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Dolphins find ‘unicorn’ with No. 1 WR potential in Preston Williams – Miami Dolphins Blog

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TAMPA, Fla. — One Miami Dolphins fan couldn’t stop talking about his new favorite player while watching joint practices in Tampa Wednesday. It wasn’t a quarterback such as Josh Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick, or even cornerback Xavien Howard or possibly running back Kenyan Drake. It was undrafted rookie Preston Williams, a 6-foot-5, 218-pound receiver who has excited the Dolphins’ fan base, coaches and players this summer.

“Put him up there in the ring of honor with Paul Warfield (Dolphins wide receiver, 1970-74) right now. Ain’t no need to wait,” the fan wearing an aqua Dolphins shirt yelled out as Williams beat Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a catch during a one-on-one drill.

Outside of Rosen, Fitzpatrick and Kenny Stills, no Dolphins player has been talked about more than the rookie wideout. Even Howard, who is the Dolphins’ best player, has noticed.

“That guy can be special,” Howard said. “There’s so much room for improvement with him, but he’s going to be a No. 1 receiver one day.

“I’ve been playing against receivers all of my life, so I know what it takes.”

Howard does not give compliments often, so his words hold weight.

Williams, 22, has consistently flashed on the field. He had a game-high four catches for 97 yards and drew multiple defensive pass interference calls in the Dolphins’ 34-27 preseason win against the Atlanta Falcons.

Williams is already making highlight plays. He’s the ultimate jump-ball receiver, but he went viral during the Dolphins-Buccaneers joint practices this week after twice juking a stumbling Tampa Bay cornerback out of his shoes in one-on-ones.

The question for Williams has quickly transitioned from will he make the team (yes, he’s a lock) to will he start or get significant playing time from Week 1 (that is yet to be seen). But Howard’s words of elite receiver potential grow with every catch Williams makes.

“This is a talented young receiver,” coach Brian Flores said. “To get to a No. 1 status is, he’s got a long way to go, but does he have that potential? I would say he does and it’s up to him to do the things he has to do to reach that potential. We’ll help him, though.”

Did we just become best friends?

Outsiders were introduced to the Josh Rosen-Williams connection last Friday night. Late in the second quarter, Rosen delivered a nice ball to Williams — who made a diving one-handed (left hand!) grab, beating 6-foot-2 Falcons cornerback Jordan Miller for a 36-yard reception. The crowd erupted and the catch went viral on the Internet.

“If you make plays, people notice,” Williams said.

This isn’t a case of first-time interactions turning into an instant bond. Rosen and Williams played together at The Opening 7-on-7 football camp in Oregon in 2014. Williams often smiles when thinking about all the touchdowns he’s caught from Rosen in the past.

The QB-WR pair are a great match. Rosen is a gunslinger at heart who plays the game with trust and rhythm. Williams is a big-body, big-play threat who loves catching 50/50 balls.

“Preston will go get the ball, so you’ve got to give him those opportunities,” Rosen said. “He’s an unbelievable athlete. He’s got a great attitude. He works really hard, and I think he’s got a really high ceiling. It’s just about how hard he works, and I’m right there in the boat with him.

Williams added: “We’re both young, so we’re learning together. Me and Josh still got a lot of growing to do. We’ll keep working every day, during practice and after practice.”

Work ethic is one area where Williams has impressed the Dolphins. He’s regularly one of the last players off the field getting extra work on the Jugs machine. He also spent the break between spring workouts getting pointers from former NFL receiver Brandon Marshall and working out with Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Unicorn season

Take a gander at Williams’ social media accounts and you’ll realize he’s obsessed with unicorns. Why? He says he sees himself in the mythical creature. His game might be catching others by surprise, but that’s just because they don’t see it often he says.

“Uni — unique. Unicorns are unique horses. You haven’t seen a unicorn before,” Williams said. “People say I run like a horse. I agreed, but I run like a unique horse though. I’m unnoticeably fast. I got good game sleep. I’m unique.”

The Dolphins have a suddenly deep receiver crew with Stills, DeVante Parker (who says he sees a lot of himself in Williams), Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Williams, Isaiah Ford, Brice Butler and Allen Hurns.

How did Williams land in Miami? Williams was arrested in 2017 because of a domestic dispute with a woman who identified as Williams’ girlfriend at the time. Williams pled guilty to a harassment charge in 2018. He wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine because of the 2017 arrest. He was considered by some as a potential first-round player out of Colorado State, but off-the-field issues along with a bad pro day performance led him to go undrafted.

Dolphins assistant general manager Marvin Allen, co-director of player personnel Adam Engroff and regional scout Lenny McGill kept track of Williams throughout the draft. The Dolphins had high evaluations of Williams throughout the process and were active in pursuing him as it became clear he might go undrafted

“He’s worked extremely hard really since he got here, post-draft. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s tough, and he’s really worked every day to get better,” Flores said. “We tell him to block in the run game, he blocks in the run game, play more downhill on your end cuts, he does that.”

