I bumped into original Texans GM and current NFL Network Analyst Charlie Casserly here in Indy this week and thought about the amount of years the Texans organization has been represented at the NFL Scouting Combine. For the first time ever, the team’s brass comes here without a first and second round pick…and it’s a very different feeling.
The first round mystery ‘buzz’ isn’t there. And that’s because the pick has been ‘in’ for almost a year. It’s Deshaun Watson, who the Texans took after trading up, giving away this year’s number one in the process. And there’s not a single person we’ve talked to who doesn’t think it was a tremendous investment.
There are those national media members who caution that ‘defenses might catch up with him’ a bit. After all, they have an entire offseason to pour over the video of Watson’s entertaining collection of starts. But no one is betting against the second year quarterback and everyone is eager to see the encore.
Just because there is no first or second round selection doesn’t mean that the staff can take this week off and head to Cabo. There is plenty of work to be done as the team prepares for a class that will include eight picks, barring a trade. And those three third round selections must be used wisely to address some team needs.
Wait, did I say that? Don’t you always go for best player available? Well, General Manager Brian Gaine told us on Texans Radio that it is the idea to go for the best talent but called the approach ‘theoretical,’ acknowledging that there are certain position groups that will garner more attention than others depending on when each pick arrives.
As Gaine oversees his first combine trip as GM, John Harris pointed out on the air how Bill O’Brien is now sort of the ‘dean’ of AFC South coaches. Yikes! It feels like we just welcomed him to Houston yet he’s the longest tenured coach in the division. And make no mistake, all the other AFC South teams have retooled themselves to deal with the Texans reign of back to back titles in ’15 and ’16.
The national media consensus here is that if Andrew Luck gets healthy this might be the best overall division in the league. Luck, who GM Chris Ballard optimistically penciled in as ‘ready’ for opening day, changes the whole landscape. We’ve all seen up close what outstanding QB play means for a team. The Colts could be a big problem for the other three squads in 2018.
As far as getting Houston back to the top of the AFC South and beyond, it’s crucial that the Texans have a fruitful free agency haul. There are a lot of teams with gargantuan amounts of cap room, so competition will be fierce and prices will be steep. But the Texans know that with their injured players getting better, a few key acquisitions and productive drafting can get them back to the top of the division.
The decision to extend Blake Bortles’ contract doesn’t stem from the quarterback’s ability. It isn’t a product of what he showed in the postseason during two impressive games against the Steelers and Patriots or, alternately, in a dismal effort at home against the Bills.
Jacksonville’s decision to re-sign Bortles is a product of a questionable decision the Jaguars made last year — it seemed questionable at the time and has grown worse with some perspective. It’s also a reflection on where this team is going and whether the Jags can build upon an impressive 2017 season to take that final leap past the Patriots and into the Super Bowl.
Last May, the Jaguars decided to exercise Bortles’ fifth-year option, which gave the team another year of cost control on their enigmatic quarterback through the 2018 season. The fifth-year option for players taken in the top 10 of the draft is rather expensive for quarterbacks, given that it represents the average salary of the top 10 players at the position. For Bortles, that fifth-year option was more than $19 million.
The salary is guaranteed only for injury, so in most cases, teams that regret the move can just cut the player and move on without any penalty. Players who can’t pass a physical by the beginning of the new league year (in March) remain on the cap and get paid, even if they can’t play, as will likely be the case for Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh. The Steelers naturally couldn’t have anticipated in May that their star inside linebacker would suffer a career-threatening spinal injury six months later, but for Pittsburgh, the reward of having another year of cost control over Shazier was worth the risk that he would suffer a serious injury.
Likewise, the Jaguars were about to be stuck paying Bortles $19 million for an injury he had when Jacksonville signed him to the extension. The UCF product suffered a wrist injury during the final month of the 2016 season, which the Jaguars elected to treat with shots in the hopes of avoiding surgery. The Jags then picked up Bortles’ option last May all while knowing he had a wrist injury that might require surgery after the 2017 campaign. The wrist got worse as the 2017 season went on, requiring Bortles to undergo surgery after the season ended in late January.
