The Titans have to get more consistent offensive line play this season. Protecting Marcus Mariota is essential, but a new offensive scheme that’ll require more pulling from guards on outside runs and screens only enhances the vitality of the interior offensive line.
Spain is the incumbent starter, but Pamphile has been earning first-team snaps in practice. It stands to reason that a strong performance from Pamphile combined with a poor one by Spain could move the newcomer into the starting unit. It’ll be tough to focus on offensive line play with so many other factors to watch on offense, but left guard will be a compelling story line all preseason.
Over the first 24 hours of their training camp, the Steelers swapped out one rookie defensive back from Villanova for another. They cut the only player who failed their conditioning run, too.
The Steelers on Thursday signed Malik Reaves, a 6-0, 200-pound player whom the Steelers list as a cornerback but whom other outlets have projected as either a corner or safety.
Wednesday, the Steelers waived/injured Trey Johnson, who was Reaves’ teammate in the Villanova secondary but showed up to camp with a shoulder injury. Reaves spent about six weeks with the Kansas City Chiefs this spring after signing as an undrafted free agent.
His official NFL.com draft profile lists size, awareness and toughness as Reaves’ strengths but questions his athleticism.
Journeyman Bryce Harris was released with the designation of non-football illness on Thursday, a day after he did not complete the camp-opening conditioning run .
The first practice of 2018 training camp was scheduled to begin 2:55 p.m. Thursday.
The Cardinals will finally put on the pads Monday morning, a practice that will be open to the public. Sunday's work was the last where the Cards couldn't be in pads, but there was a lot going on -- work that looked a little more sharp as the players get into the swing of camp. Some quick thoughts:
-- The defense was very active, breaking up a number of passes on the day with a number of different people, whether it was linebacker Haason Reddick or defensive backs Antoine Bethea, Lou Young III and Chris Campbell. Young particularly has seemed to stand out throughout the offseason and early in camp. (It's fair to say that's in part because Young clearly likes to celebrate after he makes a play, which tends to get you noticed. But you have to make the play in the first place, and he has.)
-- Vontarrius Dora got more first-team reps at defensive end, but so did Benson Mayowa, and it's pretty clear that spot -- as long as Markus Golden is sidelined -- is very much open.
-- With Jermaine Gresham still out, it sure looks early like the blocking tight end is going to be Gabe Holmes, and given how much this team might want to run, that could give Holmes the edge as starter. Ricky Seals-Jones is still your primary receiving tight end, though.
-- We know the first-unit offensive line (from left tackle, Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Pugh, Smith). The guys lining up at second unit for now are Will Holden, Evan Boehm, Mason Cole, Josh Allen and John Wetzel.
-- Defensively, the top line is Dora, Peters, Nkemdiche, Jones. Second unit is Mayowa (who obviously got work with the first string too), Pierre, Gunter, Albright.
-- At cornerback, Jamar Taylor is working across from Pat P on the first unit, with Young and Brandon Williams the backup cornerbacks. As promised, Tre Boston is working with Bethea and Budda Baker in nickel as a trio of safeties, with linebacker Josh Bynes in for Boston in the base defense.
-- Earlier in the day, coach Steve Wilks had praised veteran receiver Greg Little and undrafted rookie receiver Trent Sherfield as having stood out on Saturday. In a room in which much is up in the air beyond Larry Fitzgerald, it was notable.
Rookie cornerback Natrell Jamerson knows his spot on the New Orleans Saints isn't guaranteed. So the fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin knows he has to fight his way onto the final 53-man roster.
And he's doing so at a new position. Jamerson spent most of his final college season at safety, and statistically, that was his most productive year for the Badgers with 51 tackles, 12 pass breakups and two interceptions.
But the Saints think he fits their system as a cornerback.
"Being able to let him be a corner full-time is going to help him a lot," Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn said. "Because he does have the athletic ability to play the position."
Jamerson said that's been the biggest adjustment he's had to make since joining the Saints for OTAs. He said getting into the mindset of playing cornerback is the main thing he has to do to successfully make the transition -- that and listening to his coaches.
