AFC West: DeSean Jackson
A year ago, Hayden, the Raiders' top pick of the 2013 draft, was not only still recuperating from the near-fatal heart injury that ended his college career early, but he was also recovering from a follow-up surgery to clear out resultant scar tissue.
"(Last year), in the OTAs, because seeing all my teammates out there working out and I'm hooked up to IVs, it might mess up anybody's head a little bit, but I'm way over that now."
The Raiders have just as much, if not more, confidence in Hayden as the team gathers today for an open-to-the-media practice to kick off Week 2 of the three-week, 10-practice OTAs.
Even if, after having a short-circuited beginning to his rookie season, Hayden's year came to a premature close with a trip to injured reserve after just eight games due to a groin injury.
You get the sense the Raiders want Hayden to claim the right cornerback position, with newly-signed Tarell Brown locking it down on the left side and Carlos Rogers coming in to cover the slot receiver in nickel situations.
"I think he's light years ahead of where he was at this point last year," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said of Hayden. "Not just from a physical standpoint, but really from a mental standpoint too. I think he realizes now that everything's going to be fine, he's going to be OK, and now he can really focus on getting better as a football player.
"I like what I've seen out of D.J. so far. (He) still has a lot of things to learn, (he's) still kind of a quasi-rookie out there, but I'm looking forward to his development and I think there are some good things in store for him."
In fact, it's as if Hayden is a "bonus" draft pick for the Raiders, one with half-a-season of NFL experience, including two starts, and an interception already under his belt.
"Well, I mean, he's not necessarily starting on ground zero like most of these rookies are so he's got a little bit of a head start, but yet he still has a lot of room to grow," Allen said. "There was a reason why we took him where we took him last year. We feel great about the player and we're excited to see how he can develop (from) last year."
Hayden had a "burn rate" of 60.6 last season, per Stats, Inc., giving up 23 receptions on 38 targets for 386 yards and three touchdowns. And the last time he was on the field, against the Philadelphia Eagles, Hayden surrendered 139 yards and two TDs on three catches, two to Riley Cooper and one to DeSean Jackson.
Hayden acknowledged, though, that being mentally healthy now might be more important than his physical well being.
"It really is because, if you know what to do, your natural reaction is you're just going to do it," Hayden said. "You're already athletic enough to do it; you just have to do it."
The Chiefs have about $4.5 million in cap room, so signing Jackson to his Redskins contract would have left them about $250,000 of available cap room. That's not nearly enough to allow the Chiefs to do the things they'd like to do for the rest of 2014. It's not enough to allow them to sign their six draft picks. It's not enough to allow them to extend the contracts of quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Justin Houston before they become free agents in 2015. It's not enough to allow them to make any more significant moves in free agency, now or later if someone they like becomes available.
By signing Jackson, the Chiefs would have been forced to do one of two things. The first is to restructure some existing contracts, which is bad business because it merely pushes the bills into future years. It's a good way to run into cap troubles in future years, and that's something the Chiefs want to avoid.
The remaining option is to cut some of their players. Dwayne Bowe is a seemingly perfect target, except the terms of the contract he signed last year force the Chiefs to keep him. Bowe's salary-cap costs to the Chiefs in 2014 are $10 million more if they release him than if they keep him. So cross him off your list.
The Chiefs could realize some significant salary-cap savings by releasing players like Eric Berry (about $5.8 million), Tamba Hali (about $5.5 million) or cornerback Brandon Flowers ($3.5 million). Releasing any of those players weakens the Chiefs significantly and it's a huge risk to think they could adequately replace any of them in this year's draft given that they have just one of the top 86 picks.
They don't have many other reasonable options that can provide some ample salary-cap room. If the Chiefs had Jackson, Donnie Avery would be expendable. But the salary-cap savings there would be a mere $850,000, which hardly makes it worth the trouble. That alone won't help much.
So from a financial standpoint, the Chiefs could have made Jackson's signing happen. But it would have come at a huge cost in terms of unintended consequences.
