Connect with us


With Cowboys’ 10 picks in 2021 NFL draft, it’s time for Trader Jerry Jones – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — Since taking over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, owner and general manager Jerry Jones has made 161 trades, and 68 of them have been draft-day deals.

Hence the nickname Trader Jerry.

Jones has made bold moves nobody saw coming, like moving up to draft cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012 with the No. 6 pick in a deal with the St. Louis Rams. A year later, Jones engineered the Cowboys moving down 13 spots in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to draft center Travis Frederick at No. 31.

Some years there have been a dizzying number of trades for the Cowboys, like in 2008, when Dallas made eight draft-day deals. Then there were three years when the Cowboys made no moves during the draft: 2000, 2011 and 2015.

The Cowboys have 10 selections in the 2021 NFL draft. Only the Philadelphia Eagles (11) have more.

The Cowboys need Trader Jerry to reappear.

They don’t need wild-uncle Jerry making trades for trades’ sake, which seemed to be the case in 2009, a special-teams-centric draft that turned out to be one of the Cowboys’ worst drafts.

The Cowboys need with-a-purpose Jerry to make moves.

In NFL free agency, the Cowboys targeted quantity over quality, adding 10 players — none with a salary-cap hit greater than $2.5 million. They were not going to be big spenders on the open market and have felt for years that the lifeblood of an organization is the draft.

With so many high-priced players already on the roster, such as quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive tackles Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, the Cowboys need to hit on their draft picks this year to build depth and to balance out a salary-cap crunch.

To many, it might scream that using all 10 picks is the best way to help cost certainty, but there is no way 10 draft picks, plus a couple of undrafted free agents, will make the 53-man roster. Before folks get carried away by remembering sixth- and seventh-round success stories, there are far more misses and never-weres.

Despite the Cowboys’ 6-10 finish in 2020, they still believe — rightly or wrongly — they have a talented roster, and earning a spot among the 53 will be difficult for a rookie. Dallas needs to strategically pinpoint players at specific positions.

During last year’s draft, the Cowboys made that exact kind of move, giving up fifth-round picks in 2020 and 2021 to the Eagles to select Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz. They called Biadasz a “blinking light,” which meant he was much higher on their draft board than the 146th pick. This season, the Cowboys view Biadasz as their starting center.

Staying put at No. 10 in this year’s draft makes the most sense because the Cowboys could select the best defensive player available if the first nine selections are offensive players. By now, the Cowboys’ needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. Maybe sprinkle in an offensive lineman, too.

The Cowboys’ second-round pick is at No. 44. What if they gave up No. 44 and their pick at No. 75 or No. 99 to move up earlier in the second round, or even to the tail end of the first round, to draft, say, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore? No team wants to be as thin at defensive tackle as it appears the Cowboys are, and Barmore could fix that issue.

The Cowboys have two picks apiece in the third, fourth and sixth rounds because of trades or compensatory selections. They can also deal 2022 picks if necessary to get trades done.

A few times in recent drafts, Jones has lamented moves that in hindsight worked out better the way they ended up happening. He thought the Cowboys played it too safe in selecting Martin over quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft. Martin could one day join Larry Allen as the best offensive linemen in franchise history.

In 2016, Jones could not get over the fact that he did not land quarterback Paxton Lynch in a trade back into the first round. The Cowboys ended up with Prescott in the fourth round, and he was just rewarded with a four-year, $160 million deal as their franchise quarterback.

With counsel from executive vice president Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay, Trader Jerry can put his imprint on the 2021 draft.

It’s time for Trader Jerry to be bold.

Source link


Washington Football Team’s first day of minicamp starts with photos, chalkboard signs – Washington Blog



Just like when some kids start school, Washington Football Team quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s first day of minicamp on Tuesday in Ashburn, Virginia, begins with a photo and his own personalized chalkboard sign that reads he is in Year 17, is 38 years old and his “teacher” is “Mr. [Ron] Rivera.”

Also listed on Fitzpatrick’s board are his friends, Washington’s starting wide receivers: “Terry [McLaurin] and Curtis [Samuel].”

Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only Washington player to pose with his own sign.

McLaurin, running back Antonio Gibson, linebacker Jamin Davis and safety Darrick Forrest also showed off their first-day boards.

Kicking off the three-day, mandatory minicamp in a unique way, Washington is one of nine NFL teams to practice this week, with the rest of the teams to follow next week (except for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have elected not to have a minicamp this offseason).

