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Ereck Flowers Strongest OL at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS ‐ Strength is mandatory for a quality offensive lineman. At the NFL Scouting Combine, it's measured in the bench press, where prospects are asked to put up 225 pounds.

It's not perfect, but it does serve as some sort of indicator of pure strength. Here are the results for some of the offensive linemen in Thursday's bench press:

Top 10
1. OT Ereck Flowers (Miami) 37
2. OG Mitch Morse (Missouri) 36
3. OT Sean Hickey (Syracuse) 35
4. OG Mark Glowinski (West Virginia) 31
5. C Cameron Erving (Florida St.) 30
5. OG Ali Marpet (Hobart) 30
7. C Andy Gallik (Boston College) 29
7. OG John Miller (Louisville) 29
7. OT Tyrus Thompson (Oklahoma) 29
10. OG Jamil Douglas (Arizona St.) 28
10. OT Corey Robinson (South Carolina) 28

Other Notables:
OG A.J. Cann (South Carolina) 26
OG Donovan Smith (Penn St.) 26
OG Laken Tomlinson (Duke) 25
OT Brandon Scherff (Iowa) 23
OT Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) 23
OT T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh) 22
OT La'el Collins (LSU) 21
OG Rob Havenstein (Wisconsin) 16

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Duke Johnson compares himself to LeSean McCoy

INDIANAPOLIS – University of Miami running back Duke Johnson is fast and explosive. But many draft analysts peg him as a third-rounder because of questions about his durability and ability to be a lead back.

It’s also a deep running back draft, which court hurt Johnson.

But Johnson believes he can be a three-down back and a major difference maker in the NFL.

“It’s not my job to tell you what I think about what other people say,” he said today at the NFL scouting combine. “The only thing is to come in and show that I can do it and I can perform.

“Whoever drafts me will get a great player and they won’t regret it.”

He met with the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night and has a lot of interviews lined up with NFL teams.

Johnson says he won’t bench at the combine but he’ll do all the other drills. He’s hoping to complete the 40-yard dash in the low 4.4’s.

He compared himself to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

“His quickness, his burst, his ability to move in the open field, receiving out of the back field,” Johnson said.

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Phillip Dorsett seen by Jeremiah as a mid-Rd. 2 value

Miami WR Phillip Dorsett debuted at No. 45 on NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's board.

"Dorsett is an undersized wideout with rare burst and speed," Jeremiah wrote. "He defeats press coverage with his quickness and he quickly eats up cushion when cornerbacks play off coverage. He is an easy/fluid route runner and he explodes at the top of his stem. He tracks the ball naturally down the field and he doesn't shy away from balls in traffic. He has a couple extension drops, but his hands are solid. After the catch, he isn't very elusive or powerful, but if he gets a crease he can run away from everybody on the field. Overall, this player lacks ideal size and physicality, but he's a valuable weapon in the vertical passing game." Dorsett will run one of the fastest 40 times at the combine. He's hoping to break the 4.3 barrier. Doing so would put him in the Round 1 discussion.

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Ravens plan to meet with RBs Melvin Gordon, Duke Johnson and David Johnson at combine

The Ravens met with University of Miami running back Duke Johnson.

Johnson is slightly undersized at 5 feet 9, 206 pounds, but is quick and elusive and has good hands. There are some durability concerns with Johnson, but his versatility and jump-cut running style have drawn comparions to Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

He's projected as a second-round draft pick after finishing his college career with 3,519 yards and 26 touchdowns.

“Being able to receive out of the backfield is the No. 1 thing," Johnson said. "I’m a mismatch with linebackers. I can catch the ball really well. I think at the end of the day if there’s short yardage and I need to get it, I’ll go and get it. Whoever drafts me will get a great player and they won’t regret it.”

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49ers to meet with TE Clive Walford at 2015 NFL Combine

The San Francisco 49ers have their front office and part of the coaching staff in Indianapolis this week for the 2015 NFL Combine. It marks the best opportunity to see most of the note-worthy draft eligible players, and that includes up to 60 meetings with the players. The 49ers have likely had several meetings already, but here is one that was confirmed by a player:

A visit can mean nothing in the big picture given that teams will chat with a lot of players leading up to the draft. But it is still interesting to track the names that pop up in connection with the 49ers.

The general consensus seems to have Walford as the No. 2 tight end, behind Maxx Williams (Minnesota), and ahead of guys like Nick O'Leary (Florida State) and Ben Koyack (Notre Dame). Poldarn posted his latest composite big board at the end of January. The composite had Walford ranked 76th overall.

Walford has the size and athleticism to handle both blocking and receiving duties. That composite ranking puts him firmly in the third round, but both Buffalo Rumblings and Big Blue View would be fine with grabbing him earlier than that. They both provided their scouting reports, and you can read more at NFL.com. The reports indicate he is capable in the passing game, but is not quite a big play threat.

The 49ers head into the offseason with Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier under contract. Garrett Celek is a restricted free agent, which means there is a strong chance he returns if the 49ers are interested. The 49ers could have a full stable of tight ends already in place for next season, but given the performances last season, some change could be in order. Even if Davis returns, he is entering the final year of his contract. McDonald has been underwhelming, although injuries were a problem this year. Carrier is an intriguing prospect, but he has never really broken out, and injuries cut short his 2014.