Still, the Raiders are doing research on Jackson while playing a wait-and-see game as no visit has been scheduled yet. Jackson is, however, scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins on Tuesday.
Free safety Charles Woodson, who is entering his 17th season, on Friday told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game that he hoped general manager Reggie McKenzie brought Jackson to Oakland, after necessary background checks.
“But when you talk about bringing in a guy as talented as he is, and you have that opportunity, I think you take a shot at it,” Woodson said. “And I think where we are as a team, we need all the playmakers we can have, and adding that guy would definitely help take us to the next level.”
Jackson, who played at nearby Cal, is coming off a career-best season in which he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He would be the deep threat the Raiders want and need. Plus, the Raiders still have ample salary cap space.
But with Jackson being reportedly linked to gang activity in his native Los Angeles and, in the wake of the Aaron Hernandez situation in New England, the NFL in general and teams in particular are especially sensitive to players’ off-the-field relationships.
Raiders fullback Marcel Reece joined Woodson in pushing Jackson, the two-time Pro Bowler took to Twitter to defend Jackson.
Unbelievable to try and pin a negative rap on someone just because you may not like them...don't believe the negativity! @DeseanJackson10— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
Ok...I just couldn't allow my boy @DeseanJackson10 get trashed without saying anything. Back in hiding I go for the rest of the day!— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
Tv is speculating I'm speaking from experience known @DeseanJackson10 a long time and he's always been the same— Marcel Reece (@CelReece45) March 29, 2014
The 5-feet-10, 178-pound Jackson, who is only 27, has been the subject of a social media push by Raiders fans using the hashtag #DJaxToOakland.
Raiders special teams coach Bobby April also has a history with Jackson, having coached in Philadelphia when Jackson was weaned off being the Eagles’ punt returner.
Since 2008 Jackson has 21 touchdowns of 30 or more yards and was third in average yards per catch at 17.2 for the Philadelphia Eagles, who released him last week. Add in the fact Jackson thrived for the first five seasons of his NFL career playing for Andy Reid, now coaching the Chiefs, and Jackson coming to Kansas City seemed to make a lot of sense.
The Chiefs, who have about $4.5 million of remaining cap space, could have found a way to squeeze Jackson's salary under their limit. But at what cost? The Chiefs would like to re-sign quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Justin Houston before they can become free agents next year. Neither will come at a favorable price. Safety Eric Berry is among the players who could become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 and he too will be expensive.
Signing Jackson at top dollar would have cost them one of those players and perhaps more. But there's something else at work here. Adding Jackson would have smelled of panic. It would have been a sign the Chiefs were veering away from their plan, making it up on the fly. You can argue the merits of their plan, but Reid and general manager John Dorsey prefer to find their stars, the players they build the foundation around, through the draft and not as free agents.
Listen closely to what Reid said recently about free agency.
"Listen, I'm not a huge free-agency guy," Reid said last week at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. "I don't think you build a team that way. I think you build it through a draft. There are so many elements that go into a player actually fitting into your program and being successful, that if you get them right when they're peaking in that system and then you disrupt that and move them on to another system, that can be tough. So, the percentage has dropped, the success rate has dropped. I think you spot a guy here or there.
"Then you have the other element that it has the chance to disrupt your locker room. This guy has been with me for 10 years and is making X amount and then all of the sudden you bring in a free agent who might be as good, but maybe not as good, and you're paying him way up here and all of the sudden you have this rift that goes on in the locker room. I think you have to be real, real careful on who you bring in and how you do it.”
Adding Jackson at something less than a premium price might have made sense. The Chiefs wouldn't need to guess about projecting how Jackson might do in Reid's system. They could look at his production from those five seasons they were together with the Eagles.
But the Chiefs made their decision, for better or for worse, about a high-priced wide receiver last year when they re-signed Dwayne Bowe for five years and $56 million. That's about all a team can reasonably afford without gutting another part of the roster.
That's not to say a move of this nature would always be a bad move for the Chiefs. When their salary cap is in better shape and the signing of a big-money player like Jackson might reasonably put the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, they should go for it, by all means.
