NFC East: 2014 NFL combine

An Eagle-eyed look at combine results

February, 25, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- The NFL scouting combine is wrapping up Tuesday in Indianapolis. Here’s how some of the players we identified as possible Philadelphia Eagles picks fared in the annual NFL job fair.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeBrandin Cooks
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBrandin Cooks might be out of the Eagles' reach after his fast time in the 40-yard dash at the combine.
Brandin Cooks of Oregon State might have moved up beyond the Eagles’ grasp by running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds. That was the second fastest time overall, behind only running back Dri Archer. Combined with Cooks’ incredible numbers from last season -- 128 catches, 1,730 yards -- the 5-foot-10, 189 pounder likely sealed his first-round status.

Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State was as big as advertised -- 6-5, 240 pounds. His 40 time of 4.61 wasn’t especially impressive, but did we mention he’s 6-5?

Odell Beckham Jr., the LSU wideout projected to the Eagles in Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent (pre-combine) mock draft Insider, ran a 4.43. That increases his added value as a possible return man.

Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, who goes 6-3, 212 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.46, and also impressed by doing 21 bench press reps. Receivers don’t have to lift bales of hay, but upper-body strength helps when blocking or trying to get off the line against press coverage.

Edge rushers

Dee Ford, the Auburn defensive end projected to the Eagles by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, proclaimed himself a better player than Jadeveon Clowney, then did not participate in drills because of a medical issue. Ford said he was told not to work out because of a 2011 back injury. You have to wonder if that concern will drop Ford on draft boards.

Anthony Barr of UCLA is considered the second best outside linebacker prospect after Buffalo’s Kahlil Mack. The Eagles would only have a shot at Barr if he slipped a bit. His disappointing bench press result (15 reps) probably wasn’t enough to overshadow his 4.66 speed. (Mack ran a 4.65 and did 23 reps.)

Stanford’s Trent Murphy worked out with the linebackers, not the defensive linemen, and remains an intriguing option for the Eagles. The 6-5, 250-pound Murphy ran a 4.86.

Defensive backs

The top two safeties, Lousiville’s Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, ran identical 40 times of 4.58. They didn’t separate themselves from each other, but the blazing speed at cornerback could potentially sway a DB-needy team or two to go that route and drop the safeties a few spots.

Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State is one of those corners. Gilbert ran a 4.35 Tuesday. At 6-0, 202 pounds, that gives him an enviable combination of size and speed.

Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard was projected to the Eagles Insider by Todd McShay. After running a 4.42, the 5-11, 199-pound Dennard might also have moved up beyond the No. 22 spot.

Aaron Donald makes sense for Cowboys

February, 25, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys more than any player.

Given the Cowboys’ need on the defensive line and Donald’s production on the field, it makes sense. Does he fit the prototype? Not particularly, because he is only 6-foot-1, but he has everything else. He had 26.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2013 for Pitt.

At the NFL scouting combine Donald was able to put numbers up with his stats.

He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds. He bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times. He had a 32-inch vertical jump. He had a nine-feet, three-inch broad jump. He had a 7.11-second time in the three-cone drill.

“I would love to play for anyone, but it would be great to play for them,” Donald said over the weekend of playing for the Cowboys. “I love the way they play up front. They let their three-tech just go attack.”

Now the question is whether Donald could be around when the Cowboys make the 16th pick in the draft. He might have done too well in a way, but there will be some teams that will knock him for his height.

“Thinking about it ain’t going to get me no taller,” Donald said.

The Cowboys need impact players from this draft. Donald could be their best bet.

“I feel I can make an impact right away,” Donald said. “Earn the trust from the coaches, learn the playbook, get on the field right away and make an impact, earn the respect of the vets and try to get out there and win games with them.”
PHILADELPHIA -- It might mean nothing. It might mean quite a lot. At the very least, the whole idea of the Eagles’ meeting with Johnny Manziel in Indianapolis over the weekend is, like everything else Manziel-related, of interest.

