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Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury takes jab at Sean McVay, Rams’ draft setup – Arizona Cardinals Blog

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TEMPE, Ariz. — There’s a new NFC West title at stake: The battle of the draft rooms.

Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury’s reign as owner of the best draft-day digs is being threatened by Los Angeles Rams’ setup in a Malibu beach house, and Kingsbury blames it on Rams coach and good friend Sean McVay.

Kingsbury made a splash — no pun intended — during last year’s virtual draft when live cutaways on the broadcast showed him sitting on his white leather coach inside his contemporary Paradise Valley home with views of Camelback Mountain out the back of his floor-to-ceiling wall of windows. The grandeur of his home, which included a resort-style backyard with a fire pit, that was lit as temperatures hovered in the low 90s, led to a tweet that included the photo to go viral.

On Thursday, Kingsbury was asked about the Rams’ attempt to unseat him for the title of best draft-day digs.

“Yeah, I really think it’s just a ploy by McVay to allow himself the opportunity to take his shirt off again and jump in the pool like he did on Hard Knocks, probably sip a little rose, dip in the ocean and make some draft picks,” Kingsbury said. “I think more than anything, he headed that up so it should be fun to watch.”

Kingsbury won’t get a chance to challenge McVay’s setup this year because the Cardinals will be drafting from their facility in Tempe, Arizona.



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Falcons rookie minicamp proves a starting point for Arthur Smith and his players – Atlanta Falcons Blog

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It wasn’t, in the moment, any different for Arthur Smith. The Atlanta Falcons‘ first-time head coach had seen other people go through this before, been on enough staffs to see what worked and what didn’t. He’d been working toward this for 15 years now since his playing career ended at North Carolina.

It’s not a game or a full practice with 90 guys running around. But this weekend was a milestone for Smith of sorts at Falcons rookie minicamp — the first time he held the whistle as the one running the show.

On the field, it felt the same for him as it had with the Titans and Washington, when he was an assistant and then a coordinator. Only later did he really think about the difference.

“It’s usually at night when you’re going back, watching the film, watching the different individual drills, you take a moment,” Smith said. “And you’re like, all right, now I gotta be — I’m responsible for the entire team, and it’s cool. It’s surreal. It’s what you wanted. It’s what you signed up for.”

COVID-19 protocols changed what this year’s rookie minicamp looked like. There were fewer tryout players and fewer players overall, altering what teams could do. One of Smith’s philosophies is “you may hate change, but you loathe extinction.” So he took what the NFL said they could do, adapted his plan to it and set out to practice.

Because so much of what rookie minicamp is ends up being an introduction. Atlanta didn’t go full speed much of Friday’s practice, but it became a starting point for rookies to get a sense of what they were getting into.

“I love getting on the green grass, being able to make calls and command a defense, things like that,” said safety Richie Grant, the team’s second-round pick. “Went a little fast, a little fast [Friday]. I think that was on purpose to see how we practice and how we react to situations like that.”

Saturday, defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham said, picked up a bit more. There were fewer mistakes, and the pace was a little bit faster — a little bit cleaner. The “high intensity” stayed the same.

It also gave players a chance to see what Smith will be like as a coach. There were interactions during the pre-draft process and meetings and conversations since, but none of them had seen Smith on the field as a head coach before and just a handful.

Smith said he could tell. Players hadn’t been in a true practice environment for months. First-round pick Kyle Pitts said tempo and details were focal points, along with attitude and effort.

That makes sense since everyone, on some level, is still new to this.

“Everyone is kind of falling in line,” Pitts said. “And following the leader.”

Smith’s plan — like many other teams around the league — was to start slow as a building process. So while he might be intrigued by cornerback Avery Williams’ potential as a two-way player, Smith wants Williams to focus on defense and special teams first. It’s why they are working offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield inside at guard even though he played tackle in college to get a sense of how he might adapt on the interior. They already know what he can do outside. Mayfield said it would be a “challenge” but he has changed positions before — from left tackle to right tackle at Michigan.

It’s all part of the start of their careers because while football is still football, everything about this is new — for both the coach and the players — including how everything is going to be structured.

“Try to educate yourself, what’s the best, you’re looking at things in sports science, you’re looking at numbers, you’re looking at, really, the different teaching methods,” Smith said. “You’re just looking around for anything you think can help your team and I’m not trying to be too concerned about what somebody else outside of here is doing but we’re constantly evaluating it.

“It’s the approach that we’ll have as long as I’m here.”

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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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Dallas Cowboys CB Nahshon Wright cleared air with Richard Sherman after comparison

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After being picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the NFL draft, cornerback Nahshon Wright said he looked at himself “as a more athletic and agile Richard Sherman.”

It didn’t take long for Sherman to respond on social media, so Wright sent Sherman a direct message to explain himself and said the veteran responded quickly.

“I actually reached out to him because after I said it I kind of seen what people perceived it as,” Wright said after his second rookie minicamp practice Saturday. “I wanted to reach out to him personally and kind of clear it up and just tell him that I actually modeled myself after him, I emulate my game after him.”

Wright said Sherman, a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro who is currently a free agent, was not offended.

“We kind of have a mutual respect,” Wright said. “For me, I think it was just genuine confidence in myself and looking up to someone like that. He played under [Cowboys defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn. So now I have the opportunity to play under him and hopefully do the same things that Richard Sherman did. So we spoke, and we have a mutual respect. And he told me if I ever needed help I can reach [out] to him.

“Richard is a great guy.”

At 6-foot-4, 183 pounds, Wright has a similar frame to Sherman, who is 6-3, 195 pounds. The Cowboys can only hope he can be another Sherman.

“I really try to emulate his mental process,” Wright said. “The way he kind of slows the game down for himself. It’s kind of like playing chess. So being able to see the formation, know the call, know what you have and just execute. He has done a great job with that, and hopefully he continues to do that.”



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