ANOTHER UNDERCLASSMEN ENTERS DRAFT
The Associated Press reports California junior TE Cameron Morrah declared for the NFL Draft Monday, Jan. 19, against the advice of head coach Jeff Tedford. “We work with NFL candidates to educate them on their prospects for the draft as well as the benefits for staying in college,” Tedford said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the decision, but I am supportive of Cameron and hope that he is successful at the next level.”
Mancini’s Take: Morrah’s an underrated prospect with size (6’4″, 250 lbs.) and the ability to get open on downfield routes. What I like the most about this fella is the fact that eight of his 27 receptions went for touchdowns. Morrah’s currently projected to be a mid-round pick. Are we looking at another Kevin Boss, Ross?
Mandel’s Take: I don’t know about that Rev. Morrah is an interesting prospect with decent size and agility, but to me Tedford–who supported Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson’s early departures–is spot on again. I’m sure Morrah has his own reasons for leaving, but he’ll be lucky to be drafted at all and would have been well-served by remaining in school for another season.
MCGAHEE EXPECTED BACK IN ’09
Jamison Hensley, of The Baltimore Sun, reports Baltimore Ravens RB Willis McGahee is expected to be on the team’s roster next season. He would still count $11 million against the cap if the Ravens released him this offseason. Jamison Hensley, of The Baltimore Sun, reports the Baltimore Ravens are expected to release CB Chris McAlister this offseason. The Ravens would save $8 million if they released McAlister.
Mancini’s Take: McGahee still has some explosiveness in him, but he’s proven to be more fragile than fine crystal. The dude can’t stay on the field. Taking big hits is one thing, but the former Hurricane was often seen cramping up this year and also displayed a lack of stamina. One thing that you can’t take away from McGahee is his toughness. Willie McG showed a lot of maturity versus Pittsburgh in protecting his quarterback by consistently picking up the blitz versus some nasty Steeler defenders. McAllister is currently recovering from a procedure to repair a ligament in one of his knees. The veteran corner probably won’t be as explosive as he once was, but may really help out a team in need of a stabilizing veteran presence. Do you know what I mean, Mike Tannenbaum?
Mandel’s Take: This is purely a financial decision–the Ravens simply can’t afford to cut McGahee and have the dead money effect their cap. He did not have a good season, averaging under 4 yards per carry, and although he’s only 27 much of the tread is off his tires. It appears the Ravens are prepared to once again go with the three-headed monster at RB in 2009.
BUCKHALTER SEEKS STARTING ROLE
The Associated Press reports Philadelphia Eagles RB Correll Buckhalter, who will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, would like to have the opportunity to start for another team. “If the opportunity presented itself, I’m going to take it,” Buckhalter said.
Mancini’s Take: Buck is a physical runner, who comes at you full steam. He’s by no means a quick or elusive back. I really doubt there’s a team out there willing to make Buck the centerpiece of their running game. He’s just fine as a complementary piece that can be counted on to pick up tough yards and soften the competition. To me, this looks like a case of someone who thinks that the grass is greener on the other side. Break it down, soothsayer.
Mandel’s Take: Unfortunately for the solid Buckhalter, there won’t be any such “opportunity” for him. He’s a second back and while that may seem like a put-down, with teams shifting toward using at least two backs, it isn’t. He’ll either stay with Philly in the role he’s had for a couple of seasons or will venture elsewhere and see a bit more opportunity as a second option. Buckhalter has to know that 30-year-olds who haven’t shown they can carry the entire load don’t suddenly get starter’s roles, or starter’s salaries. But it’s nice to dream.
MEEKS STEPS DOWN
The Indianapolis Colts have announced defensive coordinator Ron Meeks has resigned. Meeks had served as the team’s defensive coordinator since 2002.
Mancini’s Take: I’m hearing that Meeks had little to do with defensive game planning and that Tony Dungy was really the one in charge when it came to directing Indy’s defense. Current Indy defensive back’s coach and Dungy protege, Alvin Williams, is a potential replacement, as are Herman Edwards (who’s never been a coordinator in his life) and Donnie Henderson. New head man Jim Caldwell is trying to put his own personal stamp on the team.
Mandel’s Take: Does this mean the end of the ever-popular Tampa-2 in Indy? Meeks jumped before he was pushed, make no mistake about it. The Colts will have a whole lot of reorganizing to do next season, and while Peyton Manning and the offense should stabilize the team, I’m always wary of a new coaching staff and its effect on the team early in the season. As was proven this year, Indianapolis cannot afford to get out of the gate slowly in 2009 lest they be left far behind.
RAMS COACHING STAFF UPDATE
Adam Caplan, reporting for Scout.com, reports the St. Louis Rams are expected to hire Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach Pat Shurmur as their offensive coordinator, according to a league source. Adam Caplan, reporting for Scout.com, reports the St. Louis Rams are expected to hire Carolina Panthers linebackers coach Ken Flajole as their defensive coordinator.
Mancini’s Take: Fritz’s nephew is taking the well-traveled path of going from being a quarterbacks’ coach to being hired as an offensive coordinator. Shurmer did a fine job of working with Donovan McNabb through the years by helping him become a more accurate passer and better decision maker. Shurmer does have some weapons for his West Coast offense, but improvements need to be made along the offensive line (particularly at right tackle) and quarterback.Flajole, on the other hand, is a very creative mind, who should mesh well with the aggressive Steve Spagnuolo.
Mandel’s Take: Spags knows Shurmur from their time in Philly and if he wasn’t sure he’d be comfortable with him, he wouldn’t be heading to St. Louis. As we’ve seen this past season, when head coaches and assistants don’t mesh, it can get ugly. It’s pretty clear that the new head coach has a definite idea of what and who he wants, and snagging coaches from playoff teams doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me. Flajole has an Andy Reid connection from his days at Missouri and I’m sure the Philly headman gave him the thumbs up. The culture of losing is going to change in the Gateway city.
CHARGERS SEEK OUT DEFENSIVE MINDS
Though the San Diego Chargers continue to use a 3-4 defense, they are now employing three members of the coaching staff that took the Bears to the Super Bowl two years ago, via the 4-3 Cover Two philosophy. On Tuesday, the Chargers announced that they have hired defensive line coach Don Johnson and secondary coach Steve Wilks. Both men worked for defensive coordinator Ron Rivera with the Bears in 2006. Johnson spent the last two seasons with the Raiders. Wilks was released by the Bears after the 2008 season.
Mancini’s Take: I can understand why San Diego wants to be a a more intimidating and forceful defense. Having a healthy Shawne Merriman back should make a difference, as will a 100% healthy Antonio Cromartie. I would also expect GM A.J. Smith to heavily pursue defensive players in the draft along with a running back. What’s the prescription for this ailing unit, Dr. Mandel?
Mandel’s Take: Johnson, whose flamboyant 80s-style sportcoats will fit right in in San Diego, has to be excited to get out of Oakland after being in Chicago. Talk about going from penthouse to outhouse. The Bolts’ defensive line play was average at best this past season, but one can certainly attribute some of that mediocre play to the absence of Captain Steroid Merriman. One can only wonder if Philip Michael Thomas will follow Johnson. To me, the interesting move here is Wilks, who has some sort of magic touch when it comes to having his defense forcing interceptions, something the Chargers could improve upon in 2009. Let’s see if he can work that turnover magic with a new team.