Manziel is a little short for a lightning rod, let alone a quarterback, but the reality is that he and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney are the two most intriguing players in the 2014 NFL draft.

Peter King mentioned the Eagles’ meeting as almost an afterthought in his piece about Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback:

“Manziel met with Houston (1), Jacksonville (3), Cleveland (4), Dallas (17), Tampa Bay (7) and Philadelphia coaches and team officials, and very likely Oakland (5), this weekend before flying back to Texas late Sunday afternoon,” King wrote.

The numbers in parentheses weren’t in King’s original text. I added them. They are the draft positions for the teams mentioned. According to King, then, Manziel met with representatives of teams with five of the top seven picks in the draft. The Cowboys at 17 and the Eagles at 22 are jarringly out of place in that company.

That can mean one of two things as far as the Eagles are concerned: Either they believe Manziel could drop far enough on draft day to be an option for them, or they are contemplating a blockbuster deal to move up in the draft to have a shot at him.

The former is more likely, for several reasons. First, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman went out of his way last week to underscore that Nick Foles will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback in 2014. Second, in a draft widely heralded as the deepest in years, the Eagles would be giving up valuable lower-round picks to move up for one guy.

Third, it would take a trade partner willing to give up a coveted high pick. The Rams (No. 2) and Falcons (No. 6) are the two top-seven teams that weren’t on King’s list. That’s because they have quarterbacks: Sam Bradford in St. Louis and Matt Ryan in Atlanta.

The Eagles, of course, have Foles. So their meeting with Manziel would give new life to the suspicion that Chip Kelly deep down wants a more mobile quarterback to run his offense.

It is certainly the more entertaining possibility to discuss. Drafting Manziel would unite the most compelling college coach of recent years with perhaps the most compelling college player in one of the most football-centric markets in the NFL.

Either way, though, the Eagles’ using valuable combine time to meet with Manziel is worth noting. Roseman has said the Eagles wouldn’t rule out a quarterback if one was clearly the best player available when they are on the clock. In that regard, it makes sense to do their homework on Manziel.

Some draft experts have him going first overall to the Texans. Others have him dropping a few slots. It would be surprising for him to drop all the way to No. 22, but ask Geno Smith (second round last year) or even Aaron Rodgers (24th overall in 2005) whether that is possible.

The NFL evaluation process began in earnest with the combine. Manziel was measured at just under 6 feet tall but helped himself by running the 40 in 4.68 seconds. Manziel’s hand size -- a major consideration for Kelly in evaluating quarterbacks -- was a very respectable 9-7/8 inches. Manziel didn’t participate in the other drills. He will throw at his pro day on March 27.

Only then will teams begin to reach conclusions on Manziel. That includes the Eagles, which is suddenly kind of interesting to think about.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett has always been an offensive kind of guy.

He played quarterback. He coached quarterbacks. His reputation was made as the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator from 2007-10. He continued to call the plays as head coach from midway through the 2010 season to the end of the 2012 season. With Scott Linehan on the staff in 2014, Garrett is out of the offensive game planning.

In his make or break year, the former quarterback will spend most of his time with the defense in 2014, according to Jones.

“The thorough indoctrination in that will really advance his cause being the head coach,” Jones said.

Because of his offensive background, Garrett could not give up all of the responsibilities. His trust in Linehan helps make that easier this year, so now he will spend time with Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin.

“Jason with Monte and the staff over there that we've got and his capability of understanding anything that we want to put down there, plus … with an offensive perspective on defense, the way he would attack the defense, his focus on defense is going to make him better.”

The transition to walk-around coach that Jones has talked about before with Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells would seem to be complete.

“He's the boss,” Jones said. “The deference to him is critical by his coordinators of Monte, so he can have the knowledge, the experience with those guys that he wouldn't get if he were a graduate assistant or if he were one of the assistants. He can sit there and ask the total picture or he can ask the specifics of a picture. This is all predicated that you've got to have an intelligent, capable person to do what I'm talking about. In Jason, we've got it.”