I don't know that I would see the 49ers investing in a tight end in the first two or three rounds, but plenty can change between now and late April. The 49ers seemingly have bigger concerns at the moment, but it's not like tight end is a rock of stability.

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Ravens meet with top tight ends Maxx Williams, Clive Walford at scouting combine

The Ravens are dealing with some uncertainty at the tight end position because starter Owen Daniels is a free agent and Dennis Pitta's career is in doubt because of a recurring hip problem.

So, the team is exploring its options at the position in the NFL draft. The Ravens have met with Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams and Miami tight end Clive Walford at the NFL scouting combine.

Williams, a projected late first-round draft pick who declared early for the draft, has athletic bloodlines as the son of former New York Giants center Brian Williams, a 1989 first-round draft pick. His mother played volleyball at Minnesota.

Williams has drawn comparisons to Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

"He's a complete tight end, in my opinion," Williams said about Witten. "He blocks. He runs routes. He makes plays for his team. That's what I want to be. I want to go to the NFL and be a complete tight end and make plays with my hands but also in the run game by making complete blocks."

Williams, 20, caught 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns last season and was named All-Big Ten Conference.

"As I'm going to the next level and will work on my craft, I can take my game to the next level that much better," Williams said. "Being only 20 years old, knowing that my body's not fully developed into what it could develop into, is a strength."

Walford dominated Senior Bowl practices, especially in red-zone drills.

“I have a great ability to jump,” Walford said. “In the red zone, I use my body and my jumping ability to go up over the top of defenders and grab the ball. I am the best tight end in this draft because I can block, I can catch, I can run after the catch, do everything that a tight end is expected to do.”

Walford, who caught 121 career passes and scored 14 touchdowns, also had combine meetings with the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.

There are some questions about his consistency, though.

Walford also showed he was healthy at the Senior Bowl after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his right meniscus.

"It was very important because I was told that people thought I tore my medial collateral ligament, which I didn't," Walford said. "I just had a scope on my right meniscus. I just wanted to go out and show everybody that I was healthy."

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Texans' O'Brien: We don't want Andre Johnson to play anywhere else

Texans general manager Rick Smith told reporters that Larry Fitzgerald's restructured deal won't impact Andre Johnson's situation in Houston. Coach Bill O'Brien also backed up Smith's comments, reiterating that the team wants Johnson to retire as a Texan.

"We don't want him to play anywhere else. He's a Houston Texan," O'Brien said, per the team's official website.

Johnson, 33, appeared in 15 games in 2014, but had his arguably his worst statistical season. He finished with 85 catches for 936 yards and three touchdowns. He is due to make $10.5 million in 2015, and $11 million in 2016 before becoming a free agent in 2017.

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Reggie Wayne's playing future in question

Colts GM Ryan Grigson indicated at the Combine that he's unsure of free agent Reggie Wayne's desire to keep playing.

Wayne's performance fell off a cliff in 2014 as he attempted to return from a torn ACL at age 36. He had a negative impact on Indianapolis' offense. Grigson acknowledged Wayne still means a lot "to the organization," but his future is "up in the air." We would not expect Wayne back in Indy.

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Coughlin: Antrel Rolle’s desire to make his team better sets him apart

Giants free safety Antrel Rolle can enter unrestricted free agency in March.

And head coach Tom Coughlin would like him to stay right where he is.

Speaking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine Thursday, Coughlin indicated it was no secret he wanted the 32-year-old safety on the roster for 2015, but he also noted the club had a budget.

“Certainly it’s been stated, you don’t need me to state it again, we’d like him to come back, obviously we do have financial restrictions involved,” Coughlin said, according to an interview transcript from the PFWA.

Coughlin said Rolle’s efforts to help the Giants distinguished him.

“He’s an outstanding young man, and really, I’ve never come across a player that was more interested in his team and trying to help his team be better in any way they could,” Coughlin said.

“I think countless Tuesdays Antrel was in my office with, ‘How can we get better? What can we do to get better?’ Just thoughts going back and forth between coach/player, in terms of how our team could improve.”

Rolle is 51st in PFT’s ratings of the top 100 free agents. He has not missed a game in five campaigns with the Giants, intercepting 14 passes and forcing five fumbles in regular-season play in that span.

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John Salmons headed to Phoenix, Expected To Be Cut

Updating a previous report, John Salmons has been sent to Phoenix as a part of the Norris Cole trade.

Salmons is going to be fighting for minutes behind Gerald Green and Marcus Thornton, and with season averages of 2.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field, he's very unlikely to suddenly emerge as an asset in any league. Salmons is actually expected to be cut by the Suns.


Kiper: Denzel Perryman is a first-rounder right now

ESPN's Mel Kiper thinks Miami ILB Denzel Perryman would be a first-rounder if the draft were tomorrow.

