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Patriots, in search of QB depth, could find one beyond NFL draft’s first round – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When University of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask went through his pro day last week, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was present to watch his every move.

McDaniels’ on-site visit served up an important reminder that the team’s scouting at the game’s most important position is going much deeper than top 2021 NFL draft prospects Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Scheduled to pick at No. 15 overall, it’s more likely the Patriots will wind up with a second-tier prospect at the position — unless they trade up.

So who, similar to when the Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo in the late second round in 2014, would be the best fit?

Reese’s Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, a former Patriots scout, believes the conversation should start with Stanford’s Davis Mills and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

Senior ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. sees it similarly, even though the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Mills has 11 career starts, which includes a three-interception game against UCLA. Mills was a top recruit coming out of the Greater Atlanta Christian School, but his college body of work is thin.

“Was he elite? No. But he has talent. He had a great pro day [throwing in the rain]. All the guys beyond the big five, he may be the next quarterback taken and it will probably be in the second round. He could possibly drop to the third,” Kiper said.

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Mills has had a couple of ACL injuries, and “he’s not as athletic as maybe he would have been without the injuries, but he’s got poise, he’s incredibly intelligent, and I thought you saw him get better throughout the year. He can really drive the ball. He’s a really smart kid who’s got quick eyes and makes good decisions.”

Kiper and Jeremiah slotted Mond (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) as the next possibility, with Kiper comparing him to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was a fourth-round pick in 2012. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay is high on Mond, predicting he’ll go to the Washington Football Team in the second round of his latest mock draft.

Jeremiah noted Mond is “not the thickest guy,” but highlighted his progression over his career.

“I thought he really got better and played well this year, culminating with a great Senior Bowl week where he was MVP of the game,” he said, adding that his size and early-career inconsistency might be of concern to some teams.

“I like him, and I think he’s got a live arm. He can create and extend a little bit. Talking to the guys down there at A&M, they said when they would get on the plane after games he would be standing up in the aisle with [coach] Jimbo Fisher already watching the tape with him, so he was always dialed in, always around the facility.”

Then there’s Trask, who at 23 years old is the same age as Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.

“Second round is high. I think third or fourth round is where I’d look at [Trask],” Kiper said. “He has the size [6-foot-5, 236 pounds]. He throws the deep ball very well, very good touch. But he doesn’t have an elite arm. He has very limited mobility.”

Trask’s 68 touchdown passes are the most of any draft-eligible quarterback over the past two seasons, but he’s also thrown 15 interceptions. His hand size, 10 1/8 inches, is one of the biggest in the draft and fits well if the Patriots place a higher value on that with Northeast conditions in mind.

“There’s some things to like about him, and some things to make you wonder if he can be an effective starter,” Kiper said. “But I would invest a fourth-round pick in him. He’s basically [Washington QB] Ryan Fitzpatrick — a pocket passer.”

Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman (6-2, 235), who transferred to Georgia in 2020 but opted out of last season, is another consideration.

“[Newman] looked good in 2019, needs to become a little more accurate with some throws, cutting down on some mistakes/interceptions. But he has talent,” Kiper said. “You’re talking about a fifth-, sixth-rounder, but had he played at Georgia this past year, he could have been a second- or third-round pick.”

Texas’ Sam Ehlinger (6-1, 222) is also part of the conversation, likely on Day 3 (fourth through seventh round). McShay raved about Ehlinger’s competitiveness and toughness, while noting his consistency as a passer needs improvement, particularly on deep throws (ranking last on throws of 21-plus yards among the top 15 draft-eligible QBs, according to ESPN Stats & Information).

“He can run, has great pocket presence, is physical, tough, and takes care of the football. He has great experience,” McShay said. “But throwing the deep ball, that’s where I struggled the most with him.”



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Carolina in his mind? New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson catches a tough break – New York Jets Blog

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Wilson vs. Darnold: Zach Wilson‘s NFL debut will be off-Broadway in location only. In terms of theater, his Week 1 road showdown against predecessor Sam Darnold is worth a neon marquee.