A move that seemed iffy at the time without public knowledge of the injury and looked downright foolish once the Jags briefly benched Bortles during the preseason for Chad Henne only looks worse now. Given the likelihood that Bortles would be unable to pass a physical and subsequently be guaranteed $19 million before hitting free agency next season, the Jaguars made the decision to tender him a three-year, $54 million deal with $26.5 million guaranteed at signing. The fifth-year option was a sunk cost, and the Jaguars didn’t make a terrible move by handing Bortles this deal, but it raises questions about their thought process heading into 2018 and beyond.
The details of the deal
There’s a slim chance Bortles will actually end up playing out this extension for all three years, as teams almost never let a veteran quarterback play into the final year of his contract. This is more realistically a two-year deal for somewhere between $30 million and $36 million, plus incentives, with the ability to renegotiate after 2019 without having to resort to the franchise tag.
To gain that concession, the Jags had to drastically increase the chances Bortles remains the starting quarterback for Jacksonville in 2019. The structure of this deal — namely, the $15 million signing bonus, which is spread over three seasons for cap purposes — means the Jaguars would pay a steep cost to dump Bortles after one season. Cutting the soon-to-be 26-year-old would leave a minimum of $10 million in dead money on their cap next year.
That number could rise as high as $16.5 million if Bortles can’t play; the Jags guaranteed $6.5 million of his $16 million base salary in 2019 with offsets, which another team would inherit as part of a new deal. If Jacksonville cut Bortles after 2018 and he signed a one-year, $3 million contract with, for instance, the Browns, the Jags would owe Bortles $3.5 million in cash and have $13 million in dead money on their cap for 2019.
It’s surprising that the Jags would structure Bortles’ deal in such a way. Under general manager Dave Caldwell, they have typically gone year-to-year with their contracts, guaranteeing money up front over the first two years of contracts with base salaries and roster bonuses while retaining flexibility afterward. That has come in handy when free agents such as Chris Ivory and Julius Thomas haven’t worked out, but it’s also how the Jags have operated in re-signing homegrown talent.
In the case of star linebacker Telvin Smith and the four-year, $45 million deal he signed in October, for example, the Jags guaranteed a $3 million base salary in 2018 and an $8 million roster bonus, all of which hits the cap next year. Smith’s $4.1 million signing bonus costs only about $810,000 in cap room per year, so the Jags could theoretically get out of Smith’s extension after next season and have only $2.4 million in dead money remaining on their cap.
The Jaguars didn’t give veteran stars such as Calais Campbell ($6 million) and A.J. Bouye ($10 million) huge signing bonuses as part of far larger and longer contracts when importing them in free agency last year. Either they’ve suddenly changed the way they do business and are going to approach the salary cap differently, or Bortles’ camp insisted they structure this extension in such a way as to make it more likely the former third-overall pick is around for another season.
It’s not about the money in Bortles’ pocket. The Jaguars could have offered Bortles the same three-year, $54 million deal but replaced the $15 million signing bonus with a $6 million signing bonus and a $9 million roster bonus payable on the first day of the new league year. In that scenario, Bortles sees the money hit his bank account at exactly the same time, but the Jags would owe a minimum of $4 million and a maximum of $10.5 million by getting rid of Bortles after one season.
The other prescribed reason the Jaguars structured the deal this way might be to create cap space in 2018, but that doesn’t make much sense. Jacksonville already had about $30 million in cap space with Bortles under contract at the $19 million mark. Their free-agent class includes star wideout Allen Robinson, fellow starting wideout Marqise Lee, nickel cornerback Aaron Colvin, veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny, and Henne. The Jags are unlikely to pay serious money to Colvin given their investment in Bouye. Henne and Posluszny will likely get modest one-year deals. Lee has pieced together one healthy, productive season as a pro. The Jags rightly want to keep around Robinson, but they could have franchised him for one year at $16.3 million or extended him with whatever structure they wanted without having to free up 2018 cap room.
If the Jaguars wanted to free up cap space in the short term for whatever reason, they could have cut struggling wideout Allen Hurns and saved $7 million. Alternately, Caldwell could have turned $12 million of Bouye’s upcoming base salary into an option bonus and freed up $9 million, a move the Jags don’t often do but one that would have entailed less risk than redoing Bortles’ deal.