And there will be a time and place. But this wasn't it.
From a scale of low to high interest, I rated the San Diego Chargers’ level of interest in Jackson at a medium. The Chargers are in need of a playmaking receiver who can also help in the return game, so Jackson’s a fit in terms of a skill set.
He has some familiarity with fellow Cal receiver Keenan Allen, and would be close to his native Los Angeles by joining the Chargers. But ultimately I do not see Jackson signing with the Chargers for a couple of different reasons.
Too risky: Whether or not you believe the report by NJ.com of Jackson’s alleged gang ties, any NFL front office has to perform their due diligence to make sure the player is a good fit in the locker room and with the organization. Jackson vehemently denied he has gang affiliations in a statement released on Friday. General manager Tom Telesco, along with the Chargers organization, is pretty conservative in their approach to player acquisition and what types of people they sign. I would be surprised if Telesco is willing to take a leap of faith on Jackson, having no personnel relationship with the player. Teams like Kansas City and the New York Jets, who have coaches that have worked with Jackson in the NFL, make more sense.
Too expensive: Jackson likely will command between $6-7 million a year to secure his services – and I don’t think the Chargers want to spend that much on a veteran receiver. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers have $3.7 million in salary-cap space. The team still has to sign draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents, along with leaving enough money to sign guys during the regular season to replace players placed on the injured reserve. I’m skeptical the team is willing to do a deal that pushes money into future years for Jackson.
Look to the draft: This year’s draft class is deep and talented at receiver. And while you might not get someone as talented as Jackson, the Chargers still can find a player with a similar skill set. And that player will be inexpensive and under team control in terms of contract for a longer period. Players like Wyoming’s Robert Herron or South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington can be drafted in the middle rounds and are talented enough to help the Chargers immediately. Telesco plucking Allen in the third round last year is an example of the GM's ability to evaluate receivers in the draft that fit San Diego’s offensive system.
So, given how things have gone thus far in the Broncos' defense, the time looks right for the Broncos to match cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on his former teammate Sunday. When the Broncos signed Rodgers-Cromartie in the offseason they said he had the talent to be a No. 1 cornerback and that they would coach him hard to get him to reach that level.
In short, they said they could lift him back to his Pro Bowl level of 2009 and perhaps beyond if he would listen and do the work.
“I think he understood that, I think he was open to that," Broncos coach John Fox said. “He wants to be great. It takes a certain mindset and work ethic and study habits to be that guy."
The Ravens threw at Rodgers-Cromartie just once in the season opener as he locked down Jacoby Jones, until Jones left that game with an injury.
For his part, Jackson not only has top-tier speed, but with his experiences as a top-shelf returner in the kicking game, he also runs well in traffic once he has the ball. Rodgers-Cromartie has a reach advantage over the 5-foot-10 Jackson and has enough athleticism to run with Jackson as well in the open field.
The Broncos will often match a cornerback on a receiver -- usually when Champ Bailey is healthy -- and given Vick’s leanings toward Jackson in the pass pattern, they could feel that’s the move to make in this one.
“[Jackson] hit me up on the phone and was just like ‘you know it’s me and you this weekend, we’re going to go at it’," Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But that’s just a challenge I’m looking forward to."
Yes, Chiefs coach Andy Reid would love to beat his former team Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. And yes, Eagles coach Chip Kelly would like to make a statement by defeating his predecessor using the offensive stars Reid assembled in the first place.
Ultimately, though, the coaches will be sidebars on the sidelines once the ball is in the air. The players will determine whether the Kansas City Chiefs get off to a 3-0 start or the Philadelphia Eagles can get back into the plus column at 2-1.
Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan discuss this week's matchup:
Adam Teicher: Once Michael Vick either passes the ball or hands it off, is there anybody for the Chiefs to fear besides DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy?