While Jets-Carolina Panthers is being billed as Darnold’s revenge game, the potential impact on Wilson can’t be dismissed. Already facing huge expectations as the No. 2 pick and perceived franchise savior, the 21-year-old rookie and presumptive starter will be under magnified pressure in what amounts to a statement game.

Is that a fair way to look at it? No, but that’s how it will play. The NFL schedule-makers, always lusting for drama, did the Jets no favors by staging Wilson versus Darnold. This is no soft opening, that’s for sure.

Wilson hasn’t commented yet on the matchup, but someone who knows him well believes he will be unfazed by the magnitude of it.

“He looks forward to opportunities like this,” said former NFL quarterback John Beck, Wilson’s longtime personal coach. “Because people kind of snubbed him young, meaning he wasn’t heavily recruited [in high school], he could see these as opportunities to prove something.

“He’s not one of those people who had everybody telling him how good he was. In situations like this, those [players] probably think, ‘Oh, gosh, I may fail and, if I fail, what does that mean?’ I think Zach views that as the opposite.

“To him, it’s not him versus Sam Darnold. In Zach’s mind, it’s him taking the stage at his first regular-season game. To him, that’s what this stage is about. Because of that, he wants to play really well in that situation. I think that type of challenge excites him.”

Last month’s Darnold trade wasn’t a clear-cut decision for Jets general manager Joe Douglas, who admitted he considered the possibility of pairing Darnold and Wilson. Despite his struggles in New York, Darnold remains popular within the organization and the fan base. In that sense, it’s probably a good thing the opener is on the road. If the day goes sideways, Wilson won’t have to worry about fan backlash.

2. Two for the show: As expected, Wilson will wear No. 2. There’s certainly not much Jets history associated with that number. The most recognizable player to wear No. 2 was place-kicker Nick Folk, a member of the team from 2010 to 2016. In terms of New York sports history, the all-time No. 2 is a no-brainer — former Yankees star Derek Jeter.

3. Sorry, wrong number: First-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker will wear No. 75, which raises a question: Why is that number still in circulation? The Jets should retire that number because it belonged to the late great Winston Hill, who was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Other ex-Jets in the Hall of Fame — quarterback Joe Namath (12), wide receiver Don Maynard (13) and running back Curtis Martin (28) — had their numbers retired by the team. Even defensive lineman Joe Klecko (73), not a member of the HOF (even though he should be), had his number retired. Why should Hill, who wore No. 75 with distinction for 14 seasons, be different? By the same token, offensive lineman Kevin Mawae (68), inducted in 2019, also should be afforded that honor. No current player has No. 68.

Vera-Tucker wore No. 75 at USC, so his preference is understandable. Chuma Edoga, another former USC lineman, wore it for the Jets the past two years. No one should wear it again now that Hill has been posthumously honored in Canton.

The Jets, aware of the Hill situation, haven’t ruled out adjustments in the future.

4. Inside the schedule: Every team’s schedule is filled with quirks and trends. Let’s take a closer look at the Jets’ slate:

  • Positives: They have 13 games at 1 p.m. ET, a franchise record. That’s not great for national exposure, but it makes the coaches happy. Prime-time games cut into the following week’s preparation. … The Jets and Chicago Bears are the only teams without back-to-back road games. … They face only one 2020 playoff team (Tennessee Titans) in their first seven games. … Starting in Week 10, they have six home games in a span of eight weeks, their first such stretch since 1976. … They could benefit from an unbalanced schedule. Due to the 17-game schedule and a London game, the Jets have nine home games, seven true road games and one international game. The Miami Dolphins have the same situation.

  • Negatives: The bye is Week 6, the earliest it can be. (Three other teams have the early bye.) For the Jets, it comes after their trip to London. That means they have to close the season with 12 straight games, which will be taxing. … Their rest differential is minus-2 days. That’s not ideal, but it’s better than the New England Patriots (-15) and Dolphins (-6). (Note: The Jets had a plus-8 differential last season, which did them no good.) … They’re away from home in four of the first six games, which could be a factor now that stadiums are expected to be at full capacity again. … Five of the Jets’ final 10 games are against 2020 playoff teams.

