DANA POINT, Cal.--
Coach Discusses Draft Needs
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton discussed the team's draft needs this week.
"I'd have running back, a powerful runner, ahead of the other two. I'd have corner next and then wide receiver last. I think this. I think you can find receivers and develop these guys. And I think we've got a young group. Marques Colston is in year 4. Lance Moore is an undrafted free agent. Devery Henderson is improving each year. Robert Meachem is really going to be in year 2, he was injured his first year. It's a young group that I know our quarterback has a lot of confidence in and quite honestly I do as well. And Adrian Arrington would be a name, just be mindful oif this player. I like this guy a lot. He's smart, and he's big. The first three weeks or so of training camp he was doing a great job before he got injured."
UPDATED THURSDAY 10:53 AM ET
Coach Likes Cornerback Depth
The New Orleans Saints have at least five cornerbacks who will compete for key roles on defense this season. Head coach Sean Payton discussed the position this week.
"We signed Jabari Greer. Tracy Porter I like a lot. Not a little. A lot. And Randall Gay would be the three guys that you'd say, hey, forget the order, those three guys will be battling in the first three spots. Now behind those spots, Leigh Torrence is a veteran guy, a special teams contributor. Usama Young, there is a potential that we'll look at possibly moving him to free safety here in this offseason. It just hasn't been announced yet, but I think if you commented that that's a possibility, that would be accurate. He's a big, athletic guy with straight-line speed, probably not the quickness and agility maybe you would want at corner, but he can play in the kicking game."
UPDATED THURSDAY 10:53 AM ET
Morris Talks Quarterbacks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some uncertainty at the quarterback position and new head coach Raheem Morris discussed the position this week.
"We've got two unproven guys. Luke McCown started six games, won one. Has a bunch of talent that we see every day. We've got Josh Johnson, who should have been a second-round pick. He absolutely bombed at the combine and became a sixth-round pick. Improved all season. Brian Griese has played in a bunch of games, been a part-time starter, been a full-time starter. Got us off to our 9-3 start. We want to add one more for competition. Nobody's proven. We're gonna let them battle, best man win. You've got one bone for four dogs. Let them fight this thing out. Once you name a guy, you do what that guy can do. Everybody wants to know what your offense is gonna look like, It's gonna look like whatever that guy does best. It's a quarterback-driven league and there's no doubt about that. One of those guys has to emerge as the guy. When that happens, we won't have this discussion. We'll all know. Nobody knew who Matt Cassel was until Matt Cassel got a chance. Who are we kidding?. Nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Mo Lewis knocked Drew Bledsoe out on the sideline. You're never a good QB in this league until you get an opportunity. You go out and you either fail or you become Matt Cassel -- those guys who you don't know who the heck they are until they get a chance."
UPDATED THURSDAY 10:45 AM ET
Austin Expected to Have Larger Role
When the Dallas Cowboys released Terrell Owens, a huge void was created at the receiver position. Head coach Wade Phillips discussed Miles Austin, a receiver who looks to be given a chance at an expanded role this season.
I think he's a good receiver. I think he was really coming on last year and he unfortunately got banged up some. And I think that hurt his progress more than talent because I think he has that. He's got speed, size, hands and he can run with it after the catch. It's he's still got to do it for 16 games but I think he's got a chance to be a real player for us," Phillips said Wednesday.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 2:45 PM ET
Cardinals Working On New Deal For Boldin
Although some around the league believe the Arizona Cardinals will wind up trading WR Anquan Boldin before next month's NFL draft, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team is working on getting him a new deal.
"Anquan is under contract two more years. We've said all along Anquan is a very important part of our organization and football team. And we're working to get a new contract with him based on the level he's played for us."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 2:01 PM ET
Schwartz Discusses Peterson
The Detroit Lions added veteran OLB Julian Peterson to their roster via trade recently and head coach Jim Schwartz discussed Wednesday what Peterson will add to their defense.
