Daily Archives: May 4, 2012

Day 1 rookie-camp news roundup

Tannehill

You’d rather read about the union grievances filed Friday against the NFL, re the Bountygate player suspensions — and all the contentious legalese therein — than anything about how the top draft picks fared in Day 1 of rookie mini-camps, right?

Yeah, no kidding. Screw that. I’m with ya.

Let’s talk plainly about some freakin’ football!

Nine of the NFL’s 32 clubs are holding rookie mini-camps this weekend, for draftees and undrafted rookie free agents alike.

Here’s a quick roundup of how things began on Friday, what with some of the most celebrated new NFLers wearing their teams’ helmets, practice jerseys and shorts for the first time:

INDIANAPOLIS — No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Luck, in jersey No. 12, worked out with the other new Colts for two hours and 15 minutes, over two sessions.
“I think everybody can (feel the significance),” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “I think the fans can, all the people around the state, these coaches, these players (can). It’s monumental.”
Er, not for Luck.
“I didn’t get too melodramatic about it,” Luck said afterward. “It is a practice, and I’ve done it a thousand times. It is a little different. You’re in a different locker room, in a different jersey.  It wasn’t too monumental in my mind.”
You watch. Someone — not me — will say that Luck and his head coach aren’t on the same page after Day 1.

WASHINGTON — The Skins held Day 1 sessions in private. No press. Rain eventually forced workouts indoors.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked out the club’s new quarterbacks — No. 2 overall draft pick RG3 (Robert Griffin III) and fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins — in drills that “emphasized mobility and throwing fundamentals,” according to the team’s website.
Sunday’s practice is open to the press.

MINNESOTA — The top offensive lineman taken in the draft, tackle Matt Kalil (No. 4 overall), wore No. 75 and said it was like the first day of college.
“You’re kinda getting familiar with the playbook,” Kalil told NFL Network. “I felt a lot better in the second practice. Going through that first practice, and getting used to the plays, I kinda felt like a freshman. You don’t know what’s going on.”

JACKSONVILLE — Justin Blackmon, the top wideout taken in the draft (No. 5 overall), chose to wear No. 14. He wore No. 81 at Oklahoma State.
Why 14?
“No specific reason,” he said. “I just looked at the number and thought it was different. I know I can play in any number and it’ll be fine.”
Not the superstitious type, is he.

DALLAS — Cornerback Morris Claiborne, with his injured left wrist still in a cast, watched most of Day 1 on the sidelines. After a while, however, he couldn’t help himself and joined the other rookies in some on-field workouts.
The Cowboys’ second draft pick, defensive end Tyrone Crawford (third round, No. 81) from Windsor, Ont., was assigned No. 70. Reporters asked him afterward what it was like to play high-school football in Canada, and he joked that even at 260 pounds you can play running back up here. They believed him.
Later Friday, Crawford texted me to say he got the defensive playbook from coordinator Rob Ryan and DL coach Brian Baker the night before. And he studied it up, so he’d be ready to go at meetings and on the field.
“(Ryan and Baker) re great coaches,” Crawford said, “and I feel I can develop a tremendous amount playing under them, and with these vets on the DL and OLB. I love this program and I am so happy I get an opportunity to play for the Cowboys. Go Cowboys!”

TAMPA BAY — The top safety in the draft, Mark Barron, is wearing No. 24 for the Bucs.
Among the undrafted free-agent rookies trying out is Jordan Jefferson, who quarterbacked LSU to a perfect regular season before a loss to Alabama in the national-title game in January. Most think he doesn’t have the arm or QB savvy to make it in the NFL. The Bucs are giving him a chance.

MIAMI — All eyes were on No. 17. That is, new quarterback Ryan Tannehill (pictured above), taken eighth overall. Observers said he seemed to transition easily into the offence of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s head coach at Texas A&M.
“I feel good,” Tannehill said. “I’ve definitely got a lot to learn … but I feel good for doing this for the first time.”
Tannehill said about 65% to 70% of the Dolphins’ playbook mirrors what Sherman had at College Station.

NY JETS — Quinton Coples, the Jets’ first-round pick (No. 15), took reps at left end, right end and even defensive tackle. He wore No. 98.
Coples bragged afterward that he thought he had the Jets defensive playbook down. Upon being told this, head coach Rex Ryan tried not to laugh, explaining that they’ve introduced only “about four defences” to the rookies so far, and the whole playbook is “about that thick” — whereupon Ryan placed his hands some four feet apart.
Second-round pick Stephen Hill, a wideout, appeared as impressively tall (at 6-foot-4) and fast (sub-4.4 40) as billed.

PITTSBURGH — Offensive line saviours David DeCastro (the top guard taken in the draft, at No. 24 overall) and second-rounder Mike Adams, a tackle, got to work trying to protect Ben Roethlisberger.
DeCastro wore No. 66 — Alan Faneca‘s old number.
“He is one of those guys you looked up to when you were in high school and college,” DeCastro said.

All other NFL clubs, except Houston, will hold their three-day mini-camps for rookies next week, either from Thursday to Saturday, or Friday to Sunday.

Assessing the Bills’ release of CB Florence

FLORENCE

The overhaul of the Buffalo Bills defence continues.

Eight days after drafting cornerback Stephon Gilmore No. 10 overall, the Bills on Friday released starting cornerback Drayton Florence (above, Reuters photo)

Florence was set to earn $4 million in 2012 and $5 million in 2013, on the last two years of a three-year deal. The salary-cap hits, though, would have been $4.92 million this season and $5.92 million in ’13, incorporating pro-rated bonuses.

Did the Bills dump Florence to free up cap space for any particular reason? To sign a free-agent quarterback they might have just worked out, perhaps — Vince Young? Hmmmm. We’ll see.

More likely, it was merely to let go a player who wasn’t measuring up on the field. According to Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus, NFL passers had a 103.3 quarterback rating against Florence last year — not good.

But backup Aaron Williams, who probably will fill Florence’s starting spot, was statistically worse; QBs were 120.0 against him, per PFF.

Florence will best be remembered for his critical pick-six of the Patriots’ Tom Brady in Week 3 last year, which led to arguably the most celebrated Bills victory since the ’90s.

Gilmore, from the University of South Carolina, was the second-best cornerback in the draft, according to most talent evaluators. The Bills drafted a second cornerback in the fourth round (124th overall), Ron Brooks from LSU.

“We have good young talent at cornerback that has tremendous upside,” Bills GM Buddy Nix said in a statement. “They need as many reps at practice to continue to develop that talent.”

Florence should have seen it coming. Not that he was making a ton of money by cornerback standards in the NFL — he wasn’t. But both Nix and head coach Chan Gailey told anyone who would listen since the winter that the club had to upgrade its talent at a few key positions, cornerback being one of them.

Gailey told me this at the scouting combine in Indy: “Corners and pass rushers — that’s where it is. That’s where it is. That’s our game. Corners and pass rushers.”

With the free-agent acquisitions of DE pass-rushing specialists Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and the drafting of Gilmore and the perhaps under-rated Brooks (who played opposite top-ranked cornerback Morris Claiborne, whom Dallas drafted No. 6 overall), the Bills addressed those two vital areas.

To his credit, Florence appears to be holding no grudges. Minutes after the news was released, he tweeted: “Business is Business no feelings move on and continue to grind Thanks for all the support #billsmafia the Grind Continues.”

Don’t be surprised if the Detroit Lions give him a look. That club desperately needs to upgrade its secondary, too.