Perryman ranks as Kiper's No. 1 middle linebacker. "The more I've watched the tape of Perryman from the 2014 season, the more I like him," Kiper wrote. "He just does so many things well in terms of attacking the line of scrimmage and taking on blocks. Coverage is a question, but I think he lands in Round 1 if the draft is tomorrow. He can help a team now." NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah projects him as the No. 30 pick to the Packers. "Scouts love Perryman's physical, angry playing style -- he's a burly, stout, old-school linebacker who wants to hit the ball carrier," NFL.com colleague Lance Zierlein recently wrote.

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proCane ILB Denzel Perryman compared to Jon Beason

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock compares Miami ILB Denzel Perryman to Jon Beason.

"Perryman is fun to watch on tape," Mayock said. "He flies around. Reminds me of a Jon Beason. Everybody said he was too small. All he does is make plays." An AFC director of scouting told NFL.com recently that Perryman is a "thumper" and a "badass." The 6-foot, 243-pounder (4.72 forty) may sneak into Round 1 in the spring.

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Duke Johnson's durability could hurt draft stock

Miami RB Duke Johnson "a very explosive player, but durability concerns could hurt his draft stock," wrote ESPN's Todd McShay.

"He's undersized (5-9, 206), and even though he started all 13 games in 2014, he's dealt with some injuries during his Miami career," McShay wrote. "He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in 2013, has dealt with concussion-like symptoms and has a history of migraines." 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. He finished with 3,519 career rushing yards, passing in the record books elite Hurricane RBs such as Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee and Ottis Anderson. CBS projects him as a Day 2 pick.

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Instagram post leads to conversation between 49ers, Frank Gore

An Instagram post from running back Frank Gore caught the attention of the 49ers front office.

On Sunday, Gore wrote, "I know the fans love me but I need to know if the management does," to those following him on the social media website. That caused the 49ers to call Gore, with the two parties discussing the intent behind the message.

“We reached out. He reached out back," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said, via The Sacramento Bee. "He wasn't expecting [his post] to take legs like it did. Nor were we. He didn't have any intentions by it and he made that very clear in our conversations.”

Baalke said the 49ers have continued talks with Gore's representation and that they are hopeful of reaching a new deal with him.

Gore is set to enter free agency for the first time in his career. With the 49ers in 2014, Gore rushed for 1,106 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers drafted Gore in the third round of the 2005 NFL draft.

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Jags won't move Brandon Linder to RT

The Jaguars do not see RG Brandon Linder as an option to solve their right tackle opening.

Linder played some right tackle in college, but was outstanding as a rookie guard and the Jags understandably don't want to break his momentum. Solving right tackle will be Jacksonville's biggest offensive priority for 2015. LT Luke Joeckel, LG Zane Beadles, C Luke Bowanko, and RG Linder are locked in.

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Trent Baalke: 49ers Want to Re-sign Frank Gore

INDIANAPOLIS -- If there were any doubt regarding whether or not the San Francisco 49ers want Frank Gore back for an 11th season in red and gold, general manager Trent Baalke made the organization’s intentions perfectly clear on Wednesday.

“We’re going to do what we can to get him back as a 49er,” Baalke said in front of a packed media crowd inside Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Gore, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, is set to become a free agent this offseason for the first time in his distinguished career.

Baalke confirmed to reporters that the two sides have engaged in conversations recently.

“I talked to him the other day on the phone,” Baalke said. “He’s a very good football player and one of the most, if not the most, passionate football players I’ve ever been around.”

Gore’s numbers were up and down in 2014, but he ended the year with consecutive stellar performances in the team’s final two games.

Against the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals, Gore rushed for a combined 302 yards on 51 carries to finish with his eighth 1,000-yard season and surpass 11,000 total yards for his career.

Asked on Wednesday if Gore, who turns 32 in May, can still play at an elite level, Baalke responded emphatically.

“Everyone asks that question all the time. I think I’ve been asked that question for five straight years now,” Baalke said. “Frank is the Energizer battery, he just keeps on ticking.

“In the last two games of the season, I think you saw what Frank still has left in the tank.”

If the 49ers are unable to sign Gore, the team would likely turn to Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter to carry the load in 2015.

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Mayock: Miami's Phillip Dorsett could run a sub-4.3 at combine

There has been a lot of talk about Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett potentially being the fastest player at the NFL Scouting Combine, and we're just a few days from finding out if that is true.

In a teleconference Monday, NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock cited Dorsett as one of three receivers in this draft class -- Auburn's Sammie Coates and Ohio State's Devin Smith are the others -- who truly can stretch the field.

"He might run sub-4.3 (in the 40)," Mayock said. "My introduction to him came (as a broadcaster) two years ago at Notre Dame, when he dropped two passes on the first series where he was 5 to 10 yards beyond the closest Notre Dame player. I don't think Notre Dame had ever seen a guy run that fast.

"He flies and he's gotten more consistent with his hands and route-running. This kid can play and pick the top off any zone."

The fastest 40 time at the combine by a wide receiver in the past five years is 4.27 by Texas' Marquis Goodwin in 2013. Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, who was a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints, had the fastest time among wide receivers last year at 4.33.

Despite catching just 36 passes this season -- and only 121 in his four-year career -- Dorsett appears to be a coveted prospect. "He will be a good No. 2 receiver and could start as a slot guy now," an NFC scout told the Miami Herald.