Borrowing from the future to create cap savings now also ignores the reality that the Jaguars are going to need cap room in the very near future. The Jags have just $17.1 million in free space next year before accounting for rollover or re-signing Robinson. Jacksonville also will be looking at extending Myles Jack and star edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue in 2019, given that they’re both free agents after the 2019 campaign and due for hefty raises on the combined $3.1 million they’ll account for on that year’s cap. Caldwell can create cap room by cutting one of his expensive defensive linemen at that time, but the argument for the Jags clearing out space immediately at the cost of a totally different deal structure with Bortles doesn’t really add up.
So, with the cap-space argument aside, the Jags made this move because they’re comfortable betting that Bortles will be worth running out as their starter into the 2019 season, but not so comfortable that they were willing to give him the sort of five-year extension players such as Andrew Luck and Cam Newton signed before their fifth-year options actually played out. Is that wise?
Is Bortles worth it?
Depends on which guy shows up. Bortles had his best season in 2017, but it was topsy-turvy. Among the league’s regular quarterbacks last season, only Cam Newton had a higher standard deviation in terms of game-to-game Total QBR than Bortles. Those numbers don’t include the postseason, when Bortles was borderline unplayable as a passer against the Bills but used his legs to pick up first downs in the second half. He followed that with great games against the Steelers and Patriots, which clearly left a lasting memory in the minds of the Jacksonville front office.
When I evaluated Bortles after the 2015 season, I noted that what looked like impressive numbers were mostly hot air. A disproportionate amount of his success came in garbage time as the Jags faced defenses that were mostly concerned with holding on to leads. His biggest plays were a product of throwing up 50-50 balls to Robinson, who was developing into a top-tier wideout.
I can’t make those arguments about Bortles this time around. Robinson went down with a torn ACL in Week 1, and the team’s other nominal starters — Hurns and Lee — were each battling injuries for stretches of 2017. Bortles’ best run came when he threw for 901 yards and seven touchdowns without a pick over a three-week stretch in December, with much of that damage coming on throws to fourth-round pick Dede Westbrook and undrafted free agents Keelan Cole and Jaydon Mickens.
Indeed, Bortles also wasn’t padding his stats. In 2015, he dropped back 163 times on drives that started with his team possessing a win expectancy at or below 10 percent, which was the third-highest total in football. He posted a 98.6 passer rating on those drives. Last season, Bortles had 68 such dropbacks, which was 25th in the league. He also didn’t derive much benefit from those situations, posting a passer rating of 75.0.
Instead, Bortles dominated teams when he got to throw without having to worry about dragging his Jags back into the game. On drives that began with the Jags enjoying a win expectancy of 75 percent or higher, Bortles was a monster. He completed nearly 67 percent of his throws, averaged 8.8 yards per attempt and threw eight touchdowns without a pick. His passer rating was 115.9 and his Total QBR was 82.0, which was second in the league in those situations behind Russell Wilson (91.2).
I don’t bring this up to criticize Bortles — there’s nothing wrong with throwing the ball effectively when your team is ahead, of course — but it’s also fair to wonder how much of his perceived improvement from a team that benched him during the preseason is the context in which he played. After years of investing in running backs, the Jags had their best running game with Leonard Fournette in tow. The Jacksonville defense posted the best DVOA in the league, forced the opposing team to punt on a league-high 50.7 percent of possessions and allowed the Jags to run 191 meaningful possessions on offense, second behind the Cardinals. Bortles was facing plenty of tired defenses in 2017.
The Jags’ defense is unlikely to be quite as effective next season, if only because of health; including their 11 starters and key reserves such as Colvin, Posluszny and Marcell Dareus, their defensive core missed all of three games during the regular season. Jacksonville also was dominant on offense in the red zone, scoring an average of 5.5 points per trip. That, too, is difficult to pull off on a recurring basis. Bortles is likely to shoulder a more meaningful part of the load and won’t be in such passing-friendly situations.
On the other hand, he’s likely to have Robinson back in the fold. If Robinson comes back with Cole and Westbrook, Jacksonville’s top receivers will each be entering their age-25 campaigns and should improve. Fournette should be healthier after a midseason ankle injury kept him out and slowed him for much of the subsequent campaign. Cam Robinson was projected to end up as a right tackle, but he over-delivered as a rookie left tackle and allowed just two sacks in 15 games. He should continue to grow into his role.