5. Did you know? The Jets play the Patriots in Weeks 2 and 7. If Wilson starts against Mac Jones, who will supplant Cam Newton at some point, it will mark the first time in the history of the Jets-Patriots rivalry that two rookie quarterbacks started. That covers 121 regular-season games. Tom Brady started 36 of them, none as a rookie, which explains a lot.

6. No opt-outs: Before the 2021 NFL draft, Douglas was on the fence when asked how he would evaluate prospects who opted out for 2020. On one hand, he said it would be a “challenge” to grade players based on 2019 tape. But he made sure to note he respected the wishes of those who decided not to play, ostensibly for COVID-19 concerns. (Wink, wink.)

As it turned out, no fewer than 19 teams drafted at least one player who opted out for the entire college season — but not the Jets. Wide receiver Elijah Moore opted out for the final two games at Ole Miss, but he still had eight highly productive games on tape in 2020. Douglas picked players who played, and I don’t think that was a coincidence. He’s all about minimizing risk, and he recognized opt-outs carried more risk than other players.

7. Super sleeper: For obvious reasons, the Jets’ third-day defensive draft picks didn’t get much exposure, but one name to watch is fifth-round pick Jamien Sherwood, the safety/linebacker hybrid. He was a tackling star at Auburn, but his pro evaluation dropped with a disappointing 40-yard dash (4.74 seconds) at his pro day. The Jets see him as an ideal fit as a weakside linebacker in their 4-3 front — a wide-open position — and there’s some thought he could emerge as the starter. He played safety with a linebacker mentality.

8. Looking for gems: The Jets were aggressive in signing undrafted free agents, doling out relatively large guarantees for coveted players. Oregon State cornerback Isaiah Dunn got $185,000 and Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah received $180,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Those were two of the league’s biggest guarantees.

9. Whatever happened to…: Most of the members of the Jets’ previous coaching staff landed jobs in the pro and college ranks. Of the coordinators and position coaches on Adam Gase’s staff, only Gregg Williams (defensive coordinator), Joe Vitt (outside linebackers) and Jim Bob Cooter (running backs) are out of coaching. Vitt, Gase’s father-in-law, could retire. Gase, too, is not coaching; he has two years left on his contract.

10. The last word: “He’s a fantastic guy. I think he’s the leader of men that the Jets need. I think he’s going to be one of the biggest parts of the rebuild phase.” — center Connor McGovern on coach Robert Saleh, via inforum.com in Fargo, North Dakota (his hometown).



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New York Giants sign former first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants have signed former Carolina Panthers first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, the team announced Sunday.

Benjamin and former Philadelphia Eagles running back and Super Bowl hero Corey Clement impressed over the weekend during tryouts at rookie minicamp and received one-year deals.

A wide receiver who had over 1,000 yards as a rookie for the Panthers in 2013, Benjamin has not played in the NFL since 2018. He worked primarily as a tight end at the tryout.

“In terms of Benjamin working a different position [Friday], we’re going to work different guys at a variety of things right now,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “He’s a big guy. He’s always been a big receiver. He’ll work receiver. He’s working a little bit flex tight end as well.

“I wouldn’t really kind of, you know, pin him down to any one position at this point. We’re going to use the weekend to move him around to different spots and see how it works out.”

Benjamin would join a crowded tight end room along with Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. The Giants also are deep at wide receiver after adding Kenny Golladay and John Ross in free agency and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round. This will make it tough for Benjamin to ultimately land a spot on the final roster, regardless of position.

It was just three years ago during a Monday Night Football broadcast that ESPN analyst Booger McFarland famously declared Benjamin was “probably a Popeyes biscuit away from being a tight end.”

Benjamin, 30, has spent time with the Panthers, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. He has 209 career receptions for 3,021 yards and 20 touchdowns. The 28th overall pick in 2014 was originally drafted in Carolina by current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.

Clement, 26, spent the first four seasons of his professional career with the Eagles. He has been slowed in recent years by injury but is best known for his performance in Super Bowl LII, when he had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ upset win over the New England Patriots. Clement also helped execute the Philly Special, a trick play that resulted in a touchdown reception by quarterback Nick Foles.