"Trying to transition back to the corner mind-state, it's a lot of things that I'm not used to doing because of playing a different position," Jamerson said. "But whether it's (Aaron Glenn) or a vet or another coach that's coaching me on something, you know, I'm taking it all in and making sure I don't make the same mistakes over and over. I'm just trying to show 'em that I can go out there and play."
He said he'll have to polish off techniques he didn't have to utilize as much playing safety such as press coverage.
"Making sure I'm good off the line with my backpedal and things like that," Jamerson said.
Jamerson seems to be making the transition well as he's made plays in practice including a nice breakup in Thursday's full team drills.
While he knows he has a lot to learn he's confident he'll be able to make the transition smoothly.
"Football is football regardless," he said. "You can call it different things but its the same concepts."
The Philadelphia Eagles signed Purdue defensive end Danny Ezechukwu in undrafted free agency following the 2018 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about the new Eagles pass rusher, I reached out to SB Nation’s Purdue blog: Hammers And Rails. Boilermakers writer Travis Miller(@JustTMill) was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you sum up what his college career was like?It was mostly dismal, but finished on a positive note. Danny originally committed to Purdue under Danny Hope and stayed on board in that recruiting class after he was fired and Darrell Hazell took over. He redshirted in 2013 and then was mostly a top reserve and part time starter in 2014 and 2015. In 2016, when Hazell was eventually fired after a disastrous 9-33 run, he was not on the field a lot because we ran a ridiculous 4-2-5 alignment that took our strengths (linebackers) off the field in favor of more defensive backs (where we were thin). As a result, our run defense was awful.
In 2017, Jefff Brohm’s first year, he was utilized correctly for the first time in his career. He had a great season as a DE/LB hybrid, mostly playing on the end. He finished with 50 tackles, 5 sacks, an interception, and three fumble recoveries. He was great against the run and going downhill into the backfield. After four years of Hazell it was nice to see.
2) What are his strengths?He was a very good linebacker against the run and at the point of attack. He brings good size to the position and seems to have a nose for turnovers. One of his highlights in 2015 was a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown, so he even has a bit of speed.
3) What are his weaknesses?He is not great against the pass. Part of the reason our DC tried the 4-2-5 in 2016 is because he struggled when he had to drop into coverage. His interception this past season came mostly on a tipped pass if I recall, but he is definitely a run-first guy.
4) Are you surprised he went undrafted? Not really. Purdue is still trying to overcome the nadir of the Hazell era. Danny was always a solid college player, but he really only had one year (2017) where he was utilized best for his talents. It’s hard to get drafted on just one good season.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?It would be nice if he can just make a roster. Doing so as an undrafted free agent is hard, but not impossible. I think he might have a niche as a reserve edge rusher. We have put quite a few defensive ends in the league and he played roughly the same role as Ryan Kerrigan for us. If he could be even a 10th of what Kerrigan is in the league he’ll do well.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?Not a whole lot, TBH.
Let’s take a look at one of the lesser-known wide receivers on the New York Giants 90-man roster, undrafted free agent Jawill Davis Bethune-Cookman, as we continue profiling the players the team will bring to training camp.
The basicsAge: 23
2017 season in reviewDavis caught 36 passes for 475 yards and 3 touchdowns in 10 games. Davis’s best season at Bethune-Cookman was 2015, when he caught 39 passes for 788 yards (20.2 yards per catch) with 6 touchdowns.
2018 outlookDavis is part of the plethora of receivers fighting for roster spots behind Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer.
The NFL Draft Report says:
Davis is a savvy route runner who generates good explosion off the line, along with good hand usage to get into his route and get a clean release and avoid the jam. He has the ball skills to play outside his frame and make proper adjustments working down field. His hip swerve and head fakes, along with his natural hands, lets him make a quick move to elude the defender while cradling the ball properly to prevent the forced fumble.