The problem with judging Bortles gets back to that variance issue. The Jaguars didn’t have any idea which quarterback they were going to get from week to week. After that incredible three-game stretch, Bortles threw five interceptions over the final two games of the year, although one was in a desperate, game-ending situation. He followed that with an awful game against the Bills in the wild-card round before looking impressive against two of the best teams in football.
If the Bills had mustered up anything on offense — or stopped the Jags on the fourth-and-goal, play-action touchdown pass that ended up winning the game for Jacksonville — Bortles’ season would have ended with three straight ugly games and there’s virtually no chance the Jaguars are picking up this option. Then again, if the ball doesn’t bounce off a defender’s hands before a field goal try at the end of the first half or his defense doesn’t come up with a fourth-and-goal stop to win the game, Nick Foles never has the opportunity to have those two incredible games against the Vikings and Patriots, either.
The best way to evaluate Bortles is by looking at the entirety of his season and the way he has played over his entire career as a starter as opposed to looking at those two most recent games or the three beforehand. In that vein, it’s hard to make a case that the Jags should be committing to playing Bortles past 2018. This is a guy who might not even have started in Week 1 if Henne had been more impressive during the preseason. Bortles’ mechanics, which were a problem heading into the draft, fell apart in virtually unprecedented fashion under heavy pressure in 2016 before staying solid last season. With the Jags investing in weapon after weapon for their quarterback, Bortles ranks 29th in Total QBR and 30th in passer rating over the past four seasons among the 30 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts.
The Jags proved that they can win with Bortles, and if not for a questionable call or two, they might have advanced to the Super Bowl with their much-maligned passer calling signals. It’s also true that there might not be a guaranteed upgrade to Bortles waiting in the marketplace. Kirk Cousins could go elsewhere, and as ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando noted on my podcast Monday, Cousins’ Total QBR in 2017 (52.3) was below that of Bortles (55.6). The Washington star was also the third-most inconsistent quarterback of the season. Eli Manning appears to be staying in New York and hasn’t been very good over the past two years. Sam Bradford hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Case Keenum has one year of success on his track record, and, like Bortles, it came during a 2017 season in which a good running game and a dominant defense did a lot of the work.
At the same time, though, it’s not difficult to imagine that a Jaguars offense whose job is first and foremost to avoid turnovers might very well be better with Alex Smith at the helm, and Jacksonville could have topped Washington’s offer if so inclined. Cousins has a far longer track record of success than Bortles and likely has a higher long-term floor. The Jags were reportedly actively exploring the quarterback market days before extending Bortles.
I think Bortles deserved to come back into 2018 as the team’s starter on that fifth-year option. Simultaneously, it’s difficult to understand how a team that didn’t believe enough in Bortles to hand him a meaningful long-term deal also thought it was worth the risk of being stuck with a $10 million-plus dead-money hit in 2019. It’s also extremely unlikely any team would have given Bortles two years and $36 million fully guaranteed on the free-agent market given the other options available.
This is a Jaguars organization that, rightfully buoyed by the success of 2017, is doubling down on the guys who took it to the AFC Championship Game. Caldwell, Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone were under contract through the end of 2019, but ownership just gave each new deals running through the 2021 campaign. Bortles was part of that success, and while he wasn’t the most important contributor, he also held his own for stretches of time. The Jaguars don’t advance past the Bills without their defense making up for a terrible game from the quarterback, but they also wouldn’t have made it past the Steelers without several big throws from him, too.
It’s also fair to look back 12 months ago, when the two most promising up-and-comers in the AFC were the Raiders and Titans. One year later, both Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey are gone and the teams they left look to have major holes.
The Jaguars should be good again in 2018 — they actually underperformed their Pythagorean expectation of 11.8 wins with a 10-6 mark — but there’s also a chance that everything goes south against a harder schedule if the defense’s injury rate regresses toward the mean. If that happens, the Jags might very well be looking at the decisions they made this offseason and wonder why they were so adamant about bringing everyone from 2017 along for the ride.
Cornerback Marcus Peters had some interesting things to say in his first public remarks since the Kansas City Chiefs agreed to trade him to the Los Angeles Rams.