Dorsett missed five games in 2013 with a knee injury, but he showed no ill effects from the injury during the 2014 season, when 10 of his 36 receptions went for TDs. He also averaged 24.2 yards per catch in 2014.

Dorsett measured a bit under 5-foot-10 and weighed 183 pounds at the Senior Bowl. NFL Media analyst Lance Zierlein said Dorsett has "elite explosiveness" and "gets to top speed quickly." He also said Dorsett "takes the top off the defense and throws it in the trash."

Coates, who has inconsistent hands, and Dorsett each had five receptions covering at least 50 yards in 2014, a figure that cfbstats.com shows was tied for third-most nationally. Dorsett also had 12 receptions of at least 30 yards and three covering at least 60 yards.

Dorsett's most productive season came in 2012, when he was a sophomore and had 58 receptions for 842 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and four TDs.

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Colts Reportedly 'Shoe-in' to Land 49ers Frank Gore

According to Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Matt Miller, the Indianapolis Colts are a “shoe-in” to land soon-to-be 49ers free agent running back Frank Gore. Miller further commented that “there is no way” he ends back with the 49ers, and specifically mentioned that, “Both Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski, with his University of Miami connection, want him”.

The 10-year running back is coming off yet another productive season, in which he rushed for 1,106 rushing yards on 255 carries and 4 rushing touchdowns. However, set to turn 32 years old in May, the 49ers are reportedly opting to go with the younger and cheaper Carlos Hyde at starting running back moving forward.

Earlier, we noted that Frank Gore had interest in playing for the Colts via a report from Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. With Trent Richardson being a disappointment and veteran Ahmad Bradshaw always seemingly brittle, the Colts could clearly use an upgrade at the starting running back position for next season.

As a former 3rd round pick of the 49ers in 2005 out of the University of Miami (FL), Gore is the 49ers franchise’s all-time leading rusher with 11,073 career rushing yards, all in red and gold. He’s a beloved veteran player in San Francisco, much like Reggie Wayne is to the Colts’ franchise. Gore has only missed 1 start for the 49ers in the past 4 seasons and has rushed for over 1,000 rushing yards in 8 of his 10 seasons in the NFL.

While Gore’s best years are likely behind him, he could still be a productive running back for the Colts and upgrade the position next season. However, there’s tremendous risk in investing a lot of money and cap space in a running back on the wrong side of 30 with a lot of mileage on his tires even if they’ve been as productive and durable as Gore has proven to be.

All things considered, Gore looks like he should have at least 2-3 productive seasons left as a high-end starting caliber NFL running back. While his numbers should decline given his advancing age and increased wear-and-tear, it looks to me that on a short-term 1 or 2-year deal, he could be an ideal fit to solve the Colts running back woes on a contending football team for the immediate future.

Having already looked at whether the Colts should pursue Frank Gore, it looks as though he’s still in line to have another 2-3 high caliber starting seasons in him compared to other successful 32 year old running backs.

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Has the clock expired on Santana Moss?

Santana Moss was relegated to an afterthought on Washington’s roster after last spring’s high-profile free-agent acquisitions of standout wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts.

Ruled inactive for the season-opener despite being healthy — a first in Moss’s distinguished NFL career — the longest-tenured Redskin didn’t sulk. Instead, he kept working in practice as if he’d be called upon any moment.

“I know what time it is right now in my career,” Moss said an interview at the time, alluding to the challenge of staying relevant at a skill position at age 35. “If I couldn’t do what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be here today. It’s just different times. I have to deal with something I’ve seen a lot of guys go through.”

As the 2015 season approaches, time may have expired on Moss’s career — at least in Washington.

If so, he’ll bow out as one of the team’s more distinguished alumni.

An all-American at Miami, where he was a Big East triple-jump champion as well, Moss was chosen in the first round (16th overall) of the 2001 draft by the New York Jets. Acquired by Washington in a 2005 trade for Laveraneus Coles, Moss established his value at once, setting the Redskins’ season receiving record of 1,483 yards his first year with the team — a mark that stands today.

In 10 seasons in Washington, Moss has played for four head coaches (Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden) and caught passes from 10 starting quarterbacks, beginning with Mark Brunell in 2011. He stands third on the team’s list of total receptions, with 581, trailing only Art Monk’s 888 and Charley Taylor’s 649.

It was somewhat of a surprise that Gruden kept Moss on the 53-man roster coming out of training camp, but the 5-foot-10, 193-pound veteran brought a welcome professionalism to the practice field. And he was a relative bargain, having signed a one-year deal for $1.02 million.

While Gruden voiced respect for Moss throughout the season, the first-year coach conceded he was often “odd man out” on a gifted receiving corps, given that he didn’t have a role on special teams. Jackson provided the explosive speed the coach coveted. Roberts doubled as a return specialist. Pierre Garcon delivered sorely needed blocking, in addition to the requirements for bruising catches in traffic. And the coach also was intent on developing a cadre of younger wide receivers, such as third-year speedster Aldrick Robinson (who was released in early December) and polished, precise rookie Ryan Grant.