Davis shows good athletic ability for his position, demonstrating the change of direction, balance and body control to not take any false steps getting into his routes. He has sudden quickness and impressive deep speed, building his acceleration nicely, as he shows the body torque to get in and out of his breaks cleanly. He is a quick, short strider with good playing speed for his size, but is better utilized in the short-to-intermediate areas, as he has very good balance running his routes and does a good job of adjusting to the ball in flight.
Davis also has a solid understanding for route building/progression. He comes off the line hard and tries to look fast, using his hands well to attack the center of a defensive back to get a strong push- off for a clean release. He has the strength to defeat the jam and knows how to use his size to lean into and push off the defender when trying to create room to operate.
Davis displays the moves to elude and it is very difficult to reroute him due to his ability to fend off defenders and protect his body. His speed makes him consistently escape past the press, but if stalled, he lacks the strength to work his way through. He shows good body control through his movements and is surprisingly light on his feet for a player of his size.
Unless he goes all Victor Cruz during the preseason, Davis figures to be in the mix for a practice squad spot.
Now that Terrell McClain is officially reunited with the 4-3 defensive scheme he’s most comfortable in here in Atlanta, we can expect some solid production and some nice, relatively low-pressure development time for Deadrin Senat.
After McClain flourished under Rod Marinelli’s base 4-3 scheme in Dallas, he was signed to the Washington Redskins 3-4 defense in 2017, where he struggled. Although many may make judgements based off of his last season, the odds are that McClain will be a crucial run stopping asset for this defense.
According to PFF, under Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 philosophy from 2014-2016, Terrell McClain’s run stop percentage was 9.2%, whereas in a less McClain-efficient Redskin defense, his run stop percentage was sub 5% at 4.3%. McClain needs to be able to play in a role where he can showcase his athleticism a bit, and I do not doubt he will here.
Additional Benefits of McClain’s SigningThe Falcons are hopefully getting a quality player, but is that the only reason the Falcons signed him?
No. One potential beneficiary is Deadrin Senat. Under a 29 year old veteran in Terrell McClain and a 25 year old young elite presence in Grady Jarrett, Senat should be able to play a reduced number of snaps, learn from quality players, and only play in situations where he’s likely to be productive.
Unlike Quinn’s previous veteran mentor signings, like Dwight Freeney for example, not only can we take McClain’s veteran mentorship as a potential benefit, but there is a serious chance of production. Although his salary is nearly $4 million, there’s a good chance the combination of athleticism between Grady Jarrett and Terrell McClain, plus Jack Crawford and Senat settling into their best roles, will be worth it.
How Does This Affect Our Front-7?I think fans under estimate how elite our front seven is with McClain at defensive tackle, primarily on the left side, along with Grady at right defensive tackle, Takk McKinley at LDE and Vic at RDE, to say nothing of the rest of the rotation.
I mean, for crying out loud, Takk and Vic combined can put up 20 plus sacks on a season, assuming both are healthy all season. Not only that, but Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley as the three linebackers behind the seven are all very young, which is good, meaning they have lots of potential. However, Campbell may be hard to afford in the future and Riley is not a guaranteed success.
I think McClain will not be a massive downgrade from Dontari Poe, being that Ahtyba Rubin and Courtney Upshaw took some of the run-stopping snaps in relief of Poe, and McClain has a little pass rushing talent.
This may seem like quite an ordinary signing, however, I think $4 million could be a steal, considering how Dontari Poe signed with Carolina for roughly $9 million. With Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Christian McCaffrey, Ronald Jones, and C.J. Anderson in the division, that run-stopping ability should not be taken lightly. As the year progresses, you will appreciate great run stoppers in the NFL. Trust me.
So, Falcons fans, what do you think about the signing of Terrell McClain and his potential 2018 production? Leave your thoughts below!
Today, aspiring NFLPA agent and writer for Sports Agent Blog Evan Thammahong takes a look at the NFL Draft process from the agent's point of view, and the strength and conditioning coach's view to look at the different factors that go into getting an NFL prospect ready for the combine.
Give him a follow on Twitter here.
The Agent's Take with Chris Martin
One word that describes an agent's relationship with a sports performance center: Trust.