Foremost were his comments about next season’s game between the Rams and Chiefs in Mexico City. Asked during an appearance on NFL Network what he was expecting in that game against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, Peters said, “I’m expecting turnovers and I’m expecting a win. [Mahomes] knows how to give me the ball.”
Peters went on to say he didn’t agree with the Chiefs’ decision to trade Alex Smith. The Chiefs have agreed to send Smith to Washington to make room in the starting lineup for Mahomes.
“Alex don’t get enough respect and they need to start putting some respect on that man’s name,” Peters said. “I’ve seen that man’s name get thrown under the bus too many times and he took it as a man. He never complained about it. He don’t turn over the ball. That was our fault for messing up the playoffs.”
Peters said he was surprised after being traded to hear speculation that he had problems with Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who suspended Peters for a game late last season. Peters was disciplined after throwing an official’s penalty flag into the stands, retreating to the locker room without being ejected and then returning to the sideline without his game socks.
“He was looking in the best interests for me to become a better player,” said Peters, who at one point referred to Reid by his nickname of Big Red. “They already knew I had some so-called character issues off the field that happened [in college at Washington] and they took me. All they told me was, ‘Come on, we’re going to take you and we’re going to grow together.’ We grew for those three years. It was cool. Sometimes, it’s just business.
“I put it on my own shoulders. I don’t blame nobody for nothing I do. Once I threw that flag into the stands, I knew what was going to happen. I shouldn’t have walked off. I had to go take a shower. I came back and my socks and stuff were gone.
“It’s business. All I can do is just go handle mine. I thank the Kansas City Chiefs for everything they did starting off. Now I’m going to L.A. I’m going to miss playing with my teammates, for sure. Once you get into that locker room, that’s family. I’m going to miss the guys. I’m going to miss Eric [Berry], Justin [Houston]. I’m going to miss Coach Reid.”
For the Los Angeles Chargers, the 2018 offseason could provide the franchise the boost it needs to make the playoffs. Top-tier players litter the defense and with Philip Rivers surrounded by solid weapons, the Bolts will again be a trendy pick to win the AFC West.
The NFL Draft is just about two months away and Draft pundits are churning out their mock drafts prior to free agency. There is still plenty of time for those mocks to completely change of course.
However, it seems like the experts have begun to slim down the options for the Chargers. Los Angeles is likely to add a body on the offensive or defensive front or add a safety to solidify the back end.
Here is the latest from mock drafts around the web:
Dan Kadar (SBNation): S Derwin James (Florida State)
Some teams may view James as a linebacker, and the Chargers could be one of them. With the two best defensive tackles and linebackers gone, James could be the next man up. He makes more sense to the Chargers than someone like Alabama’s Rashaan Evans because of his coverage ability.
Adrian Phillips played a ton of linebacker last season. James would likely be an upgrade and with Gus Bradley’s track record with box safeties, James is an intriguing prospect. James has gained a ton of steam of late and has shot up draft boards, if the Chargers can steal him at 17, it may be one of the biggest wins come Draft night.
Mike Tanier (BleacherReport.com): DT Vita Vea (Washington)
Vea has been featured in the roundups more than any other player. The notion is that the Chargers have two premiere edge rushers, however the interior of the defensive line was brutal in 2017. Adding a presence in the middle would solve a ton of issues on run defense and allow Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to thrive.
Will Brinson (CBSSports.com): OT Isaiah Wynn (Georgia)
The Chargers made a habit of drafting high floor guys who could help out Philip Rivers immediately and Wynn would qualify as well. Getting Forrest Lamp back and adding Wynn would give a beleaguered line additional help
A new name has entered the fold in Wynn. Another offensive tackle prospect that could help round out an improved offensive line. It would certainly be a win-now investment and should help open up holes for Melvin Gordon on the right side.
Charles Davis (NFL.com): S Derwin James (Florida State)
James is a big hitter, but he has plenty of range in coverage, as well. He might not be exactly like former Charger Eric Weddle, but he could provide a similar impact.
Year three of the “Chargers need to find a replacement for Eric Weddle” narrative. It still probably holds true, Los Angeles may not want to invest much in Tre Boston and will need to line someone up next to Jahleel Addae.
Luke Easterling (Draftwire.USAToday.com): OT Connor Williams (Texas)
Williams has made a few appearances before and is another top tackle prospect. He is a monster of a man listed at 6’6”, 320 pounds. Although some see him as a future left tackle, he will likely spend a few years at right tackle if he ends up in Los Angeles.