Jerry sees Garrett as long-term coach

February, 24, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett has a contract that runs out after the 2014 season, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones sees Garrett as the coach in 2015 and beyond.

“Jason should know and I know that he knows that the plan here is and has been for him to be long term,” Jones said, “and long term certainly being beyond this year as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.”

The Cowboys have posted a 29-27 record with Garrett and have finished the last three seasons with 8-8 records, missing the playoffs with Week 17 losses to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

“It should be a frustration for me to be sitting here with Jason Garrett having been the head coach for three and a half years and having been here (seven) years and be 8-8 the last three years,” Jones said. “So I'm just saying that's a careful evaluation. Does that mean I don't want Jason? I think I want us to have the opportunity and that's why he's staying, to have the opportunity to benefit from this experience over the period of time.”


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Garrett isn't the only coach in the final year of his deal. Passing game coordinator Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli are signed through 2014. Jones said some coaches have deals past 2014 and beyond.

“There are millions of people that are getting up this morning and walking out and working and if things don't go well for them this year will not be where they want to be next year,” Jones said.

Jones said the incentive is there for Garrett to perform.

“He's got a high tolerance for ambiguity,” Jones said. “He does. That's very important with this situation.”
PHILADELPHIA -- When the NFL Network camera caught Chip Kelly watching wide receivers run the 40-yard dash at the combine Sunday, it brought to mind something the Eagles head coach said early this year.

The Eagles were preparing to play the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the playoffs, and Kelly was asked about Sean Payton's offense.

“He's obviously got some talent and they're a really, really talented football team, but Sean does a great job of getting his playmakers in matchups that are favorable to him and he does it week in and week out,” Kelly said, before ticking off a list of players' names.

“There's a ton of them,” Kelly said. “That's what Sean and Drew (Brees) have -- a lot of toys.”

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsChip Kelly is eager to add offensive toys from this year's rookie class.
There was just a hint of envy in Kelly's voice. That's what resonated as he and general manager Howie Roseman looked down upon the wideouts, running backs and quarterbacks doing drills in Indianapolis. As good as Kelly's offense was in his first season, it figures to be that much more varied and explosive as the Eagles add new toys for him to play with.

And that is why it wouldn't be shocking for the Eagles to allow both Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to walk in free agency. If they also part with veteran Jason Avant, who is due $3 million, that could mean huge turnover at a vital position.

At the same time, Roseman has said he is open to bringing both Cooper and Maclin back at the right prices. The Philadelphia Inquirer, citing unnamed sources, reported over the weekend that Maclin was the team's first priority. That report followed a Pro Football Talk report last week that there is expected to be a robust market for Cooper.

Frankly, until March 11, nothing that is leaked out anonymously should be taken too seriously. It would benefit Cooper for someone in his camp to predict that he will draw a lot of interest from other teams. And it would benefit the Eagles to send the message that Cooper is not their No. 1 priority.

Meanwhile, Roseman's on-the-record remarks can be taken at face value -- and there is certainly reason to believe he is open to drafting wide receivers from this talent-rich draft -- and read as coded messages for the agents he will have to negotiate with. The Eagles have “walkaway” numbers for the players they'd like to sign, and it doesn't hurt for agents to know that, and to know Roseman has other attractive options.

While the Eagles are still looking to upgrade the talent on their defense, they remain very likely to draft and sign offensive talent. Kelly went into the 2013 season with almost no additions to the offensive personnel he inherited. Rookies Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz were the only notable exceptions.

Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Avant and Cooper produced the vast majority of the Eagles' yardage and points in 2013. Kelly has had a full season to learn their talents as well as their limitations. He knows where he had to cut corners while devising his weekly game plans and where a key addition or two could add octane to his schemes.