Moss finally got in a game Week 6 and was active for nine more, finishing his 14th NFL season with 10 catches for 116 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fewest games and catches he’d had since his rookie year with the New York Jets.

The day players cleaned out their lockers following yet another last-place finish in the NFC East, Moss said that a 4-12 season wasn’t the way he wanted to end his career. While Moss said he’s not counting on another season in the NFL (he’ll turn 36 on June 1), he also vowed to continue training so he’d be ready.

“All the accolades, it’s in the past, it’s been done,” Moss said. “I’m just trying to win, and trying to be a part of something that wants to win. “And I never wanted to leave this place, so hopefully, I can continue to be a part of this place, because I know upstairs and the guys that are trying to put this team together year in and year out, that’s their focus, too. But I can’t predict it.”

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Report: 49ers, Frank Gore 'engaged in contract discussions'

Just days after running back Frank Gore posted a message on Instagram about how he wasn't sure whether San Francisco wanted him back for another season, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and the 49ers have "engaged in contract discussions," according to Ed Werder of ESPN.

Drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Gore totaled 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns on the ground over his 10-year career with the 49ers. He is the 20th player in NFL history to reach 11,000 rushing yards in a career. Last year, Gore also cracked the 1,000-yard threshold for the eighth time in his career, registering 1,106 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He is set to become a free agent on March 10.

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Kellen Winslow backs Chris Johnson, rips Jets

Chris Johnson isn’t the only former Jet who thinks the team failed to put his talents to use.

Kellen Winslow Jr., who spent the 2013 season on the Jets, wrote on Twitter that he agrees with Johnson’s opinions about the dysfunction on the Jets. According to both Winslow and Johnson, decision-making was taken out of the hands of head coach Rex Ryan and given to General Manager John Idzik.

“Chris Johnson is not lying,” Winslow wrote. “My role was never explained to me. Wanted to help Geno/Jets as route runner. Politics got in the way. #Idzik”

The Jets were a mess during the Ryan-Idzik years, and there’s a widespread perception around the NFL that Idzik put Ryan in a no-win situation. That perception permeated the Jets’ locker room as well.

And that perception is why Ryan has landed on his feet as head coach of the Bills, while Idzik will likely never get another job as an NFL G.M.

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Will Vince Wilfork restructure his contract again?

A group that was pushed around at the beginning of the season stepped up late, following Vince Wilfork's lead the whole way.

The midseason addition of Alan Branch helped against the run, as did the return of Sealver Siliga, who missed Weeks 4-12 while on short-term IR with a foot injury.

The Patriots' pass rush took a hit when Chandler Jones suffered a hip injury in Week 7, but Akeem Ayers filled in nicely and made timely plays in Jones' absence.

A full breakdown of the Patriots defensive line going forward:

VINCE WILFORK: The big fella re-structured his contract a year ago when he was coming off a torn Achilles. Wilfork rebounded with a strong 2014, playing 73.6 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps.

But Wilfork, 33, may be asked to restructure again. He carries a cap hit of $8.4 million next season, according to The Boston Herald. Wilfork is due to collect a $4 million roster bonus on March 10, the first day of the new league year, so there exists the small possibility that the Patriots cut ties with him before then.

It seems more than likely that the two sides will try to reach a new deal that lowers Wilfork's cap hit. He is the unquestioned leader of New England's defense.

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Potential combine star: Phillip Dorsett

Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami (Fla.): Most NFL personnel men expect Dorsett to claim the title as the fastest man in this draft class. He has gone on the record stating his goal for the 40-yard dash: 4.29 seconds. After studying him on tape, I wouldn't be surprised to see him achieve that mark. He has effortless speed and destroys pursuit angles.

Mayock said: “The first time I put in tape of him, all I could think of was Mike Wallace running around the Senior Bowl,” Mayock said. “He was under the radar until people saw him run. I asked him his goal for the combine, and he said, ‘4.3 or better.’ You know, 4.3, 4.28 is world-class speed.”

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Mike Mayock: Ereck Flowers will be a Pro Bowl RT

NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock believes Miami T Ereck Flowers is a future Pro Bowler at right tackle.

Though Flowers is plenty athletic, his movement skills aren't as refined as one would like to easily project him to the blind side. He also might lack the necessary functional strength to be an elite pass protecting left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 324-pound Flowers' athleticism helps to make him a top-notch run blocker, and it mitigates his potential floor.

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Duke Johnson just a 3rd down RB, per scout

The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson spoke with one NFC scout who believes Miami RB Duke Johnson will merely be a third down back "due to his size."

If it is only based on size, that is ridiculous. We will soon see what Johnson weighs, but he was listed at 5'9/200 lbs while with the Hurricanes. There is a major difference between "short" and "small." Also, a number of ball carriers have succeeded at that size, and smaller, on more than just passing downs.

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Phillip Dorsett draws raves

University of Miami (Fla.) WR Phillip Dorsett might end up as a good No. 2 receiver in the NFL, and could start right now as a slot receiver according to one NFC scout.

TIP: Dorsett could end up having a career similar to that of former UM pass catcher Santana Moss. He ended up having some meaningful seasons, especially for fantasy owners, despite lacking tremendous size.