"He's a multidimensional player. But when you talk scheme you want multidimensional players, because it doesn't handcuff as a coach and it doesn't pigeonhole the player. He can rush the passer on third down. He line up as a defensive end. He can cover the tight end on third down probably as good as anybody in the league. So his skill set is exactly what we're looking for, and I think the final thing you put on a guy like Julian Peterson, he has five Pro Bowls under his belt. The experience that he brings and the perspective that he brings, it means a lot to what we're trying to develop."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 1:54 PM ET
Reid Doesn't Rule out Return For Runyan
Even though Jon Runyan remains a free agent and is coming off of major knee surgery, head coach Andy Reid hasn't ruled out a return for the veteran right tackle.
"We'll just see how it goes. I'm not saying yay or nay," Reid said.
If Reid decided to move newcomer Stacy Andrews from right tackle to guard, then it's possible the chances of the team's interest in re-signing Runyan would increase.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 1:43 PM ET
Smith Confirms Linebacker Changes
The Atlanta Falcons lost SLB Michael Boley in free agency, but were able to add veteran LB Mike Peterson in free agency. Head coach coach Mike Smith addressed what changes will occur at linebacker this year.
"Well, if the season started today, we'll have Stephen Nicholas at SAM (SLB) and Mike Peterson at WILL (WLB). Nicholas is a third-year player and played SAM last year for us," Smith told Scout.com on Wednesday.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 1:29 PM ET
Fisher Discusses Haynesworth's Departure
The Tennessee Titans lost starting DT Albert Haynesworth in free agency and head coach Jeff Fisher discussed this week how he plans to replace him.
"We drafted Jason Jones in the second round last year. Jason had 3 ½ sacks last year against the Steelers in Week 14. He played very, very consistently for us. He's going to only get better. With an offseason as a young player, with his ability, he's going to only get better. Tony Brown is a real solid player for us. Kevin Vickerson provides that bulk and size and strength inside. I'm especially excited about Jovan Haye. He had a 6 ½ sack year the year before last. He played through a number of injuries last year but played very hard. He's back home if you will. We'll have an excellent rotation. Now, there is no one on that roster that has the ability Albert has. But with the rotation keeping them fresh, we'll be fine up front. It's not a concern of ours."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 1:01 PM ET
Kubiak Likes New Look to Defensive Line
The Houston Texans have made some changes to their defensive line this year and head coach Gary Kubiak gave an overview of the unit this week.
"We targeted (DT Shaun) Cody at the start of free agency. He's a play-hard guy. We're trying to get that effort up front and get tougher physically. We like the way he plays. He's a high-motor player. He's an active, up-the-field, one-gap player. Initially, we didn't know if we'd have a chance to get him when free agency started, so we feel fortunate. Getting Cody after signing (LDE) Antonio Smith gives us more flexibility going into the draft. He'll compete for playing time with our other tackles – Amobi (Okoye), Travis (Johnson), DelJuan (Robinson) and Frank (Okam)."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 12:51 PM ET
Jaguars Look To Replace Taylor
The Jacksonville Jaguars decide to part ways with RB Fred Taylor earlier this year and head coach Jack Del Rio discussed who will pick up the slack.
"When somebody moves on, somebody else gets a bigger opportunity. With us, it's not a matter of losing. I think it's a matter of gaining. We're going to gain opportunities to get the ball to (RB) Maurice (Jones-Drew). We're going to gain opportunities to get the ball to (FB) Greg Jones. We like those players. We loved having Fred. But as long as he was there, Maurice and Greg were going to be in backup roles or support roles. Now it's their team. They'll get to carry the load and be the featured guys. Greg will carry the ball more than he has. When we took him out of Florida State, we really envisioned him being a guy that would be much like the fullback in Baltimore. You know, carries the ball and blocks. He really was a terrific runner in college that we taught how to block. Now he's a great blocker, but he can still run the ball. And catch the ball. And physical. So we're excited about getting him more opportunities. Certainly, Maurice Drew is one of the electrifying guys in the league. We're going to get him more opportunities. I think you'll see some of his leadership skills emerge with the void created. He never really wanted to step on Fred's toes. And I think now that Fred's not there, it's going to open up the door for Maurice to be more assertive."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 12:38 PM ET
LDE Job Open For Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have an opening for the starting job at left defensive due to the departure of Igor Olshansky in free agency.
