In the home stretch … 17 teams down, three left. Some more from the trail …
1. In addition to talking about Antonio Brown, Jon Gruden and I discussed where Derek Carr is at heading into his sixth season in the pros and the second year with Gruden as his head coach. “I’m anxious to see Derek with the cast that we think we brought in,” Gruden says. “I think to really evaluate the quarterback, you gotta evaluate the supporting cast. And when we got here, we didn’t have one healthy tackle on our team, not one. ... Now, we have Trent Brown, and we have a little bit of experience at tackle. We have Tyrell Williams. We have Brown, you didn’t see him today or Darren Waller. But we feel like, with Jacobs too, we really have the ingredients to see Derek take off. And when it’s been together, it’s been pretty cool.”
2. One dynamic I’ve noticed when visiting training camps, and something that promises to be a theme heading into the first month of the season, is the amount of guessing on what Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals will be on offense. The 2011 Broncos, ’12 49ers, ’12 Redskins and ’13 Eagles all cashed in, for periods of time, on a similar dynamic—does Kingsbury think the Cardinals will benefit from this going into 2019?
“I think maybe,” Kingsbury says, before pushing his point toward quarterback Kyler Murray. “When you have a player who can throw like he can, and run it like he can, that in itself is kind of the unknown element—because he can turn a bad play into something special. And so I think more than anything, that’s what we have a chance to be, with a player who, even if he gets fooled or makes a mistake, can get you out of it with his legs or an accurate throw.”
As for surprises going the other way, that the NFL has presented him to this point, he said, “I think that remains to be seen,” while adding that DC Vance Joseph’s been a great resource for him as a former NFL head coach.
3. Along those lines, the Cowboys really, really believe they’ve found something in 30-year-old Kellen Moore, the team’s new offensive coordinator who’s in just his second year coaching. And Moore could have that same sort of element of surprise in his offense, which will incorporate the pro concepts he’s worked with as a player, and last year as a coach, and the college stuff he knows from having played for Chris Pederson at Boise State. The key, he maintains, is building it for the players in general, and Dak Prescott in particular.
“We’ve spent three-plus years together,” says Moore, a backup to Prescott in 2016 and ’17. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about a lot of different stuff. We’ve done a lot of good things, we may sprinkle in some stuff that maybe comes from the college world a little bit, embrace that a little more, and try some other things as well.”
4. I know what perception was of Daniel Jones publicly pre-draft, but that there wasn’t that sort of consensus—that the Giants reached—in scouting circles. It was actually all over the map. There were other teams, plural, that had Jones as the No. 1 quarterback in the class (the Giants had Jones ranked over Kyler Murray too). There were also teams that had him graded as a potential Day 3 pick. So there are certainly some who aren’t shocked with how he looked against the Jets on Thursday, and others that are probably still skeptical.
Here’s what one AFC college scouting director said about Jones the week of the draft: “He’s game-ready. He understands pro concepts, pro fundamentals. He’s just an evolved player. You usually have to retool a guy coming out, and you don’t with him. And sis statistics misleading. He had putrid receivers, a putrid line. I just think he’s ready for what’s next.”
5. The new Bengals coaches have been very impressed with what Joe Mixon is bringing to the table. If things go as Zac Taylor’s planning them, there’s a good chance he features Mixon the way that his old team, the Rams, featured Todd Gurley in 2017. One assistant coach said to me that Mixon looks to him like he was created in a running back lab.
6. Name to keep an eye out of Ravens camp: Third-year corner Marlon Humphrey. As I’ve heard it, he’s been dominant this summer, and he should be a big piece to the puzzle for a proud Baltimore defense that’s undergone a ton of turnover this offseason.
7. Through 17 camps, this is still holding true—teams are going to be making trade calls looking for corners over the next couple weeks, and offensive line is the one area that a lot of teams see as the swing factor in their seasons. Probably not a coincidence that the Patriots and Saints, two among the NFL’s gold standard, are very good in those areas (New England still has to work out its left tackle issue), and could have parts they could move before the trade deadline.
8. When I asked Jimmy Garoppolo if he wanted to get preseason action, just to get his feet wet before Week 1, he told me was deferring on those things—“the coaches and training staff will put all that together … whatever they decide on, I’ll be ready for.” He’s on target to play next Monday, and that qualifies as really good news.
9. A few weeks ago, ex-Broncos coach Mike Shanahan returned to Denver’s facility for the first time since being fired in 2008—something that had been in the works since January. Shanahan and new Broncos coach Vic Fangio had dinner soon after Fangio got the job, and Fangio extended the invitation then. GM John Elway had actually been asking Shanahan to come by for about a year by then. But they couldn’t work out timing in the spring, and as summer approached, Shanahan was anxious to get over there. Why? Because he wanted to attend the team’s joint practices with his son Kyle’s team, but thought it would be weird if that was the first time he came back. So he picked a day in late July, and went, and saw all the changes.
“We had a bubble there that blew over,” Shanahan says. “We had to go down the street to practice when there was weather. So to see all the changes, and that happens in any organization, it was almost a completely new facility, even on the business side. It was very impressive to see, the indoor [fields] and everything else. And there’s so many people that you kind of forget are still working there. So in that way, it’s like you never left.” Shanahan, by the way, will be back there for those 49ers/Broncos joint practices on Friday and Saturday.
10. Some fantasy tips for you from the two teams I’ve visited this week to wrap up the MAQB. One, be aware of Redskins’ third-rounder Terry McLaurin—the coaches there love his speed, toughness and versatility.
And two, Curtis Samuel is a breakout candidate in Carolina, and Christian McCaffrey could see a reduction in his workload (but not touches) manifesting in how he used (or not used) in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
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