The Giants needed veteran depth at running back. With Saquon Barkley coming back from a serious knee injury, the Giants signed Devontae Booker as a free agent and drafted Gary Brightwell in the sixth round.

New York also announced that it had waived running back Jordan Chunn and tight end Nate Wieting.

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Fight for life: Ex-Ravens lineman Lional Dalton waiting for transplant – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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In March, Lional Dalton’s wife was setting up a Wall of Fame at their Atlanta home to showcase his days of lining up at defensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and playing a key role in one of the most physically dominating defenses in NFL history.

Sorting through all of the old pictures, Dalton came across a plaque thanking him for filming a public service announcement for the Living Legacy Foundation in Maryland, a nonprofit organization that facilitates organ donation and transplantation.

“It’s almost like God got a crazy sense of humor,” Dalton said. “What’s the odds of that?”

More than 20 years after publicly promoting the need for organ donation, Dalton is one of the 110,000 people in the United States who is in need of a life-saving transplant. Dalton, 46, has been battling Stage 4 kidney disease for the past 17 months, going to dialysis for five hours a day, three days a week, while understanding his future is uncertain.

The typical wait time for a kidney from the national deceased-donor waiting list is five years. An average of 17 people die per day waiting for a transplant.

“Waiting for a kidney is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Dalton said. “I used to fight for my team on the field, but now I am fighting for my life.”

Dalton’s fortune changed two months ago when he discovered that plaque and a phone number on the back of it, a turn of events that caused his wife to get chills. “It was like that ‘a-ha’ moment,” said Tiffany Dalton, who has been married to Lional for eight years.

Dalton reached out to the Living Legacy Foundation, which soon got him an appearance on “Good Morning America” to explain the need to donate organs and to share his story. That four-minute interview stirred some people from the Baltimore area to call and offer help.

One woman intended to donate her kidney to her mother, but her mother passed away before the transplant. So she wants to give her kidney to Dalton in the name of her mother. The potential donor, who could not be reached for an interview, is undergoing tests to see if she is a match.

A kidney from a living donor can last 15-20 years. If successful, the affable Super Bowl champion nicknamed “Jelly Roll” can resume traveling the world with his wife and their two daughters.

“God willing, this lady comes through for me,” Dalton said. “I could have a kidney by the end of the year. That would be amazing.”

‘A big bombshell’

In a matter of hours, Dalton went from a relaxing start to 2020, to thinking his life was over.

Dalton hosted a New Year’s Eve party with friends, where he laughed and played games before going to bed. Around 6 a.m., he started experiencing shortness of breath and went alone to a nearby fire station, which was the closest emergency medical service.

With soaring blood pressure, Dalton was rushed to the hospital. His wife Tiffany woke to several missed calls because Dalton didn’t want to bother her initially, and she bolted out of the house to join him.

Dalton, who hadn’t felt sick before this, was informed by the doctor that his kidneys were functioning at 20%. Dalton’s first thought was to tell his wife to get all of his affairs in order because he didn’t know how long he was going to live. He started to cry, and Tiffany stepped out of the room to do the same.

“[The doctor] just dropped a big bombshell on us, and it was super surprising,” Tiffany said. “All of the emotions go down. It was a lot to process at first.”

Football’s impact on Dalton’s health

Dalton believes his kidney disease is an aftereffect of playing in the NFL. An undrafted defender out of Eastern Michigan, Dalton did whatever it took to make it in the league and stay there for nine seasons. He bounced around five teams, and he found out running around while weighing more than 300 pounds can inflict a significant toll on both knees.

For his last two years in Kansas City and Houston, Dalton estimated he downed four to five pills of anti-inflammatory medication every Wednesday and Thursday, the two most physical practices of the week. For his last three seasons, he acknowledged taking a pain-killing shot the day before games.

According to Dalton, an NFL team doctor told him that he had protein in his urine but didn’t explain this was a sign of kidney issues. Dalton thought he needed to stop eating red meat.