"We play a lot of guys on the defensive line. We have Jacques Cesaire and Ryon Bingham that will compete for that spot, and that's an area we will look for a young player," head coach Norv Turner said this week.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 12:29 PM ET
Cable Notes Competition on Offensive Line
During this week's media session with the AFC head coaches, Oakland Raiders head coach Tom Cable addressed the changes to the team's offensive line.
"Adding Khalif Barnes gives us significant competition at tackle. We have Samson Satele there to compete with John Wade, probably makes us overall better at the center position.. . . . two good guards (Cooper Carlisle and Robert Gallery), good players, veteran guys."
Speaking of Gallery, Cable talked about where he's at in his career.
"I think he is where he should have been a couple of years ago, really. In 07 he really improved, but when you rebuild the brain really, with the confidence and all that goes in playing the game, you have to break him all the way down....and he went through that process. In doing that, his penalties came up because he was focused on certain things.
Then, this last year he seemed to put that behind him and was probably one of the least penalized guys in football, then all of a sudden you start seeing him become more dominant, particularly the second half he was a very good football player.
So I would expect now he should be where he should have been two years ago for a guy taken that high with that pick ..... He can really become a guy who can get to the Pro Bowl, a guy who can lead the team as an offensive lineman. I think he has a chance to do that now.
It was all psychological. You take a young guy and you stick him at left tackle in the NFL. Some guys can do it and some guys aren't ready to do it. If you have enough failure you fry the brain and you think "Oh, my God I don't know if I can do this." And then you get moved to the right, back to left, then over there .... and the next thing you know the problem is not the player physically, the problem is the player mentally.
So the key is to just sort of start over with him. Fortunately, he was into that. He was able to just re-start it."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 12:19 PM ET
Tomlin Addresses Possible Schedule Change
There has been talk this week that eventually the NFL will go to a 17 or 18 game regular season, but with a shorter preseason. Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed the question this week.
"If you go to a two-game preseason schedule, you've got to acknowledge that the development and evaluation of young players, specifically the quarterback under game circumstances will change. And at that position and others I don't think you know what you have until you have them under those circumstances. But if we go to a two-game preseason, the vast majority of that time will be spent preparing starters to play football. I think that is one of the question marks we will all have around the league in regards to that potential change."
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 12:09 PM ET
During his yearly meeting with the media at the owners meetings, NFL vice
president of officiating, Mike Pereira, outlined several of the proposed
rule changes for the 2009 season. He also discussed background of why they were
being brought up in the first place during the competition committee meetings.
Among the highlights:
- As noted in a previous post, the loaded bunch formation will result in a penalty. It's basically going to be called as an illegal formation resulting in a five-yard penalty.
- Four of the seven rule changes have already passed. The final three will be announced on Wednesday. They will deal with minor instant replay and timing issues.
- The blindside block was a point of emphasis again and the play he showed us was Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward's block on Bengal WLB Keith Rivers which resulted in Rivers' season ending prematurely early. This was where the defenseless defender discussion came up in the media briefing on Monday. Players essentially will have to find a lower target area for hits. Pereira added head/concussion injuries continue to be a concern for the league.
- Pereira said while the officiating as solid overall, the percentage of correct calls were down last season. In 2007, the level was at 98.3%. In 2008, it dropped slightly to 98.1%. He added that the officials had to deal with 37,000 plays to officiate last season. Not surprisingly, holding calls were the most missed calls.
- Horse collar calls were up last year and Pereira noted that once again, that penalty will be a point of emphasis. He added that the college game is having problems with that call.
- There will be some rule clarifications or "clean ups" this year. Players can no longer lunge at players off the ground. For example, the play where Tom Brady was hit by KC S Bernard Pollard from last season will not be allowed and will result in a 15-yard penalty. However, players can still swipe at the ball or wrap tackle on the ground.
