News and Views

Caldwell Confident Matthew Stafford Will Continue To Improve Friday, March 27, 2015 | Time: 12:22 PT |  Reported by the Detroit Free Press
The Facts: As QB, Stafford took much of the blame for the Lions' 2014 offensive regression, though HC Jim Caldwell said the QB was really one of the biggest reasons for the team's success. "I'm most concerned about wins," Caldwell said. "That's what I'm most concerned about. Stats don't mean a whole lot to me. I would rather have a team that wins and gets into the playoffs than a team that throws for 9,000 yards. It just makes sense."
Diehards Line: Stafford led the Lions to their second playoff appearance in four seasons last year and threw for 4,257 yards and 22 touchdowns, but the Lions disappointed offensively overall. After ranking as one of the league's top scoring units for most of Jim Schwartz's tenure, the Lions finished 19th in total yards and 22nd in points scored in Caldwell's first season as head coach. The coach told Free Press staffer Dave Birkett that he typically sees major growth and development from QBs in their fifth, sixth or seventh years in the NFL. Birkett notes that last year, Caldwell said the same about QBs in their fourth, fifth and sixth seasons; Stafford is entering year seven this fall. It's time. ... More familiarity with OC Joe Lombardi's offense, paired with a healthier offensive line and receiver unit in 2015 could allow Stafford to make that leap. But there are still those who question his fundamentals. That will have to change as well.
Payton: C.J. Spiller The Most Explosive Player On The Field Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 10:39 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... HC Sean Payton revealed that he considered reuniting with Reggie Bush before Spiller came into the picture, saying that he viewed Bush as "a good fit" for what the Saints plan to do on the ground in 2015. But Payton went on to gush over Spiller's unique skill set, saying "his cutup is unbelievable," speaking specifically of the runner's thunderous 2012 campaign with the Bills that saw him amass more than 1,700 total yards.
Diehards Line:"I think it became challenging," Payton said of Spiller's more recent work in Buffalo, "but you go back a couple of years and start looking at his screen reel, a sweep reel, a return reel. When you watch his film, you think of a lot of things he can do. He's physical, he's the most explosive player on the field a lot of times when you're watching him." Payton credited Spiller and his agent for seeking the best fit over the most money, saying they prioritized "how he was going to be used," making the Saints a match. Added to a backfield that includes last year's breakout star, Mark Ingram, Spiller now joins forces with a coaching staff that knows how to use his gifts in space. As suggests, what Payton achieved with Bush, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas serves as the backdrop for what's to come with Spiller.
Shane Vereen Has Want The Giants Need Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 10:37 PT |  Reported by the Newark Star-Ledger
The Facts: Following up on a previous item. ... Last year when the Giants went back to pass, opposing defenses weren't scared by anyone aside from their TEs and WRs. Their RBs were an afterthought. No Giants back had a reception of over 27 yards. Vereen had three. He also had three receiving touchdowns. It's this skill in particular that has the Giants so excited. "I see him in that regard as a pass receiver coming out of the backfield, a pass protector, a guy who runs the ball in the three-wide offense in the run game, if you will, which is very prevalent today in our sport," coach Tom Coughlin said at the NFL Annual Meetings this week. "So I see him in that regard."
Diehards Line: But as Star-Ledger staffer Jordan Raanan notes, the key here is that Coughlin doesn't simply view Vereen as a third-down back. It appears the Giants plan to use him as more. The Giants used three-wide-receiver formations with regularity last season. They had three or more wide receivers on the field for 65 percent of their first-and-10 plays. That should provide ample opportunity for Vereen to be utilized as more than just a third-down back. The Patriots used him as more than that as well. Vereen logged 606 snaps last season. That was more than any Giants back, and only 10 less than Washington's Alfred Morris, a bona fide starter. The signing sets the stage for a rotation with Vereen, Rashad Jennings and last year's third-round pick Andre Williams. Jennings and Williams are bruising backs with similar skill sets. Vereen is the one who brings something slightly different to the table, almost in a David Wilson-type role.