He may just want some new toys to play with, and the combine is like the world' biggest toy store.

Wake-up call: Combine, Day 6

February, 24, 2014
On Monday's schedule in Indianapolis:

New York Jets/Giants media availability: None. The prospects, too, are done with their media obligations. Ninety-five percent of the media have cleared out of Indianapolis, including yours truly.

Combine schedule: The defensive linemen and linebackers will be in Lucas Oil Stadium, participating in the 40-yard dash, agility stations and positional skill drills. ... The defensive backs will have psychological testing, the bench press and team interviews.

Players of interest: For very different reasons, the spotlight will be focused on two defensive ends -- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Missouri's Michael Sam. Clowney, who told reporters his goal is to become one of the best players of all-time, could go No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. His 40-yard dash will be a must-watch. After two weeks of intense scrutiny following his disclosure that he's gay, Sam finally can concentrate on football. Scouts are eager to see his speed and if he has the athleticism to play in space as a linebacker. He struggled in that area at the Senior Bowl.

Jones: Cowboys can compete for title

February, 23, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS – With three straight 8-8 finishes, a team that will need to release players or reconfigure contracts to get under the cap and an aging core with Tony Romo coming off back surgery, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones sees only the good.

“Even though we have cap problems this year,” Jones said, “we have chance to compete for a Super Bowl.”


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I trust that you have removed your hand from your forehead to continue reading. Near the end of the two-hour session inside his bus on Sunday, I asked Jones how he would define competing for a championship. Is it simply making the playoffs? Something else?

He spoke about a story with 60 Minutes a few years ago and how he rolled through some stop signs on a trip through Little Rock. It’s not that he did not see the signs, but he knew the roads so well that he did not need to come to a complete stop.

“You could probably say that if not seeing the stop signs means denial, then I’m in denial,” Jones said. “The facts are that I see them, but I don’t see them. I know why they are there. I’m talking about the 8-8, but I don’t see them.”

The Cowboys fielded the worst defense in the NFL in 2013 and could lose their leading sacker, Jason Hatcher, to free agency. They could be forced to part ways with the franchise’s all-time leading sacker in DeMarcus Ware.

“I think we’ve got work to do on defense, serious work to do on defense,” Jones said. “I think we’ve got the players and the horses to be a heckuva offense, productive, one of the top offensive teams. I think we are there right now. Right now on offense … We’re going to have to really get on the horse to get is a defense. That’s better than (Seattle’s)? I don’t know. I can’t say that.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- A few takeaways from Jerry Reese's news conference Saturday at the NFL scouting combine:

The New York Giants' general manager praised former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, but he also said "it was time to make a change" -- a comment that suggests the organization wanted him out. Officially, Gilbride retired amid speculation he was on the verge of being fired. Reese described new coordinator Ben McAdoo as a breath of fresh air.

“I think he’s going to bring some new life,” Reese said. "Obviously, Coach Gilbride did a terrific job for us. The change, I think, is going to energize our offense a little bit. There’s new learning for the quarterback and the staff. He’s an interesting guy. Very bright.”
  • Reese wanted no part of a big-picture discussion on former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who announced recently that he’s gay. “I’m not talking about that,” Reese said. “If you want to talk about him as a football player, that’s fine. What people do in their personal life, I’m not concerned about that. That’s not true, of course, because teams spent millions each year to perform background checks on prospects. They absolutely care about what players do off the field. I think he’s a good football player. You have to be a pretty good football player to win [co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC]. In our evaluation, he’s a good football player.”

    A shade under 6-foot-2, and 255-260 pounds, Sam projects as a defensive end in the Giants’ 4-3 front. After Sam’s announcement, Giants co-owner John Mara released a statement, saying Sam's sexual orientation wouldn't affect his position on the team's draft board.
  • C David Baas (knee), G Chris Snee (hip) and S Stevie Brown (knee) are progressing well from major injuries, according to Reese. Reiterating what coach Tom Coughlin said Friday, Reese said Snee has expressed a desire to play in 2014. There had been some rumblings about retirement.