- Also with the rule clarifications, the league wants to eliminate or curb groups of players surrounding an injured player. Too many times medical staffs have to try to get through a sea of players to get to the injured player. Taunting, once again, will be more strictly enforced.
- Long-time official Bill Carolla will be leaving the NFL and will move to being a director of officiating for one of college football's top conferences.
UPDATED TUESDAY 5:47 PM ET
Competition Committee Staff
Here's a listing of the current members NFL competition committee:
- Jeff Fisher/Co-Chairman (head coach-Tennessee Titans)
- Rich McKay/Co-Chairman (team president-Atlanta Falcons)
- Marvin Lewis (head coach-Cincinnati Bengals)
- Bill Polian (team president-Indianapolis Colts)
- Rick Smith (general manager-Houston Texans)
- Ozzie Newsome (general manager and executive vice president-Baltimore Ravens)
- John Mara (team president and CEO-New York Giants)
- Mark Richardson (team president-Carolina Panthers)
UPDATED TUESDAY 1:45 PM ET
Safety Rules Adopted
As expected, some of the proposed safety rules for the 2009 have been adopted.
- Bunch formation on onside kicks have been eliminated.
- Wedge blocks on kickoffs can not involved more than two players. The penalty for this infraction will be 15 yards.
- Blindside helmet-to-helmet blocks have been eliminated. The penalty for this infraction will be 15 yards.
- Unnecessary roughness penalties will include forearm or shoulder to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver who is catching or attempting to catch a pass. As noted in an early update, it was proposed that the language in this rule would include the defenseless defender, but it's unclear if those players are protected in this rule.
UPDATED TUESDAY 1:45 PM ET
Colts To Keep Same Defensive Scheme; Keiaho's Replacements Lining Up
When the Indianapolis Colts hired veteran defensive coach Larry Coyer to take over as defensive coordinator, some thought the scheme would change. Not so according to new head coach Jim Caldwell.
Caldwell said they will keep their 4-3/cover-2 scheme. He added Coyer will have his own tweaks to the defense, but the philosophy will be the same.
On replacing former starting WLB Freddy Keiaho, who wasn't tendered as a restricted free agent, Caldwell said Clint Session will move from SLB to WLB to compete for the job. Second-year LB Philip Wheeler will be moved to SLB, according to the head coach.
On RB Mike Hart who had his rookie season cut short due to a torn ACL, Caldwell said he's a bit ahead of schedule. Caldwell added that as of now, Chad Simpson and Lance Ball will compete for the backup job to starter Joseph Addai.
UPDATED TUESDAY 1:29 PM ET
Jaworski Compares Quarterbacks
As was the case at last year's owners meetings, I ran into ESPN's Ron Jaworski. The former player and long-time NFL analyst broke down a few players on this year's draft...
On University of Georgia QB Matthew Stafford:
"Big arm, no question, but can be inaccurate at times. Certainly the best quarterback in this class though."
On the comparison of Stafford to Joe Flacco, who both have strong arms:
"Well Flacco is probably more accurate at this point. I've seen lots of tape on Stafford so I think I have a feel for what he is."
Jaworski had a chance to meet Michigan St. QB Brian Hoyer, who recently visited NFL Films. Jaworski was impressed with Hoyer's college tape and likes what he's seen:
"I guess you could say he's a poor man's (USC QB) Mark Sanchez. He manages the game well and he's accurate. He does the things you need to do to be successful at the next level."
UPDATED TUESDAY 12:57 PM ET
Sims Needs to Mature, But Talent is There
The Cincinnati Bengals have high hopes for second-year DT Pat Sims. In fact, head coach Marvin Lewis said he's expecting the former third-round pick to take the next step in what looks to be a promising career.
"Well Pat had a foot injury last season (missed five games), but he was coming along. But he needs a kick in the pants once in a while. We're expecting big things from him though. He's really the same guy we scouted at Auburn. He has all the physical tools and skills," Lewis said.