Phil Sheridan: Those are clearly the most dangerous men on the Eagles offense, and among the most dangerous in the NFL. Washington played a lot of nickel coverage in Week 1, and McCoy went for 184 rushing yards. San Diego stacked the box and Jackson caught nine balls for 193 yards. But Kelly has some other options: rookie tight end Zach Ertz, as well as veteran Brent Celek, could be the next to break out with a big game. Meanwhile, when McCoy is winded, backup Bryce Brown is a very real threat to break a big play.
He may not open up about it until afterward, but how emotional do you think Reid is about coming back to Philadelphia -- especially with a chance to go 3-0?
Teicher: You’re right in that he didn’t open up even the smallest of cracks about this publicly, but absolutely this is a big deal for him. He can’t be human and not feel something after 14 seasons in Philadelphia. The other part is that with the Chiefs at 2-0, he’s going back if not yet as a conquering hero than as much of a success as someone can be at this point of the season. He’s good at compartmentalizing things. The death of his son last year is evidence of that. So I’d be surprised if this issue interrupted his preparation for the game Thursday night. I’ll bet it hits him after the game and hits him with a ton of force. In that case, it’s probably good the Chiefs don’t play again after the Philadelphia game for almost a week and a half. But it is amazing how he can talk about the Eagles this week like how he talked about the Cowboys last week or the Jaguars the week before that. It’s just as though they’re another team.
Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, is off to a rough start. How is Lane Johnson, the tackle picked three spots behind him, doing for Philadelphia?
Sheridan: The highs have been pretty high, the lows fairly low. Johnson had a tough time with Dwight Freeney on Sunday, which doesn’t make him unique. And he was called for two illegal formation penalties -- he was off the line too far because he was concerned about Freeney -- and one of them negated a touchdown. But everything is relative. The Eagles have had plenty of first-round offensive linemen, from Danny Watkins back to Antone Davis, who have been disasters from day one. The Eagles liked Fisher a lot, but they are happy with Johnson’s upside. He adjusts well, he’s still adding strength and the coaches think he could eventually play left tackle, too.
Reid was infamous in Philadelphia for underutilizing his running backs (at least in the running game). How is he using Jamaal Charles this year?
Teicher: Charles has touched the ball a total of 43 times this season (32 carries, 11 receptions) and on average that’s probably close to what he can handle on a weekly basis. He’s only about 200 pounds, so the Chiefs have to be careful about his workload. He also has had some injury problems this summer (foot, quad), though he looks fine physically. The problem is that the Chiefs don’t appear comfortable with either of their backup running backs in all situations. Cyrus Gray comes in on a lot of passing downs. He’s a better pass-blocker and the equal to Charles as a pass-receiver, but he’s certainly not as good as a runner or as much of a big-play threat. Charles might have been given the ball more than he was last week against the Cowboys but he had only 8 yards on his first eight carries and Reid at that point decided to try to move the ball a different way.
The Eagles’ defense is rated 30th overall and 31st against the pass. Is this a true measure of where Philadelphia is defensively or more a function of the fast-paced games the Eagles have played?
Sheridan: Oh, it’s a true measure. The Eagles were brutally bad last year against the pass (33 TDs allowed, just five interceptions). They made huge changes in their secondary, but are also switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base. The combination of new scheme, new players and suspect talent would create problems anywhere. Throw in Kelly’s fast-paced offense and you get enough extra exposure to strain the defense even more. If you watch even the highlights from Sunday’s 33-30 loss, you can see Philip Rivers had wide-open receivers on nearly every play. I’m surprised Alex Smith didn’t fly to Philadelphia first thing Monday.
The Chiefs seemed to shut down the Cowboys offense. How are they equipped to handle Kelly’s pace and unusual approach?
Teicher: The Chiefs did a nice job against the Cowboys, with the exception of Dez Bryant. They were dominant the week before, albeit against the anemic Jaguars. Overall, they are third in the league in total defense and second against the run, so they look like they’re for real. They have a lot of guys playing extremely well on defense. But the Eagles present a different kind of challenge, one that is compounded by having a short practice week. When the Eagles are in their hurry-up mode, the Chiefs may have to go to some default defenses based on personnel and formation. New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has done a nice job of playing to the strengths of his players, so it will be interesting to see what he has cooked up for Philadelphia.