The next question will be how the Dolphins get Williams on the field? His fellow receivers know it’s only a matter of time before he’s catching touchdowns with the starting offense. The Dolphins even gave him a shot at punt returner in practice this week.

Williams might benefit if Wilson and Grant are eased into regular-season action as they recover from injuries. But eventually there will be a lot of receivers in the kitchen ready to eat. That’s a problem the Dolphins hope to have in 2019 and beyond.

“He’s a first-round talent,” Stills said of Williams. “He’s going to be somebody to deal with in this league for a long time.”



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Browns expect Jarvis Landry to be ready for season after hip surgery

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Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry underwent surgery earlier this month to repair a nagging hip injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.

Landry had the surgery Feb. 4. A team source said Landry is expected to return at some point during training camp. The team said he is expected to make a full recovery for the 2020 season.

Dr. Chris Larson performed the surgery in Minnesota.

Landry, who was selected to his fifth Pro Bowl, caught 83 passes for 1,174 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2019. He didn’t miss a game, but was limited in practice on the injury report for most of the season.

Landry said in a video he posted on Instagram that going into the Pro Bowl, he thought he could work with doctors to “formulate a plan to manage me again throughout the year” without the surgery.

He changed his mind after the Pro Bowl.

“I realized how much pain I was in,” he said. “… I was kind of happy I went to Pro Bowl, because that was more of an indication that I needed the surgery.”



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How the Bengals can set up Joe Burrow to succeed as a rookie – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — What happens with the first overall pick in the NFL draft should be cut and dry.

Since the Cincinnati Bengals secured the top slot, everything has pointed toward the selection of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner who led the Tigers to a national title and posted one of the best passing seasons in college football history.

In an interview with “The Dan Patrick Show” before the Super Bowl, Burrow said he wants to play for a franchise committed to pursuing championships. Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since 1991 despite a stretch of five straight postseason appearances from 2011-15.

Here are four things the Bengals can do to set Burrow up for success in his first season and beyond.

Secure a big-play wide receiver

A.J. Green‘s franchise tag designation is almost a foregone conclusion at this point. Green has repeatedly said he’ll begrudgingly play on the tag, worth around $18.4 million, and the Bengals are unwilling to part with him in 2020. Green makes a massive difference. During quarterback Andy Dalton‘s nine seasons in Cincinnati, he lost 20 of his 26 starts without Green, with 13 of those coming last season. With Green on the field, Dalton was 64-41-2. When Green is healthy, he’s still, even at 32 by the start of next season, one of the best offensive weapons in the league.

If the situation with Green somehow falls through, the Bengals could target the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper, who is set to become a free agent. After he was traded from the Raiders to Dallas in 2018, Cooper helped Dallas make the playoffs. Last season, Cooper, who will be 26 by the start of the season, was eighth in the league in receiving yards (1,189).

Of course, if the Cowboys don’t tag Cooper and let him walk, there will be several teams interested in him. But the Bengals need another dynamic receiver to pair with Tyler Boyd to help Burrow’s transition to the NFL.

Make a big free agency push in the trenches

This could answer two of the biggest criticisms surrounding the franchise. The Bengals rarely spend big money on free agents from other teams. Cincinnati also struggled on both sides of the line of scrimmage last season.

New England Patriots left guard Joe Thuney could change both of those trends. In 2019, Thuney was ranked second in Pass Block Win Rate, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. To put that in perspective, rookie left guard Michael Jordan was the highest-ranked Bengal at No. 31. But after Thuney, there’s a considerable drop-off in pass-blocking interior lineman who will be available on the open market.

Then there’s the other side of the line of scrimmage. Although the Bengals’ pass rush was resurgent at the end of the season, they need to give defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and defensive line coach Nick Eason more with which to work.

The Steelers’ Bud Dupree and the Ravens’ Matthew Judon, two edge rushers who would be good fits in Anarumo’s 3-4 scheme, could warrant long-term investments. Even if Cincinnati doesn’t land a big name, making a push for a quality player is a good sign for the franchise.

Be proactive with roster moves

Cincinnati needs to maximize its expendable resources before the draft. That means shedding offensive tackle Cordy Glenn‘s contract and ending an untenable relationship for both sides by cutting or trading Dalton. Being proactive not only provides a little clarity during a pivotal offseason, but it also shows Cincinnati is willing to make changes to end a four-year playoff drought. That also means giving running back Joe Mixon a contract extension before the season and avoiding the drama that surrounded Green last season. If Cincinnati wants to shift the national perception, those three moves are a good place to start.

Build an indoor practice facility

This offseason is all about proving the Bengals will be more dynamic about how they operate. One simple way to make it happen: develop a plan to build an indoor practice facility, which is increasingly common at every level of football. Last year, weather forced the Bengals to practice inside Paul Brown Stadium on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, the University of Cincinnati, which doesn’t operate with the budget of a Power Five program, has a bubble for their fields in Clifton, Ohio.