Still No Timetable For Brian Quick; Training Camp Might Be Too Optimistic Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 10:35 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Quick suffered a torn rotator cuff and separated shoulder in the Rams' October loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Speaking at the owners meetings Wednesday, HC Jeff Fisher offered an update on Quick's status heading toward the start of the offseason conditioning program in April. "He's coming [along]," Fisher said. "Making progress. It was a very, very difficult early rehab process. It was an extensive, extensive injury. He's starting to see the light now. He's doing good. He's worked hard.”
Diehards Line: Quick was on his way to a career-best year and had showed signs of a potential breakthrough in the first six-plus games before the injury. After two disappointing seasons to open his career, Quick had posted career highs in receptions (25), receiving yards (375) and touchdowns (three). While Fisher points to progress for Quick recently, he remains hesitant to put any sort of definitive timetable on a possible return. The team has privately hoped that Quick would be ready in time for training camp in July, but Fisher says those hopes will have to wait to see what transpires in Quick's rehab leading up to that time. In other words, it's probably safe to expect Quick to not be available during OTAs and continue working toward training camp. For the Rams and Quick, the sooner he can return the better. The 2015 season is the last year of Quick's rookie deal.
TE Josh Hill Of Great Value To Saints Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 10:34 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: The hype surrounding Hill certainly won't die down after the way HC Sean Payton gushed over him on Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. Payton even threw a reference to the fantasy football crowd during another mention of Hill, saying, “Josh Hill is a player that we value a lot. He’s not on anyone’s fantasy first three rounds, I promise you. But he’s a real good tight end, he’s versatile in the running game, in the receiving game, as a special-teams player.”
Diehards Line: Payton has praised the 6-5, 250-pounder in the past, as well, but he always mentions how valuable Hill is as a core special-teams player -- calling him possibly the Saints’ special-teams MVP last year. And while Hill did catch five touchdown passes last season in a limited role, he only caught 14 total passes for 176 yards, and he wasn’t regularly featured as a red zone target. So, as’s Mike Triplett suggests, it’s wise to feel Payton’s “love” for Hill -- just don’t expect him to take over the “Jimmy Graham role” in New Orleans’ offense. Graham’s production will be absorbed by more of a committee of players -- including newly acquired running back C.J. Spiller, who might be even more relevant for fantasy purposes.
Colts Will Let Pagano Coach Without Extension This Season Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 10:33 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Colts HC Chuck Pagano enters a make-or-break 2015. Two sources briefed on the situation say the team is not expected to work out a contract extension with Pagano prior to the season, the final year of the four-year contract he signed when he was hired in 2012. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted, similar to Cowboys coach Jason Garrett this year, Pagano will see through his deal with no financial safety net in this huge season.
Diehards Line: What Pagano hopes is to cash in eventually as Garrett did, leading the Cowboys to the playoffs and earning a five-year, $30-million deal. The Colts reached the AFC title game this past season before losing to the New England Patriots by 38 points. The run to the AFC championship was their best playoff showing under Pagano, but he said this week of the loss' lopsided nature, "Did we want to be more competitive? Absolutely." The Colts have made the playoffs in each of Pagano's three seasons, though he missed most of 2012 while battling cancer, as interim coach Bruce Arians won Coach of the Year honors. Pagano has impressed the team's brass, but in part because of his illness, there have been only two full seasons on which to judge his prowess as a coach. The team will utilize 2015 to continue to evaluate him, while Pagano hopes to use it to achieve as much team success as possible, which would increase his value.
Jones Thinks Darren McFadden Still Has Plenty To Offer Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 7:39 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: Why do the Cowboys regard McFadden as a competent replacement for DeMarco Murray? “[Y]ou’ve got a good chance to not live up to expectations,” owner and GM Jerry Jones said regarding the lackluster career of McFadden, who has only one 1,000-yard campaign in seven seasons. “Because when you are drafted that high, people think that you are going to be the next Jimmy Brown. So, yes he would have liked to have had a more productive career. But the kinds of skills that got him drafted with the fourth pick in the draft, he still has."