How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?
The Broncos made the biggest free-agency splash in the AFC West by signing New England slot machine Wes Welker.
He has led the NFL in receptions over the past six seasons and is joining a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who has long had a connection with his slot receivers. The Welker addition gives Denver arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL.
Welker joins young receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both players flourished while playing with Manning last season. With these skilled players, someone is going to be open. Finding a way to defend this trio will be a major task for every defensive coordinator that faces Denver.
This position is going to be in the spotlight because new head coach Andy Reid loves the passing game.
It all starts with top receiver Dwayne Bowe. There is a reason the new Kansas City brass gave Bowe a huge contract to keep him from leaving in free agency. Reid is going to build his passing game around Bowe. Bowe has big ability and can be a top receiver. Yes, he still drops passes and he has to show he will still be hungry after getting the big contract. But he can play.
The Chiefs made an underrated addition in Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season. He can stretch the field. Reid will find ways for Avery to help. Reid is also a fan of tiny Dexter McCluster, who can line up in several different spots. Perhaps he can fill a DeSean Jackson-like role for Reid.
The team also has a slot option in Devon Wylie. A big question mark, of course, is 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin. He has made little impact. He looks good in camp but disappears on the field. Reid gave him a lukewarm endorsement recently. Baldwin has talent, but it’s time he shows it. I think we could see the Chiefs draft another bigger receiver in the middle rounds, but I think the team will try to rely on Bowe, Avery and McCluster this season and hope others develop.
The Raiders have a familiar theme at this position. They are young and promising, but they are also unproven. That has been the story with this unit for a few years. They Raiders have loaded up on young receivers, but none have shown they can be a proven starter.
The team released 2009 No. 7 overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey this year. He joins fellow young, promising receivers Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy as those who have been jettisoned in the recent past after not fulfilling hopes. But the cupboard is not bare. Again, we need to see these players take the next step.
The two players who probably will get the first chance are Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. Moore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, had a decent season last year -- 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. But he was inconsistent and didn’t make the expected strides after his rookie season. Still, he has ability, and the Raiders need him to show he can be a No. 1 receiver. Streater had 39 catches as an undrafted rookie. He looks very promising and is a hard worker. If Streater and Moore can grow together, the Raiders might be onto something for the future.
Small receiver Jacoby Ford has big-play capability, but he is injury prone. Still, he will get a chance to show he can help. Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, was a camp star and made a few plays in the season. He has a chance to develop as well. The Raiders have a lot of needs, but I can see them adding another receiver to the mix. Again, this group is full of potential. Now it’s time Oakland gets major production from that potential.
The Chargers can use some receiving help. They have other needs, but I can see them taking a receiver as early as the second round. If the season started now, Malcom Floyd would be the team’s No. 1 receiver and he is more of a No. 2 receiver.
But there is hope. Danario Alexander made an impact last season. He was a former prospect who fell through the cracks because of injuries. He is a restricted free agent, and it wouldn't be out of the question for another team to sign him to an offer sheet. The Chargers would like to keep him. He has great size, big ability and he forged a nice chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers.
The team is also excited about Vince Brown. He missed all of last season after suffering a broken ankle in the preseason. He came on strong as a rookie and will have a role. There also are Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both signed last year and both gave minimal production.
They will be given a chance, but the Chargers want to see Alexander and Brown continue to develop. It would not hurt the team to go find a young receiver it could try to develop quickly.
Denver: Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan nearly drafted Jackson in 2008, but opted for Eddie Royal instead at No. 42. I don’t think Jackson will be coming to Denver in the John Fox era, either. The Broncos have other needs, and until the Broncos have complete clarity at quarterback, spending big at receiver might not be prudent.
Kansas City: If Dwayne Bowe leaves in free agency (I don’t think he will), I could see the Chiefs considering Jackson. He’d be a nice fit, but I’m not sure the Chiefs would give the Eagles what they would want in return for Jackson.