In college sports, upgrading facilities shows coaches and recruits a commitment to pursuing a winning program. That same philosophy applies to the Bengals, who were recently called out by their former quarterback Carson Palmer as an organization that didn’t want to win at the highest level. Costs may vary depending on the specifics surrounding the construction of a facility in downtown Cincinnati, where the stadium and team facility sits, but it shouldn’t be an issue for an NFL franchise.

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How Ravens’ tag decision on Matthew Judon shapes their offseason – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Can the Baltimore Ravens truly afford to lose Matthew Judon?

Can they truly afford, financially, to keep their Pro Bowl outside linebacker?

That’s the dilemma facing a Baltimore team that lacks pass-rushers and salary-cap space. The window to use the franchise tag is from Feb. 25 to March 10, and the Ravens’ decision on whether to apply it on Judon will affect their free-agency game plan like no other.

If Baltimore puts the tag on Judon, over half of its projected $33 million in cap space is gone. That would severely limit the Ravens’ ability to add another pass-rusher, a proven interior offensive lineman and a playmaking wide receiver in free agency, all of which is needed for Baltimore to overtake the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

If the Ravens don’t use the tag, Judon is likely gone in free agency and the defense is left with its biggest void at pass-rusher since the franchise’s inaugural season. This puts extreme pressure on Baltimore to sign a premier edge rusher because the remaining players — Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson — have a combined 10.5 career sacks.

At the end of the season, coach John Harbaugh was asked how much he wanted Judon back and how hard it would be to keep him. His response: “Very much and pretty hard.”

Here are the Ravens’ options with Judon:

Tag him: This is the expected move. The next question is how much will it cost. The Ravens will want to tag him as an outside linebacker, which is projected to be $16.3 million, according to OverTheCap. Judon will want to get tagged as a defensive end, which is projected to be $19.3 million. Baltimore faced this same situation with Terrell Suggs in 2008, and he eventually was designated as a defensive end-outside linebacker and received the difference between the two tags. If that’s the case with Judon, the price will be $17.8 million. That would leave Baltimore with roughly $15 million in cap room, and only nine teams currently have less. This would hinder the spending power for a team that could use a proven wide receiver like A.J. Green or Emmanuel Sanders and a pass-rusher like Arik Armstead, Calais Campbell (if cut) or Ryan Kerrigan (if traded).

Don’t use the tag: It would be a surprise if Baltimore lets Judon hit the open market after last offseason, when Za’Darius Smith left for the Green Bay Packers in free agency and recorded a career-high 13.5 sacks. Allowing another young pass-rusher in his prime to walk a year later would be a tough sell to fans, especially after the Ravens finished No. 21 in the league with 37 sacks. But an argument can be made there is more value in Baltimore not tagging Judon and using that $17.8 million in cap space on getting a couple of top-notch pass-rushers who can help on the interior and on the edge. If the Ravens go this route, they need to have a better backup plan than last year. After losing Smith, Baltimore signed Pernell McPhee (three sacks before getting injured after seven games) and Shane Ray (cut before regular season) in free agency and drafted Ferguson (2.5 sacks as a rookie) in the third round.

Sign him to a long-term deal: The Ravens have traditionally used the tag to buy time to get a long-term deal done. The last five players franchised by Baltimore — cornerback Chris McAlister (2003 and 2004), Suggs (2008 and 2009), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (2011), running back Ray Rice (2012) and kicker Justin Tucker (2016) — eventually got contracts that made them among the highest paid at their positions. Those who believe Judon has earned a big-money contract say he’s already a great pass-rusher who has yet to reach his peak at age 27. His 33 quarterback hits last season ranked fourth in the NFL, and he’s one of 16 players to record at least seven sacks in each of the past three seasons. Others contend Judon isn’t in that same class of Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan, all of whom average between $16 million and $17 million per season. Judon has failed to produce double-digit sacks in a single season and he didn’t make a sack as part of a four-man rush last season (all 9.5 sacks came off Baltimore blitzes). His current market value is $16.3 million per season, according to Spotrac.

Tag Judon and then trade him: This scenario was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter last month, and it makes a lot of sense if Baltimore can find an interested team. The Ravens can get an immediate, upgraded return for Judon (unlike a third-round compensatory pick next year if he signs elsewhere in free agency) and they don’t have to invest a huge chunk of their cap space in one player. Last offseason provided the template for the tag-and-trade of pass-rushers. The Chiefs got a second-round pick from the San Francisco 49ers for Dee Ford, and the Seattle Seahawks got three picks (first- and third-round picks in 2019 plus a second-round pick in 2020) from the Chiefs in exchange for Frank Clark and a 2019 third-round pick.

If Baltimore can pry a second-round pick from a pass-rush needy team such as Seattle or Atlanta, it would represent another win for general manager Eric DeCosta. He has excelled in the trade market from dealing quarterback Joe Flacco for a fourth-round pick and kicker Kaare Vedvik for a fifth-rounder to acquiring Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters for a fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young. With an additional pick and more cap space, the Ravens have the resources to rebuild their front seven to make another championship run.

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