UPDATED TUESDAY 12:45 PM ET
Rule Change Proposal Update
The NFL will announce Wednesday the rule changes for the 2009 season. Here's a detailed look at most of the rules that are being proposed:
Player Safety Emphasis
- More emphasis on horse collar penalties. According to competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay, horse collar penalties were up last season.
- On player injuries, McKay confirmed injuries weren't up this season and neither were any specific injuries.
- More emphasis on hands to the face penalties.
Player Safety Rule Change Proposals
- Onside kick proposal for no more than six players on one side of the formation.
- Kickoff wedge proposal for no more than two players on the wedge on returns. The proposal for these penalties is for a personal foul (15 yards).
- Unnecessary roughness penalty update. Basically, the proposal would add additional protection for the defenseless receiver. The proposal would include defenders using their shoulder and forearms to the helmet of the receiver. Receivers have complained for years that they're getting nailed by defensive backs that lead with their shoulder and nothing gets called. In addition, the proposal will actually include the defenseless defender. This generally applies to the blindside block.
- This proposal is to add a replay for incomplete passes or fumbles.
- McKay added replay challenges were actually down last season.
Clean Up Rules
- As is the case each year, there will be "clean up" rule change proposals. This year's version entails issues with backyard passes and onside kicks.
- Picks 1-20 (non-playoff teams) will be seeded on record (tiebreakers remain the same as in past years).
Teams 21-32 (playoff teams) will be seeded for the draft after they're done in the playoffs.
For instance, the San Diego Chargers, who made the playoffs with an 8-8 record, will pick 16th overall in this year's draft despite making the playoffs and advancing two the second round. If they finish with the same 8-8 record in 2010, they would draft no better than 21 overall in the first round, if the proposal passes.
UPDATED MONDAY 9:16 PM ET
Breakdown of Compensatory Picks
Here's a breakdown of the additional picks per round:
Third Round: Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, and New England Patriots.
Fourth Round: San Diego Chargers will get two additional picks back to back in this round. The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts will get an extra selection in this round.
Fifth Round: Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Tennessee Titans.
Sixth Round: The Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals.
Seventh Round: The Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks (3), Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs
UPDATED MONDAY 7:54 PM ET
Compensatory Picks Announced
As expected, the NFL announced the compensatory draft choices on Monday.
- Leading the way are the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans with four picks each.
- Teams with three additional picks are the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
- The Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, and San Francisco 49ers all have two extra picks coming.
- The Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Redskins all will receive one extra pick in this year's draft.
UPDATED MONDAY 7:44 PM ET
Rule Change Proposals Coming Soon as Well As Compensatory Picks
The NFL's PR department has informed us that the compensatory draft selections should be announced around 7:30 PM ET or so and the rule change proposals for 2009 will be announced at a press conference scheduled for 8:00 PM ET. The actual changes will be announced on Wednesday.
UPDATED MONDAY 6:48 PM ET
More on Directv Extension Announcement
Here's the NFL's press release on the new agreement with Directv:
The National Football League announced today an agreement to extend DIRECTV's rights to carry NFL Sunday Ticket. DIRECTV will continue to have exclusive television rights to air the package of Sunday afternoon games through the 2014 NFL season.
The agreement also significantly broadens the reach of NFL Sunday Ticket by enabling NFL fans that cannot receive DIRECTV satellite service to get NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband. This service will begin no later than 2012.
In addition, the NFL will offer fans (also no later than 2012) a new "Red Zone Channel" that shows crucial live action cut-ins of all Sunday afternoon games starting at 1 p.m. ET and continuing through the conclusion of the 4 p.m. ET games. The "Red Zone Channel" will be available to cable, telco and satellite systems, wireless devices, and the Internet.
"We are pleased to extend a partnership with DIRECTV that has complemented and supported our broadcast television packages for 15 years," said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. "We are looking forward to having the Red Zone channel on cable and other media platforms as well as showing NFL Sunday Ticket via broadband to the homes that cannot get satellite. This new content enhances our tradition of being the most pro-consumer, widely available sport on television."