Jud Branam (Drafttek.com): S Derwin James (Florida State)
Earl Thomas. Kam Chancellor. Now Derwin James. Chargers’ D Coordinator Gus Bradley has a proven track record developing uber-talented safeties into game-changing forces, and he figures to be delighted to have a new pupil like James
Similar to earlier analysis, Bradley worked with two of the NFL’s best safeties. His stock has risen to the point where he may not be on the board at 17, but the thought of Bradley getting another chance to work with an elite talent at safety should bring joy to Chargers fans.
Here’s a look at the Super Bowl prospects of the Los Angeles Rams, who finished the season 11-5. The tiers consist of: Realistic Super Bowl expectations; Should contend, but there are question marks; Middle of the pack; Lots of work to do; and Nowhere close.
Westgate odds to win Super Bowl LIII: 25-1.
Should contend, but there are question marks: Expectations have risen dramatically for the Rams, enough so that a large segment of the fan base will no doubt be disappointed with the team’s latest Super Bowl odds. The Rams led the NFL in points this past season and should only be better on offense in their second year under coach and playcaller Sean McVay. Jared Goff, established as the team’s franchise quarterback, will be entering his third season, and there’s at least a decent chance the entire starting offense will return intact around him.
But the same can’t be said on defense, with safety Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and outside linebacker Connor Barwin all slated for unrestricted free agency. The Rams could also have some tough contractual decisions to make with edge rusher Robert Quinn and inside linebacker Mark Barron. Les Snead, entering his seventh offseason as the general manager, will focus on scheme fits for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, which should be a lot easier to identify now that an entire season has been played.
History, however, is not on the Rams’ side. From the start of 1990 to the end of 2016, 23 teams did what the 2017 Rams just pulled off and improved by seven or more victories from one season to the next. But those teams averaged 3.8 fewer wins the following season, which is why McVay knows nothing is promised.
“Everything is earned in this league,” McVay said after winning the Associated Press Coach of the Year Award at NFL Honors on Saturday, which came after Todd Gurley was named AP Offensive Player of the Year and Aaron Donald was named AP Defensive Player of the Year. “Just because we won the division this year doesn’t mean anything going into next year. You feel really good about the players we have in place, but you have to earn it every single day. It’s a very humbling league.”
INDIANAPOLIS — The suspected drunken driver accused of hitting and killing Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson has been living in the country illegally and did not have a driver’s license, the Indiana State Police announced Monday.
The driver of the truck that killed Jackson and ride-sharing operator Jeffrey Monroe had been using the alias Alex Cabrera Gonsales, the police said in a release. Gonsales’ given name is Manuel Orrego-Savala, and he is a citizen of Guatemala. Orrego-Savala had been deported in 2007 and 2009.
Monroe and Jackson were stopped on the side of Interstate 70 in Indianapolis when they were hit early Sunday morning.
Orrego-Savala, 37, was arrested after trying to flee the scene on foot, according to the Indiana State Police. Orrego-Savala was intoxicated, according to police. He is being held in the Marion County (Indiana) jail while the police work with U.S. federal immigration officials. Investigators are also working with the prosecutor’s office to file criminal charges.
A probable cause affidavit filed Sunday in Marion Superior Court states that a breath test administered at the scene found Orrego-Savala’s blood-alcohol content was 0.239 percent. Indiana’s legal limit is 0.08 percent. Two vials of blood were later drawn from Orrego-Savala for testing.
Jackson and Monroe, of Avon, Indiana, were on the side of the interstate when Monroe got out of the car to help Jackson, who was sick. Orrego-Savala, who was driving a Ford F-150 truck, drove onto the emergency shoulder and hit the rear of the car, striking both Jackson and Monroe, with one of the bodies landing in the center lane of I-70, according to the police.
State trooper Ty Mays, who was in the area, reported to the scene after seeing the accident on the side of the road. In the process of slowing down, he hit the body of the victim who was in the center lane.
Monroe and Jackson were pronounced dead at the scene by the Marion County Coroner’s Office. Monroe was 54; Jackson was 26.