    Reese didn't rule out the possibility of drafting a quarterback for the second straight year. He acknowledged the obvious -- they won’t take one with the 12th overall pick -- but he said “we’re not afraid” to select one in the late rounds. A year ago, the Giants picked Ryan Nassib in the fourth round.

    Reese said he’s not opposed to trading down from the 12th spot.

Rod Marinelli: Defense can make a 'jump'

February, 22, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rod Marinelli has been through a defensive rebuilding job before. Maybe not as severe as he has to do with the Dallas Cowboys, but a rebuild nonetheless.

In 2009, Marinelli joined the Chicago Bears as defensive line coach. The Bears finished 17th in total defense, 13th against the pass, 23rd against the rush and 21st in points allowed.

In 2010 Marinelli became the defensive coordinator and the Bears finished ninth in total defense, 20th against the pass, second against the rush and fourth in points allowed.

[+] EnlargeRod Marinelli
AP Photo/James D. SmithDefensive coordinator Rod Marinelli hopes Dallas adds pieces to its front seven this offseason.
The Cowboys were 32nd in yards, 30th against the pass, 27th against the rush and 26th in points allowed.

Monte Kiffin was moved to assistant head coach/defense and Marinelli was promoted to defensive coordinator last month.

“We’ve kind of got things in place for the most part,” Marinelli said from the NFL scouting combine “Now you’ve just got to make some corrections, add some people and go from there.”

The Bears started four different defensive linemen from 2009 to 2010, and added Julius Peppers as a free agent. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher returned to the lineup from a wrist injury after playing in just one game in 2009. Free-agent pickups Tim Jennings and Chris Harris solidified the secondary.

Chicago went from a 7-9 record to an 11-5 finish.

Despite their defensive woes in 2013, the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing their third straight winner-take-all NFC East championship game in Week 17 to miss the playoffs.

To Marinelli, there is no mystery to his success.

“With me, I think it’s just going back to being really fundamentally sound,” he said. “That’s kind of always been my base. Just getting guys to do things right and coach these guys extremely hard ... Being really detailed in what you’re doing, being exact. Again just being with these guys is going to help, and I think adding some pieces is going to help.”

The Cowboys will be hard-pressed to add significant pieces in free agency with their salary-cap situation. The futures of Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are in question. A healthy Sean Lee will help. So would a healthy Morris Claiborne. Improvement from Bruce Carter and Brandon Carr is a must. They also must find players in the early rounds of the draft that can contribute.

Where does Marinelli want to see the most help?

“Your front seven,” he said. “You always look at it. You’ve always got to look at the front seven. That kind of drives the whole thing for us. So hopefully we’ll be adding pieces, and I like some of the guys that were injured last year, (Tyrone) Crawford, Ben Bass. Some of these other guys I’m looking forward to seeing.”

Marinelli will continue to coach the defensive line, but he said Leon Lett and Ben Bloom will alleviate some of the workload. It’s how he operated in Chicago as well.

“The key is the foundation,” Marinelli said. "If you can get that going, you get yourself a foundation and you build off that. Get the right pieces, the right couple of guys and things will jump quick.”

That’s the Cowboys' hope.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Everybody knows the Dallas Cowboys need help on defense.

Just about every mock draft so far has the Cowboys selecting a defensive player, be it Pitt defensive end Aaron Donald or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Or some defensive end. Or defensive tackle. Or maybe a different safety.

Defense, defense, defense.

After allowing the most yards in franchise history and the second-most points in a season, it is not a mystery.

But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys must draft defense in May.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsDrafts need and value could line up if defensive lineman Aaron Donald is available when the Cowboys pick in the first round.
“I think you get in a lot of trouble if you focus in on one spot,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “You start targeting something and drafting off need, we all know that will get you in trouble. I don’t think it’s to anyone’s surprise that it would be nice to come out of the draft at some point with a defensive front guy, a defensive lineman or two, but I don’t think we’re just going to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take the first two picks and they’ve got to be defensive linemen.' I feel like you get in trouble that way.”