Oakland: The Raiders have plenty of young, fast receivers. The Raiders are going to work on getting better on defense. This pairing won’t happen.
San Diego: Like in Kansas City, a need could develop in free agency. If No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson leaves in free agency (the Chargers likely won’t give him the franchise tag, but they would like to sign him on the open market), they could be interested in DeSean Jackson. There will be several receivers on the open market, so the Chargers might opt not to give up a premium pick for a receiver. But if Vincent Jackson leaves, there’s no doubt the game-breaking DeSean Jackson would fit in with the Chargers on offense and on special teams.
Vijay from Nashville: Could you see the Broncos making a run at DeSean Jackson? Seems like a speedy WR who can stretch the field vertically works perfectly with Tebow's skills and is a major need in Denver.
Bill Williamson: It’s funny because he was targeted by Denver in the draft in 2008. But in the end, Denver took Eddie Royal over Jackson. But I don't see this regime spending big on a receiver right now and I don't see any receivers wanting to come to Denver in free agency right now. Tim Tebow has to prove he can be a consistent passer before the team commits to any receivers.
Nick from Denver: Bill, who will be the QB for the Chiefs when they start the season?
BW: I say it is Matt Cassel. I truly think he is the guy they want to be their quarterback.
Rick from Raider Nation, GA.: More important for Oakland to retain Tyvon Branch or Michael Bush? Franchise tag for one of them? If so, which one.
BW: Very interesting question. It may be Bush because of McFadden's health. But Branch is a priority as well.
Maximus from SD: Should Tolbert be re-signed by the Chargers? I think they need to spend the $ on defense and WR (V-Jax or FA) and Tolbert is just an average RB anyways
BW: Tolbert is special because he helps as a rusher, receiver, blocker and he’s good on special teams. He is a key role player and he needs to be kept.
Chucky from SLC: What do you think about Denver's secondary? Goodman is well past his prime and this might have been Dawkins’ final season in the NFL. Quinton Carter is coming along but what happened to 2nd round draft choice Rahim Moore?
Bill Williamson: Moore was disappointing. He regressed. Carter was good. I think they will add a corner first and then add a safety in some form.
Bill from DC: What is the situation with Dwaine Bowe (regarding) his contract?
BW: He is a free agent. The Chiefs have indicated they would like to keep him, but he may be ready to see what's on the market.
Shanard from Utah: Bill, would the raiders go after another speed WR in DeSean Jackson if he is available.
BW: He's dynamic for sure, but I think the Raiders are good at receiver. They just have to continue to develop them. DHB, Moore and Ford is a nice trio if they continue to get better and they can stay healthy. Jackson is going to be pricey. If the Raiders were to spend that type of money, I'd like to see it spent on an impact defensive player.
Jake from SD: Bill any word regarding McNeil, Dielman6 and Hardwick? What are the odds on the 3 coming back to SD next year? Also is Gaither a FA? Thanks!
BW: I think it will be a wait-and-see on all three. If had to guess they will all try to play. But I could see the Chargers trying to sign Gaither opposed to risking McNeill's health. But that is just a guess at this point.
Fitzgerald agreed to an eight-year deal that could pay him up to $120 million. He’ll receive $50 million in guaranteed money. He will average $15 million a year. What kind of impact will it have on Jackson, who the Chargers gave the franchise tag to this year and who is a free agent after the season?
Well, all big contracts raise the bar for future deals at the position.
However, Fitzgerald’s is a different case and I don’t think it will affect Jackson or any other receiver (the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson and the Lions’ Calvin Johnson both could be up for new deals soon). Fitzgerald’s deal does not set set the bar for anyone but himself. He is an icon in Arizona. He is the face of the organization and he is a likely future hall of famer. The Cardinals had to give Fitzgerald this deal.
If other receivers think they are going to get a similar deal, I think they will be fooling themselves. If Vincent Jackson has a big season and stays clean off the field, he will be paid large by either the Chargers or another team in free agency.