Diehards Line: In case you missed it, the Cowboys let Murray walk away via free agency. They replaced him with McFadden. Murray led the NFL in rushing last season, with a franchise-record 1,845 yards. McFadden, in contrast, sputtered to a mere 534 yards in 2014. “You worry about injury, but we were worried about injury with Murray," Jones said. "In eight seasons, four in Oklahoma and four with the Cowboys, Murray only had two injury free seasons. And so the position is one you have to take into consideration no matter what the skill level is, they take a lot of hits, lot of punishment, and you got a good chance to have an injury issue. And that’s why we couldn’t make that kind of commitment of dollars to that position. ..." As PFT's x suggests, "Regardless of how it works, it will be one of the great experiments of the 2015 season."
Fox: Jay Cutler Will Be In Open Competition With Clausen Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 5:37 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: When they met with Cutler early this month, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that they left the room convinced they had to pick up the quarterback's $10 million option for 2016. HC John Fox's commitment falls short of that often provided for franchise QBs of Cutler's contract level, however. Although Cutler will top the offseason depth chart by dint of his experience edge, Fox made it clear Wednesday that the Bears will have an "open competition" at quarterback.
Diehards Line: "Obviously you've got to start somewhere," Fox said, "and my experience in football, really in anything, it's not where you start a competition; it's where you finish it. ..." In other words, Cutler is as much the "starter" in Chicago that Robert Griffin III is in Washington: Starters as of today. ... Cutler was benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen late last season, in part because he didn't fully embrace the coaching staff's philosophy and struggled to make the correct pre- and post-snap adjustments. Cutler has an obvious advantage due to the $25.5 million in guaranteed money he's collecting over the next two years. But at this point, nobody should be betting the ranch the paycheck ensures his starting status.
Robert Griffin III The Redskins' Starter Today... Will He Still Be It Week 1? Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 1:05 PT |  Reported by
The Facts: HC Jay Gruden says Griffin is currently the starting quarterback in Washington. But he’s not making any promises about Griffin remaining the starting quarterback when the season starts. At the league meeting, Gruden said only that Griffin is the starter today, not that he’d still be the starter when the season starts. “He’s got the starting job right now,” Gruden said of Griffin. “Hopefully he takes it and runs with it.”
Diehards Line: In other words, as PFT's Michael David Smith put it, "Griffin is going to take the first snap with the first-string offense on the first day of offseason practice, and Gruden wants to see Griffin play like the franchise quarterback Washington thought it was getting when it drafted him. ...." But Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins have the opportunity to take the job if they look better than Griffin does. Washington hasn’t decided yet whether to pick up the fifth-year option on Griffin’s rookie contract, so the team isn’t totally sold on Griffin as its quarterback of the future. Indeed, a day after GM Scot McCloughan wouldn't rule out drafting a QB with the No. 5 overall pick, Gruden reiterated there would be no hesitation to snag a signal-caller if there was consensus in the draft room. "If we think it's worth the risk to hit the reset button, if he's that good of a football player, if we decide in the building that he's that good of a football player that we think we should do that, then we should do that," the coach said. Bottom line? Take the "right now" portion of Gruden's comment about Griffin being the starter seriously.
Bucs Hint That Mike Glennon Is Drawing Interest Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Time: 1:04 PT |  Reported by the Tampa Bay Times
The Facts: Following up on the ongoing story. ... Seemingly poised to take Florida State QB Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the April 30 draft, the Bucs have been getting plenty of inquiries from teams wanting to trade for Glennon. HC Lovie Smith said Wednesday discussions about Glennon, who is 5-13 as a starter, could continue until the draft. "We've had the first pick and we've been taking calls for a long period of time, and I assume that would go right up until the draft," Smith said. "Yes, specifically on Glennon."
Diehards Line: Glennon, a third-round pick in 2013, won his first game in relief of injured starter Josh McCown but lost the next three before giving the job back. "I think we want to have our quarterback position as strong as possible," Smith said. "Yes, you're a veteran and you've been in the league, you can help a young player coming in a little bit more. But Mike Glennon is on our roster because we think he can play. You need more than one good quarterback, that's why Mike is there. No one is working harder than Mike Glennon at improving his body and becoming a better quarterback. ..." And apparently, nobody is working harder than Lovie Smith to raise Glennon's trade value.