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8 Future NFL proCane Headed To Combine

Eight Miami Hurricanes are making the pilgrimage to Indianapolis this week — eight players eyeing future dreams and envisioning the performances of their lives at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

“It’s amazing to have seven guys who are my brothers competing with me in one place and representing our school,” said receiver Phillip Dorsett, who hopes to shatter Chris Johnson’s NFL Combine 40-yard-dash record of 4.24 seconds, set in 2007. “I’ve watched the scouting combine every year and always dreamed of being there. Now, I’m ready to perform.’’

Despite UM’s 6-7 record, the Hurricanes had enough talent for their eight standouts — defensive end Anthony Chickillo, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, offensive linemen Jonathan Feliciano and Ereck Flowers, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, running back Duke Johnson, linebacker Denzel Perryman and tight end Clive Walford — to be invited to the Combine most coveted by players and NFL executives alike.

Last year, of the five Hurricanes invited (Seantrel Henderson, Allen Hurns, Brandon Linder, Stephen Morris and Pat O’Donnell), three were drafted. This year’s NFL Draft is April 30-May 2.

“I’m really excited to go up there and show the NFL what I can offer,” said Feliciano, who said he has “slimmed down” from 335 to 325 pounds and has gotten stronger in the process. “I want to run faster and look good for the NFL scouts.”

Feliciano and projected first-round prospect Flowers leave Tuesday for Indy, as athletes by position groups are staggered throughout the week and undergo medical exams, team interviews, psychological testing and an array of performance drills.

Dorsett, a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas graduate who was projected by analyst Mel Kiper Jr. to be drafted late in the first round, said he will run the 40 on Saturday, with the NFL Network providing live TV coverage.

“I don’t really have a goal,” said the speedster, who posted single-season career highs of 871 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 and has been timed as low as 4.21 in the 40. He noted that the 4.21 was timed by hand-held stopwatches as opposed to the NFL’s more sophisticated electronic timers — “so, it doesn’t really count. I’m going to run my fastest and whatever happens, happens.’’

Johnson, UM’s all-time rushing leader with 3,519 yards, said his combine goal is “to be myself, have fun and show who I am on and off the field — not only in football but when it comes to interviews.

“We have to enjoy the experience because everybody doesn’t get a chance to do it.’’

Johnson, Dorsett and Perryman have continued training at UM with strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey — and a bevy of other Hurricanes, including former Canes and NFL players such as Andre Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Lamar Miller, Olivier Vernon, Travis Benjamin and Brandon Harris.

“Why work out here? Because I feel really great about myself and Coach Swasey is the reason why,” said Perryman, a first-round projection who lost seven pounds, and now weighs 238. “I’ve been working out with him for four years. My body, my speed, my strength have changed for the better because of him.”

Several other Canes seniors, who weren’t invited to the NFL Combine, will compete on April 1 at UM’s Pro Timing Day. Those include quarterback Ryan Williams, center Shane McDermott, defensive tackle Olsen Pierre and linebacker Thurston Armbrister. But for the chosen eight, the fun begins this week.

“It’s real important,” Perryman said. “You’re on national television. You have all the scouts, head coaches and general managers out there seeing what you can do. But there’s no reason to get nervous.

“Like I said, I feel great about myself.”

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Ereck Flowers can improve upon pass blocking

NFL.com notes Miami T Ereck Flowers is "considered to be further along as a run blocker than as a pass protector."

"Flowers is a better athlete than a lot of folks think, though, and might be able to open some eyes with his combine performance," wrote College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah ranks Flowers as the No. 33 overall prospect and the No. 5 tackle. Fox Sports' Joel Klatt ranks Flowers No. 17 overall on his board, while ESPN's Mel Kiper ranks him No. 18.

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Good chance Eric Winston will be back with the Bengals

ESPN's Coley Harvey believes "there's a good chance" free agent OT Eric Winston will be back with the Bengals.

Winston has expressed mutual interest in re-signing with the Bengals. He started the final two games of the regular season and in the playoffs, but won't be returning as more than a swing tackle. Winston didn't sign until December last year and should only require a one-year deal.

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Vince Wilfork Laughs at His Wife for Almost Falling Down, Wipes out Soon After

New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork recently found out that karma can work very quickly.

While spending some time at the beach, Wilfork's wife, Bianca, apparently almost got knocked over by the waves. Seeing his wife struggle to stay on her feet made Wilfork laugh.

Bad move.

A few seconds after he laughed at his wife, the 6'2", 325-pound Wilfork lost his footing and went down with a splash. Let's just say she enjoyed the sudden turn of events.

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Duke Johnson puts mom at center of success

Duke Johnson is a mama's boy, and proud of it.

He heeds her advice on life, uses the struggles he saw her endure years ago as motivation on the football field today, and tells her everything — or so she thought.

One day in the summer of 2013, after a standout freshman season at Miami, Fla., Johnson, the nation's ninth-leading rusher last year, called his mother with a request.

"I was on my way to work, working midnights, overtime, and he was like, 'Mom, I need a picture of you,' " Cassandra Mitchell recalled. "He said, 'I have pictures of everybody and I don't have a picture of you,' so I was like, 'OK, no problem.' "

Mitchell scrolled through her phone and sent Johnson seven or eight photos. There was one of her with family, a couple at Duke's football games. Then Johnson called back.