"The NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ service has been a part of DIRECTV since our first year of operation and is one of the defining characteristics of our best-in- class positioning," said Chase Carey, president and CEO of DIRECTV Group. "This latest extension allows us to retain and broaden our most popular sports subscription service. Through our wireless offering to NFL SUNDAY TICKET™ customers and the new broadband service to non-customers, we're now able to expand the reach to even more NFL fans everywhere."
Among the new features for fans are:
Red Zone Channel: subscribers who do not have DIRECTV will have access to the "Red Zone" channel through local cable systems or telco, satellite systems and Internet providers. This special channel has been part of NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV the past four seasons and will continue for those subscribers. It provides live look-ins and real-time highlights from every Sunday afternoon game starting at 1 P.M. (ET) through the late afternoon games. The channel switches from game to game and airs live action when a team is in the Red Zone (inside the 20-yard line) and poised to score. A host also provides real-time scoring and fantasy updates.
NFL Sunday Ticket on Broadband: Fans who live in areas where DIRECTV's service is not available, such as apartment buildings or in residences with poor sightlines to a satellite signal, will be able to purchase a new NFL Sunday Ticket broadband package.
UPDATED MONDAY 6:48 PM ET
NFL Extends Agreement With Directv
The NFL announced Monday that they extended the NFL Sunday Ticket agreement with Directv through 2014.
The big part of the extension is for fans who don't own Directv or are unable to receive it because they live in an area where it's not available. They will be able to get the package via broadband no later than 2012.
UPDATED MONDAY 5:53 PM ET
Agents Concerned with CBA
From walking through the hallways, there are at least 10 NFL player agents at this year's owners meetings. During various discussions with many of them, the prevailing issue on their minds is the fact that players with four years of service will not become unrestrictred free agents in 2010, instead they will remain as restricted free agents. In the past, players who had four or more accrued seasons could then become unrestricted the following season. That's one of the drawbacks with no salary cap for 2010. Players in free agency next year will have to have at least six accrued seasons to become unrestricted unless a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
"You could see some agents holding their players out if a new CBA isn't finished by then (next summer)," one prominent player agent said. "It's definitely a problem for many of us. The clubs hold so much leverage in this situation, so we have to do what's best for our clients."
UPDATED MONDAY 4:48 PM ET
Opening Weekend Games Announced
The league announced the Super Bowl champion Steelers game against the Tennessee Titans is scheduled to kick off at 8:30 PM ET, which noted below is a change from last year's scheduled kickoff.
The Chicago Bears will play at their divisional rival Green Bay Packers on Sunday evening at 8:30 PM ET.
Two former AFL rivals, the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, will play on Monday at 7:00 PM ET as part one of ESPN's doubleheader.
Finally, the last Monday night game is between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders at 10:15 PM ET.
UPDATED MONDAY 4:28 PM ET
Cutler Talk Dominates Hallways
It's hard to walk five feet in the hallways at the St. Regis hotel without someone talking about the Jay Cutler situation. Several personnel sources did not want to be quoted, but said they put the blame mostly on Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook. While the feeling is that the Denver Broncos will wind up trading him before next month's NFL draft, many league observers believe the team will make one more last ditch effort to meet with Cutler, but this time with Cook not present.
UPDATED MONDAY 3:37 PM ET
Compensatory Picks Coming Today; Opening Weekend Also to Be Announced
According to the league's PR staff, barring a change, the compensatory picks
are expected to be announced later on Monday. The league is also expected to
announce the opening weekend's primetime games.
According to several media sources, the Thursday night game, which will be televised on NBC, will be hosted by the Pittsburgh Steelers who will take on the Tennessee Titans. Kickoff will likely either be at 7:05 PM or 8:35 PM ET. The scheduled kickoff time for last year's opening game on Thursday between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants was 7:05 PM ET.
UPDATED MONDAY 3:31 PM ET