Agents focus on building relationships with sports performance centers before investing money to send a client to train at a facility. When an NFL prospect signs to be represented by an agent, the agent will typically pay for the prospect's training leading up to the draft.
An agent's number one expense in this process is training. The costs associated with the housing, transportation, and nutrition of a high-caliber athlete add up quick. And these costs don’t even include the coaching and training of the athlete. These factors, as they are typically expensive and quite front-loaded, justify an agent's focus on building a strong relationship with a chosen training facility.
An agent has a lot of skin in the game; it is understandable that he or she would demand results from a training facility. Time sensitivity provides an additional challenge, as prospects have fewer than eight weeks to prepare for the NFL combine.
Chris Martin, President and CEO of OTG Sports Management, has been a certified NFL agent since 2006 and understands the importance of trust with a training facility.
Martin offers a different perspective of the training process, having played for the Chicago Bears from 1996-97.
"There are multiple factors considered when choosing which training facility, I send my clients to, including the relationship I have with the facility, program design, and most importantly, results," Martin said. "All of these factors are crucial to the process because there is a limited window of time to prepare."
When asked what he finds most valuable in the pre-NFL draft process, Martin said "it is important to actually go and see your clients train. I want to see how my client responds to the coach, but also to see how the coach is communicating, how their workouts are structured, and to see the results with my own eyes. I am the microphone for this player and I want to be prepared so that I can advocate for my client to scouts and general management of NFL teams."
Other factors Martin considers: geographical locations, player position, supplemental services such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and acupuncture.
The Strength and Conditioning Coach's Take with Brad Arnett
Chris Martin offers great agent-perspective on the training process of an athlete leading up to the NFL draft. But how do things look from the other side of the aisle?
It is true that an agent spends significant energy pursuing and choosing the right training facility for a prospect. However, the prospect will spend most of his time and energy actually training (and training for the biggest interview of his life). The carefully selected trainer and training facility are an essential component to a prospect’s success at the combine.
J.J. Watt's long-time trainer, Brad Arnett, is the founder and head strength and conditioning coach at NX Level Sports Performance. Having trained some of the league's best athletes, it's fair to trust that he has a firm grasp of what is important when preparing a prospect for the NFL combine.
When asked to comment on what is most important when training, Arnett stressed the "importance of properly assessing a player's physical risk factors."
He explained further:
"This includes physical deficiencies that may put the player at risk of injury," Arnett said. "This process is extremely vital to training because a prospect is not only working to be able to perform their best at the combine, but also preparing to take the physical volume of being a professional athlete, which includes training camp and 16-plus NFL games."
Arnett also said, "the process of building volume includes doing drills that put different amounts of stress on the player; this type of training correlates with how a player will move and react during an actual game."
Arnett continued to discuss the importance of preparing an athlete for long-term success in the league. However, he stressed the need for balance with combine-specific training.
"Everyone is fascinated with the 40-yard dash, and a strong performance can elevate a player’s draft stock," Arnett said. "In addition to volume-building drills, a combine-specific drill that catches the eye of scouts, GMs, and the public is important to work on."
Although it is just one part of the evaluation process, Arnett said it's important to establish track speed and football speed as well as "building all-out effort with complete recovery, which is opposite of consistent fatigue, while playing college football."
Arnett has worked with professional athletes from many professional organizations. With athletes in every organization, he stresses the importance of a whole food nutrition profile.
"There is a small window of time to prepare, all of these factors do not outweigh each other but form the process."
He also said that many people don't see the behind-the-scenes of this industry, but "it’s a process that has few variables that you can control."
"[Their] prep for a workout is 100 percent in [their] control, attitude, disciple, and consistency," Arnett said. "Learning the process of being a professional not once in a while, but all the time."
His biggest advice to NFL prospects is to "Never live it before you EARN IT."
So why does this matter?
This is a business. Agents and sports performance centers are working to build a player's career. Both sides need to ensure that they are putting a prospect in the best position possible to display their abilities because it can either boost or drop their draft stock.