"He's like, 'Mom, I need a head shot,' " Mitchell said. "I'm just like, 'A head shot? Boy, I don't like taking no close-ups with this big nose.' He said, 'Mom, I need a head shot.' So me, I sent it not thinking anything."

A few days later, on the Fourth of July, when Johnson showed up with what appeared to be a bandage covering his massive left shoulder, Mitchell went into a momentary state of panic fearing her son hurt his arm and didn't tell her.

"What happened?" Mitchell asked, only to take a closer look and see plastic film covering an image of her face on her son's arm.

"I was like, 'Boy, didn't I tell you to get no more tattoos, but that's so sweet,' " she said. "So I teased him, 'At least you could have given me a nose job.' "

Johnson, who will try to prove his worth as the best running back in the 2015 draft at this week's NFL combine in Indianapolis, said the tattoo is a tribute to the woman who raised him, the hardship they survived and everything she sacrificed to make his football dream come true.

Growing up in the Liberty City section of Miami, an area that has produced many an NFL player, Johnson saw his then-single mother work three jobs to provide for him and his sister, Ranisha.

A corrections officer for most of the last 19 years, Mitchell also worked part time as an office aide at the school board, as a waitress at Pizza Hut and seasonally at Toys R Us when Johnson was growing up, cabbing from job to job around town.

Duke, Ranisha and Mitchell shared a single queen-size bed for part of his youth, and when his mom worked the overnight shift, first at the South Florida Reception Center and more recently at the Miami-Dade County Jail, Duke often stayed with his grandmother, Martha Williams.

"Freshman year of college there was a lot going on for me," said Johnson, whose father, Randy, died of ALS when he was 13. "It was hard on and off the field. I had a lot going on and I just thought about what my mom had went through growing up and she had endured, and I kind of said if she could go through it, it's nothing for me to go through this, it's nothing for me to keep pushing and keep going. So I decided to get the tattoo as just a reminder to myself anytime that things get hard, anytime things get tough, I can look over and she's there.

"That just reminds me of all the things that she did and how tough she was raising me and my sister, so that's something that's really big for me. If something's going bad I can look over and instantly be able to get better."

Though he said he had a tough time adjusting to the rigors of college, not much has gone bad for Johnson on the field the past few years.

He set a Miami freshman rushing record with 947 yards in 2012 and nearly broke Willis McGahee's school record with 2,060 all-purpose yards, including 892 on kick returns with two touchdowns.

Johnson rushed for 920 yards in eight games as a sophomore before a broken right ankle ended his season, and last year he amassed 1,652 yards to set a school record for most rushing yards in a career (3,519).

Among the backs he passed on Miami's all-time rushing list are McGahee, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Ottis Anderson.

"Just knowing the guys who played before me and doing some of the things they did and me growing up, watching them, just seeing the way they played and what they were able to accomplish, just knowing that I'm the leading rusher now, it's amazing," Johnson said. "I think it's mind-blowing for one, just the names of the guys who came through here and then went to the next level and did the things that they did. It was amazing to me."

Now, Johnson is out to duplicate their success in the NFL.

McGahee, the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 draft, James (No. 4 in 1999) and Anderson (No. 8, 1979) were first-round picks — Portis and Gore were second- and third-rounders, respectively — and all five had long, successful careers.

Johnson, at 5-feet-9 and 205 pounds, is the smallest back of that group, but longtime Miami strength coach Andreu Swasey said he has the same work ethic and drive as his predecessors.

"As great as all the guys were, he's kind of in a category of his own because to me he's kind of a mixture of Frank Gore and Portis," Swasey said. "Frank Gore don't have the speed that Duke will have, but Portis does, and then the vision, I think he has vision like Frank Gore has. So he's kind of a combination, but he's also real good out of the backfield. That's where he — I think that takes him to another level in my eyes. He's a better route runner than I seen out of any of them. As far as a receiver, he's a guy you can put out there and he can do damage at receiver."

Johnson is projected to go in the first two days of this year's draft, and how he performs at this week's combine will help determine where he slots in a deep running back group.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Georgia's Todd Gurley, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, are considered the draft's top backs, but Johnson's speed, special-teams ability and hands could interest a team like the Lions that values versatility in its backfield.

Johnson, who is still taking classes at Miami as he works toward the degree he promised his mom he'll get one day, said he expects to run a low 4.4-second 40-yard dash and in general put on "a good show" at the combine that could help him climb draft boards across the league.

"I'm just hoping my overall combine gets me into Round 1," he said. "The medical, have the doctors look at me, making sure everything from the medical to the board work to the interviews to everything, I'm just hoping this whole experience that I can make an impression on someone who's willing to put a check in front of me."

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Frank Gore isn't sure if 49ers actually want him back

San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told both Frank Gore and the media in December that he wants the franchise's all-time leading rusher back with the team in 2015. Two months later, Gore isn't so convinced that the team actually wants him back.

After 10 seasons with the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Gore is coming closer to reaching free agency for the first time in his career. On Instagram, the running back has questioned the team's commitment to him.