But he shouldn’t except Fitzgerald scratch.
The Troy receiver/returner could be a Chargers' target with one of their two second-round picks. Jernigan has been rising up many draft boards. He is expected to visit San Diego this week. Atlanta is also interested in Jernigan.
Jernigan, who has been compared to Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson and Carolina’s Steve Smith, has blazing speed and is projected to be a quality slot receiver and quality return man. He could fill multiple roles with San Diego.
The Chargers have several big receivers. At 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, Jernigan would be an excellent speed target for quarterback Philip Rivers in the slot. If the Chargers don’t bring back high-priced, free-agent return man Darren Sproles, Jernigan could fill that role. The Chargers have dabbled some with the Wildcat formation. Jernigan was also effective as a Wildcat quarterback in college.
Jernigan had 84 catches in 2010. He played well against big-school competition, which is important for a skill-position player from a small school.
New England quarterback Tom Brady won the award. He received 21 votes. Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick finished with 11 votes and Houston running back Arian Foster received seven votes. Rivers received five votes.
Atlanta receiver Roddy White, Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers each received two of the 50 votes.
Rivers, 29, led the NFL with 4,710 passing yards. Rivers threw 30 touchdowns passes and he was intercepted 13 times. His season passer rating was 101.8.
Ever since the Oakland Raiders tabbed Hue Jackson as their offensive coordinator last January, it was widely assumed in NFL circles that he’d eventually replace Tom Cable as the Raiders’ head coach. The smart money was on Jackson replacing Cable during the 2010 season.
But Cable made it through the entire season, leading the Raiders to an 8-8 record. It was Oakland’s first non-losing season since 2002. Cable didn’t deserve to be fired, but he fell out of favor with owner Al Davis to the point that he was fined $120,000 this season. Cable has filed a grievance against Oakland to recoup his money.
I still feel that way. This was the only decision that Oakland could make and I don’t think anyone else was seriously considered. Jackson was never in jeopardy of not getting this job.
Now, it is up to Jackson to be the man who makes it work in Oakland. His challenge is steep. He must make one of the most demanding people in sports happy and keep him happy. The Raiders’ head-coaching office is the busiest turnstile in sports. The odds are against Jackson being in Oakland for the long term. He is the Raiders’ sixth coach since 2002.
Still, this job is worth Jackson’s time. There is a lot of talent on the roster and if Jackson leads Oakland -- which was 6-0 in the AFC West and 2-8 outside the division -- back to the playoffs, he will be a hero and probably will be considered one of the NFL’s best coaches. If it doesn’t work for him in Oakland, it probably won’t be a considered a ding on his résumé.
There are indications that Jackson could be a very successful head coach. He was well respected before he took the Oakland offensive coordinator job last season and he put in very nice work in 2010. The vocal and enthusiastic Jackson gave vibrancy to an anemic offense. The Raiders finished sixth in the NFL in scoring with 410 points. They more than doubled their 2009 scoring output.
The Raiders are clearly headed in the right direction. Keeping Jackson’s offense in place should make this transition smooth.
Jackson will continue to push Oakland’s run attack, which was second in the NFL in 2010. He has to work to make quarterback Jason Campbell more consistent in 2011. Campbell had his moments in his first season in Oakland, but he had long stretches of poor play. Jackson also has to continue to work with a young receiving corps, which should be centered on the exciting Jacoby Ford, who has the ability to be a DeSean Jackson-type receiver.
Jackson, who has been said to be targeting Baltimore assistants Al Saunders and Chuck Pagano for offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, must make sure his team heads in the right direction on defense. There is a lot of talent on that side of the ball, but Oakland gave up way too many big plays. It allowed at least 31 points six times.
If the Raiders can continue to get better and if they have another strong draft (Oakland’s 2010 rookie class was one of the NFL’s best), Jackson’s team has a chance to get back to the playoffs in 2011 for the first time since 2002.
The first step of that process came Monday when Davis made the right call and promoted Jackson.