“We were heartbroken to hear the news of Edwin Jackson’s passing,” the Colts said in a statement. “Edwin was loved by all in the Colts organization. We admired his outgoing personality, competitive spirit and hard-working mentality. He was well-respected among all with whom he crossed paths, and he will be greatly missed in our locker room and throughout our entire organization.
“We also understand that another person lost his life in the accident, only adding to our sorrow on this day. We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of both men during this difficult time.”
MIAMI — A person familiar with the situation says former Detroit Lions assistant coaches Tony Oden and Kris Kocurek have joined coach Adam Gase’s staff with the Miami Dolphins.
The person confirmed the hirings to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the Dolphins hadn’t announced them. Oden will coach defensive backs, and Kocurek will coach the defensive line.
Oden has been an NFL defensive backs coach since 2004 and was with the Lions the past four seasons. Kocurek spent the past eight years coaching the Lions’ defensive line.
They replace defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo and defensive line coach Terrell Williams, who were not retained.
If the Vikings try to toll Teddy Bridgewater’s contract to next season, they would be in for a fight.
A source said there are those with the NFL players association who believe it is “highly, highly doubtful’’ the Vikings could be successful with any such move. If the Vikings did attempt to toll the quarterback’s $1.354 million contract to 2018, a grievance almost certainly would be filed.
Bridgewater’s only game action since suffering a torn left ACL in August 2016 has been two series in mop-up duty in a 34-7 win Dec. 17 over Cincinnati. He is due to become a free agent in March unless he signs an extension before then or if the Vikings decide to toll his contract and are successful. The team has given no indication of what it might do.
Bridgewater, in the last year of a four-year contract, was on the physically unable to perform list for the first six weeks of the 2017 season. Article 20, section 2 of the NFL collective bargaining agreement states: “Any player placed on a physically unable to perform list (“PUP”) will be paid his full… salary while on such list. His contract will not be tolled for the period he is on PUP, except in the last year of his contract, when the player’s contract will be tolled if he is still physically unable to perform his football services as of the sixth regular season game.’’
NFL rules do not permit a player on the PUP list to practice or play in the first six weeks of the season. However, a source said language in the CBA could be interpreted as to whether Bridgewater could have been physically able to perform in the first six weeks regardless of that rule.
Bridgewater returned to practice on Oct. 18, the first day he was eligible. He said Oct. 19 he could have returned a “couple of weeks” earlier had he been eligible.
If the Vikings were to attempt to toll Bridgewater’s contract and there is a grievance filed, they likely would be asked to produce medical records and information about roster decisions.
The players association declined comment on the matter. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked about the tolling issue Tuesday at his season-ending press conference.
“I would be guessing if I said what I think it is,’’ Zimmer said. “But I honestly don’t know. You’d have to ask Rick (Spielman) that.’’
Spielman, the Vikings’ general manager, did not return a message last week seeking comment. He has several times declined to comment.
Vikings center Pat Elfein was in Green Bay, Wis., on Sunday night preparing for surgery Monday on his fractured left ankle, a source said.
A source said last week the surgery was scheduled for Monday but medical officials needed to make sure the swelling went down enough for the procedure to be performed. The surgery will be done by Dr. Robert Anderson, and Elflein is expected to remain in Green Bay until Wednesday.
The rookie was injured in the third quarter of Minnesota’s 38-7 loss on Jan. 21 at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game. Sources have no doubt he will be ready for training camp. More will be known after the surgery about his potential availability for spring drills.
For the open offensive coordinator position, Zimmer is scheduled at his ranch in northern Kentucky to interview Houston quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan on Monday and New Orleans assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell on Tuesday.
Minnesota is seeking a replacement for Pat Shurmur, hired last Monday as coach of the New York Giants. Interviewed last week were Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski and Darrell Bevell, a former Minnesota and Seattle offensive coordinator.
CBS Sports reported the Vikings are expected to make a decision early this week.
Obvious comparisons have been drawn between the current Eagles playoff run and the last time they reached the Super Bowl, following the 2004 NFL season. The similarities are pretty striking. In 2004 they wrapped up the number one seed and home field advantage at 13-3, then faced (and defeated) the Vikings and Falcons to advance to the Super Bowl against the defending champions: the New England Patriots. When last these two teams met…
The Story was Different
When the Eagles and Patriots met in Super Bowl XXXIX 13 years ago it was the culmination of two dynasties. One was a little more decorated than the other, but it would be the peak of Andy Reid’s 14 seasons in Philadelphia and the last championship for New England until 2015. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (and a rookie Vince Wilfork) are all that connect the two championship squads.