On Sunday, Gore posted a photo with the caption "Wht should I do" and questioned the 49ers' intentions in another since-deleted post:

"I know the fans love me but I need to know if the management does but I'm going to love my fans no matter what."

Gore's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, isn't as suspicious of the 49ers and told ESPN's Ed Werder on Monday that there is nothing negative between the two sides and Baalke has expressed hope to re-sign Gore.

This offseason represents the first one in Gore's career in which he's had an expiring contract. In both 2007 and 2011 Gore received contract extensions when he had one season still remaining with the 49ers. That could just be brewing up some paranoia in the running back's mind, especially after Baalke's shaky start to the 2015 offseason forced out Jim Harbaugh, who was a favorite of Gore's.

In 10 seasons with the team, Gore has 11,073 career rushing yards, 76 total touchdowns and five Pro Bowl selections. He is 20th on the NFL's all-time rushing list and just four touchdowns behind Joe Perry for the most career rushing touchdowns with the 49ers.

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Ryan Braun approaches true test after offseason surgery on thumb

MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun's annual appearance at Brewers On Deck carried a much different vibe this year than it did a year ago.

National television cameras weren't following his every move, while the media horde wanting to interview him was significantly smaller than the mob scene that waited in 2014 for his first public comments since his suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs.

However, the questions as to if Braun can return to MVP form still remain. Now they just revolve around his repaired right thumb.

"Knock on wood I feel great, it feels really good," Braun said. "Everything's going well, regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to kind of see how it felt.

"I don't feel anything at all. It feels great, so I'm able to do everything that I would typically do. No restrictions, doesn't prevent me from doing anything. I didn't have to alter any type of workout routine or my hitting or anything I do in the offseason."

Braun also knows the true test still lies ahead. The next step is seeing how the thumb holds up when he hits consistently off live pitching in spring training. Then come the rigors of the regular season, especially during early season games in which the temperature might be under 50 degrees.

After being plagued by a nerve issue at the base of the thumb for most of 2014, Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure on Oct. 2 in Los Angeles. A needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to freeze the troublesome nerve.

"I know it's significantly better than it was at this time last year, which I'm encouraged by," Braun said. "I think the real test will come in spring training once we've played games for a couple weeks and just every day, that wear and tear, see how it recovers, see how it responds. But I do know it's significantly better now than where it was last year, so that's exciting."

Unable to properly grip or swing the bat for most of 2014, Braun hit .266 with 19 home runs and 81 RBI in 2014, all of which were career lows outside of the season in which he was suspended for violating Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Braun was batting .301 on July 26, but he hit just .209 with five home runs and 20 RBI in his last 53 games. He later admitted the painful nature of the nerve issue in his thumb forced him to swing "one-handed" for the majority of the season.

Would the Brewers have lost 22 of their final 31 games -- mostly due to an invisible offense -- if Braun had been healthy? All they can do is wonder, 'what if?' at this point.

"It's tough," Braun said. "It's tough for me, it's tough for us as a team, you don't get those opportunities too often, and as we've all seen, if you get to the postseason, anybody can win it. The challenge is just getting in, and I've now played long enough to know you don't get an opportunity to play those meaningful games in September every year, and when you do get those chances you have to take advantage of it."

Many questions surround the Brewers heading into spring training, but none are bigger than the health of Braun's thumb. If healthy, the 31-year-old is capable of masking other potential offensive problems.

"It's certainly big," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I know he's said that if he was healthy, things might have been different last year and maybe they would have. Having he and Aramis (Ramirez) both healthy and swinging it well certainly would have made a difference."

Braun carried averages of .314, 34 home runs and 107 RBI over the first six years of his career, which includes his MVP season of 2011 when he hit .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI.

Over the last two seasons, Braun has played in just 196 games with a .275 batting average, a total of 28 home runs and 119 RBI.

"It's different when you don't have Ryan on the team or he's not 100 percent because he's in the middle of the lineup and he's the best hitter we have in the lineup," Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "Without him, I don't think we're going to make the playoffs."

Added catcher Jonathan Lucroy on the impact of a healthy Braun: "We'll be a deadly lineup with everybody in there. I'm really excited about that; I'm optimistic that we'll score a lot of runs."

Braun is hoping to avoid another cyrotherapy procedure, but it remains an option --possibly even during the season -- if the thumb were to act up again. Currently, the right fielder doesn't plan on altering his spring training workload in any way.

"We'll figure it out as we go," Braun said. "I think that was something I tried to do a lot of last year. So we'll kind of see how it feels, see how it responds, see what the recovery is like. There are still plenty of unknowns, but right now, I don't really anticipate being limited at all."

If healthy, Braun remains confident he can still be the dominant offensive player the Brewers need in the middle of their lineup in order to compete in what is shaping up to be a tough National League Central.

Considering Braun is owed $103 million over the next six seasons, the Brewers have a lot riding on a return to form.

"The goal is to be the best player I can be," Braun said. "I've always said, as long as I'm healthy I think success is inevitable. Last year was not a good year. So hopefully, I'm able to stay healthy this year and get back to doing the things that I'm used to doing."

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