Teams have already been going through organized team activities, but for some, this is the first time veterans will take the field since the end of the 2020 season. Star defensive end Chase Young is one player in particular who was not at Washington’s previous OTAs, but is in attendance this week. ESPN’s John Keim reports Samuel is not at minicamp Tuesday because, according to Rivera, the wide receiver tweaked his groin.

MORE: Rodgers, Brady and more — Nine things to watch at NFL minicamps

Source link

Continue Reading


Zach Wilson’s rookie year hinges on Jets’ ability to run the ball – New York Jets Blog



FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — If the New York Jets want to get the best out of rookie Zach Wilson, if they want to put an end to the vexing quarterback drought that has plagued the franchise for decades, they must learn to do this one thing exceptionally well:

Run. The. Ball.

They were really bad at it during the Sam Darnold era, ranking 30th in rushing offense over three years — which probably explains a lot of things. Now they have a new coaching staff and a new scheme with a history of success, but big questions remain because the current cast of running backs lacks a true star.

And a true starter, for that matter.

Some perspective: If you combine the rushing yardage from the career years of the Jets’ four veteran backs — Tevin Coleman (800 yards), Josh Adams (511), Ty Johnson (273) and La’Mical Perine (232) — the total would be 1,816. That’s 200-plus yards fewer than Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry‘s 2,027-yard performance in the 2020 NFL season.

For the Jets, the star is the system, an outside zone scheme known for turning pedestrian players into 1,000-yard rushers. It started nearly 30 years ago with coach Mike Shanahan, who taught it to his assistants, who taught it to their assistants. One of them was Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who grew up in the coaching business under Shanahan’s son, current San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

The scheme is like a secret family recipe, passed down through the generations, finally arriving in New Jersey.

“Best scheme in the world,” said Jets coach Robert Saleh, who also worked under Kyle.

The Jets don’t have to be world beaters, but they have to run the ball effectively to take pressure off Wilson, keeping him out of third-and-long and allowing him to utilize the play-action element in the offense. One of the reasons why they drafted him No. 2 overall was because of his ability to excel in play-action situations.

Now all they have to do is get better blocking up front and scheme up ways to get production out of their no-name backfield, which includes fourth-round pick Michael Carter, who might be the best of the bunch.

“I do think they all could be productive backs in this system,” LaFleur said.

The plan is to use the “committee” approach, which is how the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season. They finished second in total rushing, but had no backs who cracked the 800-yard mark — Raheem Mostert (772), Matt Breida (623) and Coleman (544).

The league is trending away from the one-man show.

“There are a few guys,” Saleh said. “Derrick Henry still does it; there’s a few of those. If you have one, you have one. You never want to force the issue. You want to share the load, and it gives those guys a chance to have longevity in their career.”

The scheme requires patient backs who can run east-west until they see a crease and … vroom! It’s one cut and go. Coleman has an early edge because he’s familiar with the system and has the most straightaway speed, based on data from NFL Next Gen Stats.

“When he gets the ball in his hand and makes that one cut,” Saleh said, “it’s like he’s shot out of a cannon.”

Coleman, 28, didn’t generate much interest on the free-agent market (he signed for one year, $1.1 million), which says what the league thinks about him. Perine (5-foot-11, 216 pounds) is “a big, powerful back who can get downhill in a hurry,” Saleh said. Quite frankly, Perine, a 2020 fourth-round pick, didn’t show any special qualities as a rookie. Some opposing scouts wonder if the scheme change will stunt his development.

The most intriguing player is Carter (5-foot-8, 201), who runs bigger than his size and brings more quickness than the others. He ran for 1,245 yards and an 8.0 average last season at North Carolina, which suggests there’s potential in those thunderous thighs.

“Every back has a unique trait,” Saleh said of the Jets’ depth chart. “Finding roles for them is going to be fun.”

“They come in so many shapes and sizes,” said LaFleur, suggesting there’s no prototype of a player for the scheme.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas didn’t have many great options in the offseason. The free-agent market was weak, and he wasn’t about to pay big bucks after the Le’Veon Bell disaster by the previous regime. In the draft, he could have picked Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, but he preferred to use his second first-round pick on guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. Two other running backs were chosen before he selected Carter near the top of the fourth round.

There was no fault in Douglas’ strategy, but it leaves them with question marks. Quite frankly, the Jets haven’t been a formidable running team since 2009-10, when they controlled the trenches and protected their young quarterback, Mark Sanchez.

They need to get back to that mentality with Wilson.

Source link

Continue Reading


H.I.T.S. and loafs: How Colts coordinator Matt Eberflus motivates his defense – Indianapolis Colts Blog



INDIANAPOLIS — If Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich was going to lose anybody off his staff to be a head coach this offseason, the thought was it would be defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, not offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

Sirianni is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Eberflus remains with the Colts.

