Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who has the Green Bay Packers waiting for him in Saturday’s Divisional Playoff, also has the Philadelphia Eagles waiting for him whenever this season ends, per league sources.
The Eagles already have received permission to interview Staley at the appropriate time, which could be as early as Sunday if the Rams don’t advance, per sources. Staley will join the list of head-coaching candidates the Eagles already are considering as they have spent their week conducting interviews.
The Eagles are drawn to Staley and the reputation he has built during his year as Sean McVay’s defensive coordinator in Los Angeles, as well as the skills he has demonstrated in Denver under Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.
The Eagles are not the only team interested in Staley. The Houston Texans also have received permission to interview Staley, and there’s a connection there.
Staley coached at John Carroll University, where new Texans general manager Nick Caserio also attended. The two have a strong relationship and perhaps Caserio’s presence could help draw Staley to Houston.
But the Eagles want to talk with Staley; they have made that known. He is one of their top candidates and, depending on what happens Saturday, could have a chance to soon meet with the NFC East team looking to fill the head coaching vacancy it created last week when it fired Doug Pederson.
Texans’ roster dominoes waiting to fall: J.J. Watt’s departure just the beginning – Houston Texans Blog
HOUSTON — Despite the offseason conversation surrounding the Houston Texans mostly centered on quarterback Deshaun Watson, there are other big decisions that new general manager Nick Caserio has in front of him.
Last week, the NFL announced the 2021 salary cap will be no lower than $180 million, which is a drop from the $198.2 million cap in 2020. After granting J.J. Watt’s request to be released — and freeing up $17.5 million — the Texans’ total cap liabilities are close to $190 million.
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Watt’s release was the first domino to fall this offseason for the Texans, but what other challenges does Caserio face going into his first free agency in Houston?
Will the Texans re-sign wide receiver Will Fuller V?
Through 11 games in 2020, it looked like Fuller was well on his way to proving he could not only stay healthy for a full season, but keep up his production and chemistry with Watson while doing so.
And then in November, Fuller was suspended six games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, meaning those questions about his durability are still unanswered. Fuller will also miss the first game of the 2021 season under the suspension.
In the 11 games he did play in, Fuller had 53 catches for 879 yards and eight touchdowns.
While Fuller was in line to sign a new deal averaging around $15 million a season, it seems more likely the receiver will sign a one-year, prove-it deal, especially in a season where the salary cap will decrease.
The Texans could also choose to use the franchise tag on Fuller, which would cost $16.4 million for the 2021 season if the sides do not agree to a long-term deal. While the team is still over the $180 million cap minimum, there are moves Caserio could make to fit Fuller’s salary.
Watson made it clear — even after Fuller’s suspension — that it was “very important” to him that the team re-signs Fuller. Now that Watson has requested a trade, could bringing Fuller back be a step toward mending the team’s relationship with the quarterback? Perhaps, but given the reasons Watson is upset, it’s hard to see that roster move being enough — at least on its own — to convince Watson to change his mind.
Will Houston do anything with wide receiver Brandin Cooks‘ contract?
Cooks was a bright spot for the Texans in 2020 after trading for him in April. Despite playing for his fourth team in five seasons, Cooks had 81 catches for 1,105 yards — the fifth time in his seven-year career he has surpassed 1,000 yards in a season.
If the Texans do not re-sign Fuller, Cooks gives Houston a solid No. 1 receiver. Cooks said in January that he wants to keep playing with Watson and isn’t “going to accept any more trades.” But if Watson is traded, will Cooks still want to be in Houston?
Cooks has three years left on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. He is owed $12 million in 2021, but Houston could lower his cap hit either by signing him to an extension that guarantees his salary or restructuring his current contract to move the money to a signing bonus and freeing up cap space that way.
Will the Texans cut running back David Johnson?
Johnson currently has a cap hit of nearly $9 million in 2021, but just $2.1 million of it is guaranteed.
Bill O’Brien traded for Johnson as part of the deal that sent receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona, but the former general manager and head coach was fired just four games into the season. Johnson ran for 691 yards and six touchdowns and the Texans’ rushing offense ranked last in Football Outsiders’ Rush DVOA.
It would be hard to see the Texans keeping Johnson on his current contract, but if they don’t want to move on, they could try to restructure his deal to match his salary with his production. Houston does have backup running back Duke Johnson under contract in 2021, but with a cap hit of more than $5 million, the team could move on from him as well.
Any other moves?
Although Watt was the most logical candidate to release on the defensive side of the ball, there is another player who may make sense to move on from: inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney.
McKinney signed a five-year, $50 million contract in 2018 and his base salary isn’t guaranteed. If Houston moved on from him, it would save more than $6 million with just $1.5 million of dead money. Last offseason, the Texans signed inside linebacker Zach Cunningham to a four-year, $58 million contract that makes the pair combine for more than 10.5% of the Texans’ total cap in 2021.
McKinney played in only four games last season before needing shoulder surgery and in that short sample size, he had a Pro Football Focus grade of 53.4, lower than his 67.7 grade in 2019.
Nick Sirianni’s first coaching staff with Eagles has boom or bust potential – Philadelphia Eagles Blog
But it’s a pretty big deal. First-time head coach Nick Sirianni, 39, has assembled a generally young group with some boom or bust potential, adding risk and intrigue to his mission of replacing Super Bowl winning coach Doug Pederson and getting a flailing Eagles team that finished 4-11-1 last season back on track.