It is a yearly question around the draft: Take the best player available or draft for need?

The two are always linked. Need can’t be avoided. The draft is the best way to build a team. You have to take need into account when selecting players, but like anything it is about degrees.

Too often teams will elevate certain players at a position knowing they need help.

“Just grade them like you see them,” Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said, “then we’ll talk about them and adjust accordingly. Just because we need a defensive end, we’re not going to bump him into Round 1 if he’s a third-round talent. We’ll figure it out.”

In 2006, Chester Taylor ran for 1,216 yards but the Vikings took Adrian Peterson in the first round of the 2007 draft, which was a no-brainer. But in 2011, the Vikings took tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round even though Visanthe Shiancoe had three straight seasons with at least 40 catches. Rudolph was the MVP of the 2012 Pro Bowl.

The Vikings had Kevin Williams, but drafted Sharrif Floyd (maybe you’re aware the Cowboys had him rated highly only to pass on him at the No. 18 pick) with a nod to 2014 if not 2013.

“We’ve been very cognizant of sticking to what our draft board says,” Spielman said. “That guy you may not need this year, but two years from now or in his second year that guy might be a heckuva player for you.”

The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past four years. Core players such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware are on the back ends of their careers. Jason Garrett is in the final year of his contract and needs to win. But the good of the franchise trumps any short-term gain by filling needs.

“I think you’re always trying to accomplish two things: I think you’re trying to bring guys in who can help you now and then help you in the future,” Garrett said. “You want to bring in the right kind of guys in. The way you evaluate players is you want to make sure they have the right physical measurables to play his position at this level so that’s a starting point for you. You also want to make sure they have the right intangible qualities regardless of what their position is, the kind of guys you want to bring to your football team. So that hasn’t changed.”

A draft is not a one-year proposition. The Cowboys are not drafting only with 2014 in mind.

They need defensive linemen, especially if Ware is a salary-cap casualty or if Jason Hatcher leaves in free agency. They need linebackers too with Bruce Carter in the final year of his deal. They need a safety opposite Barry Church. They need cornerback help too because you can never have enough cornerbacks.

But Dez Bryant is entering the final year of his contract and Miles Austin likely won’t be back in 2014, so they need receivers too. Doug Free is in the final year of his contract, so they need a right tackle. DeMarco Murray is entering the final year of his contract, so they need a running back. Romo turns 34 in April, so they need a quarterback.

“There’s a natural deal there and we’ve talked about it with our scouts,” Jones said. “We don’t want to see it. We want the guys to get the grades they should get and not try to start liking a guy just because we may need a position.”

Ebron draws interest from Jets, Giants

February, 21, 2014
INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets and New York Giants have the hots for the same player -- Eric Ebron, North Carolina's ultra-athletic tight end.

If they both covet Ebron, the advantage goes to the Giants, who own the 12th overall pick -- six spots ahead of the Jets in the first round.

The Giants are so intrigued by Ebron (6-4, 250 pounds) that general manager Jerry Reese and vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross scouted him during the season and filed reports. The team's top two decision-makers don't do that unless there's a high degree of interest in a player. Ebron scored high grades and will be a consideration with the 12th pick.

The Giants have a glaring need, as do the Jets, who would love to pair Ebron with Jeff Cumberland, a free agent-to-be whom they're trying to re-sign.

Ebron (62 catches, 973 yards, three touchdowns last season) is the consensus top tight end in the draft, ahead of Texas Tech's Jace Amaro, whom the Giants interviewed Thursday night at the scouting combine. Ebron is a new-breed tight end, meaning he can split out as a receiver, creating a mismatch. He once said his speed is "illegal," and he told reporters that he can't be jammed at the line of scrimmage. College opponents didn't try, he said.