Eberflus, who interviewed for the Houston Texans job, staying in Indianapolis is a good thing for the organization because he’s brought an aggressive, fast and play-through-the-whistle approach. It has helped transformed a defense that struggled for many years when Chuck Pagano coached the Colts.

That’s not too bad for a coach who wasn’t handpicked by Reich when he was hired in the winter of 2018.

“I think the world of Matt as a coach, as a person, as a defensive coordinator — that we can … have the continuity and just keep building, growing and adapting the system to our players,” Reich said earlier this year. “I’ve just seen Flus continue to grow and develop in that role as well, really connecting with players, making a conscious effort every week to put our players in the best position possible.

“He is extremely intelligent, very focused in on a vision for how he sees the defense executing and where we want to be as a defense.”

The 2021 offseason was about adding pieces on defense, especially with the departures of defensive ends Justin Houston and Denico Autry and linebacker Anthony Walker.

The Colts used their first two draft picks on edge rushers Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo to join the unit’s anchors in linebacker Darius Leonard and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. The additions have given Eberflus the type of depth he’s “never” had during his first three seasons with the Colts.

“They’ve done a great job of building depth here,” Eberflus said. “The competition is all the way through the depth chart, which is outstanding and we’re just looking for it to play out. It just has to play out the way it should play out. The guys that are producing on the field, those are the guys that play. It’s an exciting thing.”

Playing for Eberflus can be a challenge if you don’t fit the style he prefers. Players like defensive lineman Tarell Basham, cornerback Quincy Wilson and defensive end Ben Banogu have struggled to meet the expectations necessary to get snaps on the field. Basham and Wilson are no longer with the Colts and the clock is ticking on Banogu.

What entices so many players about Eberflus’ scheme is it’s not robotic. His nonstop, play-through-the-whistle and all 11 players pursuing the ball approach allows for them to “play free” without being limited.

“Coach Flus came in and was nothing short of spectacular,” Walker, who is now with the Cleveland Browns, said at the end of last season. “The main thing is the constant message of running to the ball and takeaways. Harping on it with us and never changing that message. That’s the biggest thing from being a player for so long, some coaches come in and say we’re going to hustle, take the ball away and all that. But then you won’t hear about it until the next year. But with Flus, you hear that everyday. His constant message.”

Buckner added, “What’s not to love about that if you’re a player playing for Flus?”

For as much as implementing the right scheme to stop an Aaron Rodgers in the air or Derrick Henry on the ground is important, Eberflus has helped Leonard become one of the NFL’s premier defensive players and made Buckner’s transition to the Colts smooth by also keeping it simple by emphasizing speed, hustle and effort.

And Eberflus lets each player know what is expected when they arrive and reiterates the message daily. He has a “H.I.T.S.” principle that has a meaning behind each letter:

  • H: Hustle

  • I: Intensity

  • T: Taking the ball away

  • S: Situationally smart

“That’s the pillars we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Eberflus said. “It’s the H.I.T.S. principle and we talk about it every single day. It’s in our defensive room, it’s all over the place. That’s the No. 1 thing because it’s the No. 1 thing.”

The Colts gave up the eighth-fewest yards and were fifth in the league in turnovers forced last season.

“The way he’s taught us about passion, intensity and taking the ball away and being situationally smart, he’s ingrained that in us,” cornerback Kenny Moore said. “We love coach Flus.”

And it gets better. Eberflus also employs a “loaf” system.

The staff reviews film and charts to see how hard a player works on the field. They want their defensive players going full speed from the snap of the ball until after the whistle is blown. It’s never a good thing to have a high number of loafs, because it means the player isn’t putting in the type of effort coaches expect. And it’s embarrassing to be called out in front of teammates about having a loaf.

Tampa Bay coaches Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli taught Eberflus the loafing system.

How Eberflus goes about things with his stat tracking and some of the philosophies he uses may seem quirky to some, but it’s embraced in the organization.

“I’ve never seen anything where there is an accountability on loafs at the level that we have it here,” Reich said. “What makes it work is the players believe it and see it, and we know there is tangible proof that it works and that it matters.

“Every week someone on the opposing coaching staff is going to go out of their way to walk over to me and say, ‘Man, I really respect how hard your defense plays, how much they run to the ball.’ I think that’s a testament to our players, but I also think to Flus and the defensive coaching staff for that accountability. That it’s a group thing together.”

Source link

Continue Reading