“They give a pill for everything,” Dalton said. “What happened in January [2020] was an accumulation of all the Motrin and anti-inflammatory medication. All that stuff wears on the kidneys. If I would have known in 2005 about my issues, I would have stopped taking all those pills when I was playing. But I didn’t know. That’s why I’m in the position I’m in right now searching for a donor.”

It’s been estimated that 3% to 5% of all late-stage kidney failure patients in this country are due to prolonged and high use of anti-inflammatory medication, according to the Living Legacy Foundation.

Dropping 118 pounds

Dalton sat atop the football world in 2000, though you wouldn’t believe it by how his Super Bowl ring slips off his finger.

He was a valuable backup to interior linemen Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa on the Ravens’ defense that allowed the fewest points in a 16-game season and spearheaded Baltimore to a 34-7 triumph over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Teammates remember Dalton for how he stuffed the run, how much he ate and how he exercised his bulldog Biggie on the treadmill.

At that time, Dalton had the second-largest Super Bowl ring ever made, behind the Chicago Bears’ William “the Refrigerator” Perry. Dalton’s ring size was 16.

But these days, everything is smaller with Dalton.

“I tell people to just call me Jelly,” he said. “The rolls are all gone.”

After learning he has end-stage renal disease, Dalton read about how lowering your food consumption slowed down the deterioration of the kidneys in rats and mice. He immediately started fasting and switched to a 90% plant-based diet.

For breakfast, he might have a smoothie and some fruit. His favorite is almond milk with cinnamon and nutmeg along with a banana.

His bigger meals are between noon and 4 p.m. He eats falafel, rice, pita and hummus. His wife has learned how to batter cauliflower to make it taste like chicken.

“A player rep in Atlanta told me: It’s like the Super Bowl for your life,” Dalton said. “What you eat is how you feel.”

At his heaviest, the 6-foot-1 Dalton was 360 pounds. The day before a game, he once ate nearly two slabs of ribs, a pint of baked beans and some macaroni and cheese.

Now, he’s down to 242 pounds — a loss of 118 pounds. This is the lightest he’s been since middle school.

His waist line went from a size 48 to 38. His weight loss has been so dramatic that he’s no longer on blood pressure medicine. Dalton had been taking four pills a day for blood pressure, which had been further damaging his kidneys.

“I gave him a hug,” Tiffany said, “and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I feel like I have a new husband.”

Providing inspiration

Mornings became confusing for Lional and Tiffany’s two daughters, six-year-old Skye and two-year-old Sade.

“Where’s Daddy?” they asked.

Dalton had been taking his girls to school every morning and picking them up. But his schedule drastically changed. Dialysis treatment goes from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

During his 4 1/2 hours a day there, Dalton has written two books. His first was on his experiences and seeing different cultures: 19 countries in Africa along with Israel, Dubai and China. His other is a nearly finished ABC book that chronicles Skye’s travels, with pictures of her with different animals all around the world.

“Every day he encourages me and motivates me to be better, to be stronger, to not complain,” Tiffany said. “The things I’m going through is nothing compared to him. He definitely gives us strength.”

The hope for Dalton and the Living Legacy Foundation is he can inspire others too. Dalton wants to remove the stigma and fear surrounding organ donation. He explains how many lives in the community can be saved through organ, eye and tissue donation.

It’s the same message he was spreading in 1999, when he filmed his PSA.

Charlie Alexander, the CEO of the Living Legacy Foundation, remembers taking a picture with Dalton back then and thinking it’s great that Dalton is giving his time to a cause that he’ll never need.

“What it boils down to is this can happen to anyone,” Alexander said. “Nothing is guaranteed. We all need to be aware of what an impact we can make on people’s lives we may never know.”

How much of an impact can Dalton’s story make?

“People are looking to ‘Who can I trust right now on TV or online or in my community?’,” Alexander said. “You see a guy like Lional standing up in front of the room 20 years ago, when he didn’t have a proverbial horse in the race. Now, you’re seeing him standing there again today saying, ‘I hope you took my message seriously 20 years ago because my life depends on it.’”

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