The Patriots had won two of the last three Super Bowls, both introducing the world to the comeback victories they would perfect in 2017 against the Falcons. By this point they were the established franchise of the NFL, though they had begun their journey as the third largest underdog in Super Bowl history (14 point dogs to the 2001 Rams.)
Throwing the word dynasty out at the early 2000s Eagles might be a bit much, but they were coming off four straight division titles, four straight NFC Championship game appearances and were, through this game, the model of consistency for an NFL franchise. Consider it a term applied relative to the 2017 birds.
Leading up to the Super Bowl in 2005, both the Eagles and Patriots won all their playoff games by more than one score. Unlike the present day incarnation, the Eagles were favorites in their two NFC games at home, by six points against the Falcons and eight points against the Vikings. Despite that, they were actually bigger dogs heading into the big game. The Patriots were favorites by seven points in 2005, compared to just 5.5 today.
But… the Teams were Pretty Similar
When you look to compare the 2017 Eagles and 2017 Patriots to their 2004 counterparts, the biggest difference and biggest similarity is immediately clear. For Philadelphia, in 2004, the Eagles had their franchise quarterback and MVP candidate under center. In 2017, he’s on the sideline with a cane. For New England, Belichick and Brady remain the faces of the organization.
Beyond the quarterback position, the current Eagles start to look a lot more like the past ones. The 2004 breakthrough was fueled by the off-season additions of Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. This season free-agent signings Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith both caught 40-yard touchdowns in the NFC Championship. Chris Long and Patrick Robinson recovered turnovers. In both seasons, those free agents were being added to a core forged through the draft.
McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Tra Thomas, Corey Simon, Lito Sheppard, and Sheldon Brown were all draft picks that starred in 2004. Just like Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, and Jalen Mills have built the skeleton of the 2017 NFC Champions.
Both Eagles teams had veteran free agent signings that it’s hard to picture as anything but Eagles: Jon Runyan and Malcolm Jenkins. Jeremiah Trotter had come home. So has Nick Foles. Both teams got leadership from Jenkins and Brian Dawkins at the safety position that seemed more impressive with each passing game.
New England looks a little different after all these years. They rely on Brady and the passing game in a way they didn’t in 2004. Back then, threw the football 474 times. This season: 581. Their premiere pass-catcher the first time these teams met was eventual Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch. A good performance, to be sure, but a far cry from the lineup of Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan.
They were focused much more on rushing and defense. Corey Dillon had 1,635 yards on the ground for the 2004 Patriots. In the committee setting of 2017, Dion Lewis led New England with half that total. The 2004 defense featured stars at every level: Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison. The 2017 defense still has some household names in the secondary (Malcolm Butler, Devin McCourty) but lacks a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro selection. The 2004 team ranked ninth in the league in yards allowed, 2017 sits 29th.
The final similarity to 2004: the coaches. Bill Belichick is, of course, pretty similar to Bill Belichick. And Doug Pederson, rightly or wrongly, has always been viewed as an extension of and throwback to the Reid era in Philadelphia. It’s hard to put yourself back in Christmas 2015 and imagine the Eagles where they are today.
The incredible walk-off touchdown scored by Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs in Sunday’s divisional round playoff game against the Saints sent shockwaves around the NFL. And of all the reactions on Twitter in the aftermath of the miraculous finish, one person registered the news with a sense of familiarity.
Kenbrell Thompkins, who played with the Patriots for parts of three seasons between 2013-2015, recalled a similar moment from his days in New England. In an Oct. 2013 regular season game at Gillette Stadium, Thompkins reeled in a winning touchdown catch from Tom Brady against the Saints with only five seconds remaining. The Patriots won, 30-27.
The drama of the moment was famously captured by Patriots commentator Scott Zolak, whose unique call included the line, “Unicorns! Show ponies! Where’s the beef?”
So it was with a sense of humor (and a touch of trolling) that Thompkins tweeted in the aftermath of Sunday’s Saints loss