On Bills Injuries, Panthers Corners, Rookies in Pads, More

Rex’s short-term view in Buffalo takes a hit, roster-building in Carolina and other NFL tidbits for mid-May  
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1. I think the short-term injuries to Sammy Watkins and Shaq Lawson in Buffalo are significant because the head coach isn’t sure he’ll get the long term to establish himself. Lawson, the Bills’ first-round pick, will be sidelined for about five months after shoulder surgery, which means he should miss the early part of the season. Watkins’ broken foot, as first reported by the Buffalo News yesterday, may sideline the top receiver for training camp, but the team is expecting him to be ready for Week 1. Neither is an injury with long-term concerns, but after Rex Ryan didn’t satisfy his playoffs promise in 2015 and the team put out a statement assuring his job security after one season, he’s clearly stockpiled the fort around him to prove last year was an anomaly. He brought his brother, Rob, to Buffalo, and he drafted defense with the first three picks. For a team in batten-down-the-hatches mode, heading into the season with two of your key pieces fighting injuries is tough news.

2. I think the Panthers are taking your conventional roster-building blueprint and throwing it out the window. Things could change, but in May they’re poised to go into the season with a third-year player coming off a broken leg and two rookies as their top three cornerbacks. Who knows if it will work, but that shows a lot of confidence and trust between head coach Ron Rivera and GM Dave Gettleman.

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Sammy Watkins, Zach Mettenberger, Khalil Mack.

Sammy Watkins, Zach Mettenberger, Khalil Mack.

3. I think, even if it weren’t against the rules, I don’t understand the logic of putting players in pads at rookie minicamp, as ESPN reported the Ravens are being investigated for by the NFL. Sure, it’s hard to evaluate some players, linemen especially, if they’re not in pads. But think about the disparity in ability between the top draft picks and some of the tryout players brought in to fill out a rookie minicamp practice field. I recall one head coach pulling a first-round lineman out of team drills in rookie camp because he was afraid the sloppiness in the trenches would put his guy at risk.

4. I think the NFL’s future in Las Vegas will come down to the same thing everything else comes down to: money. Concerns about the market size, whether or not casino-minded tourists would commit three hours to attend a football game and the NFL’s aversion to be affiliated with anything related to gambling are legitimate. But not when compared to $750 million in public funds for a new stadium. If the Nevada state legislature approves that sum, “Just win, baby!” will soon be replaced by “Vegas, baby!”

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5. I think Khalil Mack was making a lofty statement when he told Yahoo! Sports the Raiders defense can be as good as the Broncos defense was last year, but no doubt there are similarities in how the Denver and Oakland have built their defenses. Both hit on a top pass-rusher in the draft (Von Miller/Khalil Mack) and then a few years later studded the unit with another big-name free-agent rusher (DeMarcus Ware/Bruce Irvin), cornerback (Aqib Talib/Sean Smith) and safety (T.J. Ward/Reggie Nelson).

6. I think Mark Sanchez’s injury to the thumb on his non-throwing hand won’t affect whatever the Broncos’ plan is to ease in rookie Paxton Lynch. Sanchez will miss some time in OTAs after having surgery, but it’s training camp that matters. Just ask Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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7. I think Zach Mettenberger won’t make it through the waiver wire unclaimed. Yes, he was 0-10 as a starter during two seasons in Tennessee. But the Titans’ intended franchise quarterback, Marcus Mariota, was only 3-9. Someone will be intrigued enough by Mettenberger’s size and arm strength—and very affordable sixth-rounder’s contract—to put in a claim.

8. I think the boss highlighted Titans OC Terry Robiskie in his 10 Things yesterday, and here’s another Titans assistant I think will be critical this season: offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Tennessee is counting on Grimm, a Hall of Famer who last coached in the NFL in 2012, not only to bring first-round tackle Jack Conklin up to NFL speed but also to get the most out of struggling former first-round guard Chance Warmack. During the second night of the draft I walked past the Titans’ offensive line meeting room, and Grimm was in there not idly passing time, but watching film.

9. I think everyone has a different path, so good on Jonathan Martin for using his brief and challenging NFL career as a teaching tool for middle schoolers. This USA Today story details a recent morning the former Dolphins tackle spent at a school in Oakland with sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, sharing his personal struggles with bullying and depression through an organization dedicated to eliminating social isolation.

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10. I think it’s always interesting to see the rare times when Bill Belichick lets his guard down, as he did in this interview with Lacrosse Magazine. There are few topics that will get Belichick talking, but lacrosse is definitely one. In the process, he made a humorous comment about his quarterback that will no doubt register with opposing pass-rushers. When asked where he’d put Tom Brady if he played lacrosse, Belichick said he’d have to put him in goal. “He can’t run,” the Patriots coach said. “I mean, he can’t run. He can’t dodge.”

Questions or comments? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.