Here are the primary coordinators/position coaches, followed by some analysis.
Jonathan Gannon (Age: 37), defensive coordinator
Shane Steichen (35), offensive coordinator
Michael Clay (29), special teams coordinator
Kevin Patullo (39), passing game coordinator
Jeff Stoutland (59), run game coordinator/offensive line
Brian Johnson (34), quarterbacks
Jemal Singleton (45), running backs/assistant head coach
Jason Michael (42), tight ends
Aaron Moorehead (40), wide receivers
Nick Rallis (27), linebackers
Tracy Rocker (54), defensive line
Dennard Wilson (38), defensive backs
A collection of first-timers
The average age for head coaches and coordinators for the 2020 season was 49 years old. The youngest staff was the San Francisco 49ers at 38 years. Sirianni and his top lieutenants are south of that with an average age of 35.
The Eagles clearly went after up-and-coming coaches with innovative ideas who could grow on the job. But the lack of experience is concerning. Sirianni has never been a head coach or called plays before. Two of his top assistants, Gannon and Clay, have never been coordinators at any level, while Steichen was an O-coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers for a season-plus.
A common thought was Sirianni would surround himself with some veteran coaches to help him navigate his role. He could still hire a senior advisor with prior NFL head-coaching experience to assist him, but as it stands, this is largely the green leading the green.
The most intriguing hire
Brian Johnson served as the University of Florida’s quarterbacks coach the past three seasons and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2020, becoming the first African American in team history to hold that title. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask became a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season under his tutelage. Before that, Johnson helped maximize the potential of quarterback Dak Prescott at Mississippi State.
Johnson played under Jalen Hurts‘ father, Averion, at Baytown Lee High School in Texas, and has known Jalen since he was 4 years old. He later recruited Jalen to play at Mississippi State before Hurts ultimately chose Alabama. The level of trust presumably built over time should be beneficial as the tandem works toward further developing Hurts.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has a long track record of getting the most out of his players, but 2020 might have been his finest work. The Eagles finished tied for 10th in pass block win rate and second in run block win rate last season despite a rash of injuries that forced Philadelphia to use a record 13 different offensive line combinations over the first 14 games.
There was speculation Stoutland would rejoin coach Nick Saban at Alabama following the firing of Pederson, but he remains under contract in Philadelphia and will continue in the role he has had since 2013 when former coach Chip Kelly first hired him. Of all the staff moves, none were more important than retaining Stoutland.
Analytically speaking …
One notable coach moving on is Ryan Paganetti, the Dartmouth graduate who was the primary voice in Pederson’s ear in-game for analytical-based decisions. The Eagles became trend-setters in the football analytics realm. In Pederson and Paganetti’s five years together in Philly, the Eagles went for it on fourth down 140 times, by far the most in the NFL (the Giants were next at 111). The Eagles were far and away the leaders in two-point conversion tries over that span as well with 41.
There is no clear successor to Paganetti in place at the moment. It’s a safe bet, though, that analytics will continue to influence game-day decisions. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is a huge proponent of the practice, as is former Eagles coach Frank Reich, who served as Sirianni’s mentor in Indianapolis.
Cam Newton calls Patriots coach Bill Belichick ‘most misunderstood person’ in sports – New England Patriots Blog
FOXBOROUGH, Mass — Quarterback Cam Newton spent the 2020 NFL season with the New England Patriots, and he would like to return in 2021. What he experienced with coach Bill Belichick is a big reason why.
“I think Bill Belichick is the most misunderstood person in all of sports. He’s dope as s—,” Newton said on the “I Am Athlete Podcast.”
“He is a cool dude who understands the game. He’s like a historian of the game. And for you to just sit down and chat with him, it’s like ‘Damn!’ He’s going back and he’s got film, literally teaching the game.”
Newton’s appearance on the podcast, in which he sat down with former NFL players Brandon Marshall, Fred Taylor and Chad Ochocinco, has sparked numerous headlines — starting with his view of Belichick and the Patriots’ culture.
“Bill’s not cold. Nobody on that team [has] an aura where you don’t want to be around him,” Newton said. “Everything is geared to win, and if you’re not built for that, that’s not the place for you. That’s not the place you want to lose, either. I learned that the hard way.”
In addition to Newton raving about his time with Belichick, as well as Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he left no doubt about his desire to return to New England in 2021 after an up-and-down season in which the Patriots went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
Newton is scheduled for to be an unrestricted free agent, and asked if he would be open to coming back on a one-year deal, he said, “Yes. Hell yes! I’m getting tired of changing [teams].”
Newton added that there’s “always a chance for everything,” but when pressed if the sides are talking, he responded: “I can’t say that.”
Newton also repeated remarks from a few months ago in explaining how disruptive it was for him to be sidelined with a positive COVID-19 test in early October.
“The offense kept going and I was stopped and stagnant for a week, two weeks,” Newton said. “Then by the time I came back, it was new terminology and it was like ‘Hold on, go back to level one.'”
That’s why he thinks a return in 2021 would lead to a higher level of performance.
“I am at a point in my career where I know way more than I did last year,” he said. “You’re asking me, ‘Would I go back?’ Yes, I would go back.”
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