
Wheeler's signing adds depth to a position that was racked with injuries last season. Four different players started at least one game at center for Seattle. Two of them, Stephen Schilling and Lemuel Jeanpierre, are free agents.
Dolphins RE Olivier Vernon said he would be open to signing a contract extension with Miami.
Vernon is one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league. LE Cameron Wake gets all the attention, but Vernon has posted back-to-back solid seasons with 2014 being his best. He started all 16 games as a 24-year-old and finished with 6.5 sacks and 48 pressures one year after registering 11.5 sacks. PFF graded Vernon as a top-17 4-3 end. He's entering the final year of his rookie deal. The Dolphins have a bunch of talent on the defensive line.
Drew Rosenhaus addressed backup Dolphins tackle Jason Fox, who is one of his clients.
Fox is a free agent and played well in limited action as an injury replacement at both left and right tackle.
When asked if the Dolphins would need to draft a tackle in case left tackle Branden Albert isn’t full recovered from his ACL/MCL injury, Rosenhaus said “I don’t think so if the Dolphins re-sign free agent Jason Fox who played very well at the end of the year.”
“They’re very well set with (right tackle) Ja’Wuan James at one spot,” Rosenhaus said. “Fox, he proved that he could hold down the fort. If they lose Jason Fox, yes, they need another tackle.”
If the Dolphins don’t bring Fox back, it might signal that they believe Billy Turner — Miami’s third-round pick in 2014 who is projected as a starting guard in 2015 — could fill in at tackle.
Turner was a two-time All-America FCS left tackle at North Dakota State.
Rosenhaus said he’s not sure if the Dolphins will bring Fox back.
“I don’t know much yet,” Rosenhaus said. “I’ve talked to Dennis Hickey. They’ve indicated they’re very fond of Jason Fox but we have not started any negotiations yet.”
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had his $2.9 million base salary and $5 million roster bonus for the 2015 season become guaranteed Wednesday, CBSSports.com's Joel Corry reports.
Including his signing and workout bonuses, Graham will count $11 million against the cap next season. He caught 85 passes for 889 yards with 10 touchdowns in 2014, marking his fourth straight season with at least 85 receptions.
Houston (CBS Houston) – In the midst of his tenth NFL offseason Chris Myers isn’t worried about contracts, dead money, and being cut. It’s the two primary F’s in his life: football and family.
“I’m just playing ball man,” Myers said Sunday aboard the Princess Cruises ship as part of a Texans care event. “I just go out there and play ball. Obviously the business end kicks in but that will happens when it happens. I’m just out there focused on trying to get better for 2015.”
He has been the starting center for the Texans for 112 consecutive games. It almost seems abnormal to think the offensive line wouldn’t be situated around number 55, but that’s where the Texans are this season.
A difficult year in 2014, father time, and his possible salary has put Myers in the cross hairs as a potential cap casualty.
He is scheduled to make $8 million according to the website spotrac.com. The Texans would save $6 million by parting ways with Myers but they would be without a starting center.
That isn’t the focus for Myers. He said he has already started working out for next season because “the older you get the earlier you have to start working out and training.”
He has also checked up on his new offensive line coach, Mike Devlin.
“Really fiery guy,” Myers said of the veteran coach who is entering his 9th year in the NFL. “Has a lot of great coaching experience throughout the NFL. Talked with a bunch of guys he has coached in the past so we’re looking forward to working with him.”
It isn’t all work and no play making Myers a dull offensive lineman. He is staying more than busy with his family. Often referring to Houston as his home, he plans on “lots of time” with the family and even a little coaching, but not football.
“Coaching T-ball,” he said of his offseason plans, “being able to enjoy the kids for the offseason.”
Many were surprised when Washington re-signed strong safety Brandon Meriweather to a one-year deal following the 2013 season.
Jim Haslett’s defense desperately needed an upgrade at safety. But after Washington’s front office concluded the long-term solution wasn’t available on the free-agent market, the team brought Meriweather back on a one-year deal that suggested he was a stop-gap measure for 2014 — a hedge against the possibility that Phillip Thomas wouldn’t be ready for starting duty after missing his rookie season with a Lisfranc injury.
It wasn’t bad thinking. Meriweather proved more durable than Thomas, who struggled with injury throughout, and more capable than Bacarri Rambo, the other backup in line to challenge for his job, finishing with 55 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles.
But for the third consecutive year in Washington, Meriweather failed to log a full season for familiar reasons. He missed the first two games because he’d been suspended by the NFL for an illegal hit on Baltimore’s Torrey Smith during Washington’s loss in its third preseason game. And he missed the last four with a sprained big toe, finishing the year on injured reserve.
Heading into his ninth NFL season, Meriweather is a free agent once again. And for several reasons — some familiar, others new — it’s difficult to picture Washington bringing back the secondary’s aggressive, hard-hitter once more.
Here’s why: • Meriweather hasn’t managed to play a full NFL season since 2010 because of various rules infractions and ailments. He missed all but one game of the 2012 season, his first in Washington, with knee injuries. In 2013 he was slapped with a two-game suspension for illegal hits against Chicago but managed to get it reduced to a one-game ban.
• Washington’s short-term solution at safety in 2014 — re-signing Meriweather and adding veteran Ryan Clark — merely forestalled a problem rather than fixed it. Though Clark provided leadership and stability on a defensive backfield that needed it, the unit gave up far too many big plays, whether because of missed assignments or a lack of speed. With Meriweather and Clark now 31 and 35, respectively, Washington probably needs two new starting safeties.
• A new defensive coaching staff is in charge, with Haslett replaced by former San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry. Gone too is defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. So continuity among personnel isn’t necessarily a virtue as Barry goes about re-making a defense that gave up 27.4 points per game (tied for 29th in the NFL) and 357 yards per game (20th). Moreover, Washington’s new general manager, Scot McCloughan, has a record of favoring big, rangy defensive backs; Meriweather is 5-11, 197. McCloughan also prefers developing young players through the draft.
• Finally, while aggression is essential for safeties, Meriweather’s unchecked zeal has earned him a reputation as a dirty player. With the NFL cracking down on contact by defensive backs, Meriweather vowed last fall to lower his strike zone and lead with his shoulder rather than the crown of his helmet. But amid the explosiveness of live games, checking a reflex is difficult to do. Meriweather’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Smith during the preseason resulted in his sixth infraction for an illegal hit in his pro career.
Given his history, Meriweather has lost any benefit of the doubt among NFL officials. That was evident when the NFL denied his appeal of the two-game suspension to start the 2014 season, standing firm rather than reducing it.
The suspension cost Meriweather dearly. His forfeited checks for missing the Sept. 7 season opener at Houston and Sept. 14 home opener against Jacksonville totaled $100,588.
But the suspension cost the Redskins dearly, as well.
Rambo filled in for Meriweather and gave up a 76-yard touchdown in the loss at Houston and took a bad angle that led to a 69-score against Jacksonville. Rambo was waived once Meriweather was cleared to play.
Although Meriweather’s services could likely be had for a reasonable price, that price is likely too high for Washington’s new decision-makers. A struggling defense in need of a new culture and greater discipline and physicality can’t afford the risk Meriweather represents.
Blue Jays infielder Danny Valencia had filed for $1.675 million in arbitration. The Jays team filed for $1.25 million. They just had their hearing and Valencia won, the team has announced. It was Toronto’s first actual arbitration case in 18 years. Maybe they were rusty.
Valencia was traded from the Royals to the Jays last season. Overall he hit .258/.296/.371 in 284 plate appearances.
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