"I think why teams don't press me is because they can't," he said. "I will not be pressed at the line of scrimmage. That's a prideful thing of mine. It'd be best to leave the play to cover y'alls' back."

Ebron said he patterns his game after Vernon Davis of the San Francisco 49ers. Why?

"Because [of the] similarities," he said, comparing himself to one of the best. "His speed, he's powerful, he's very strong at the line of scrimmage. Love everything about him."

Ebron isn't shy on confidence. Asked to describe his play, he replied, "Fast. I play fast. I'm a little bit faster than most."

Scouts are eager to see his time in the 40. Ebron is far from a finished product. His blocking needs work, he's had some drops and some question his toughness over the middle. But the tight end position has changed, and the good ones are deployed like wide receivers.

"I just do different things than other tight ends do," Ebron said. "If you watch film you'll probably say the same thing."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett preaches the importance of continuity, but his staff has seen nothing but changeover since he took over midway through the 2010 season.

Rod Marinelli is his fourth defensive coordinator after Paul Pasqualoni, Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin. He is on his third wide receivers coach in Derek Dooley. He's on his third tight ends coach in Mike Pope. He's on his second running backs coach. He has had two offensive line coaches.

On the defensive side of the ball, only linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett remain from Garrett's first full season in 2011. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson arrived in 2012.

Rich Bisaccia, who is entering his second year on the staff, is Garrett's second special teams coordinator.

"I think if you look around the league, staff changes are a part of this league," Garrett said. "Just as there's turnover on your football team with your roster, there's turnover on the coaching staff all around the league. The teams that embrace that, that embrace the change, are the ones with the most success. You always have to be ready with a guy you're thinking about if someone leaves. I think relationships in the past that you had in your career with different coaches, you rely on those and you bring in the right kind of people. Thirty two teams around the league are going through the same kinds of things and there's staff changes everywhere and you have to embrace them and find the positives in them. A new guy coming in, what can he add to our team to make us better? Certainly we're in the process of doing that."

Garrett added Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator, taking away the playcalling duties from Bill Callahan. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns were denied permission in speaking to Callahan this offseason, which the Cowboys acknowledged did not please Callahan.

"We're a team and every decision we make we believe is in the best interest of our football team," Garrett said. "Every decision we make in regards to players and coaches [is that way and] everybody understands that. That's the first thing out of my mouth and everyone has to understand what they're role is after those decisions are made and embrace those roles. We've changed things up a little bit last year. It was a different structure to what we had and now we're going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired. That's just something we all have to embrace. It's going to take a little time to work through that and that's what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we've got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team."
INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago, coach Jason Garrett's mantra was that the Dallas Cowboys needed to run the ball more and run it better in 2013 than they did in 2012.

The Cowboys ran it a lot better with DeMarco Murray rushing for more than 1,000 yards and earning a Pro Bowl spot, but they did not run it more.

In 2013, Dallas ran it 336 times for 1,507 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The season before, they rushed for 1,265 yards on 355 carries with eight touchdowns.

On Thursday Garrett said the Cowboys must run it more in 2014, however, the new playcaller, Scott Linehan, ran the ball even less than the Cowboys when he was the offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions.

"Scott's been around teams that have run the ball really well, if you look at his track record back to Minnesota, they were a top five rushing team," Garrett said. "All those years when they had Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, they always ran the ball very, very well. You like to get to a point where you can do that, where you have that kind of balance. You can be really productive in the passing game, but you can control the game by running the football."

As head coach of the St. Louis Rams, Linehan had Steven Jackson rush for 1,528 yards but the team finished ranked 17th in the NFL in rushing. In three years as the Vikings' coordinator he oversaw the NFL's ninth, fourth and second ranked run offenses form 2002-04. In five years with the Lions, Linehan's rush offense's best finish was 17th.

With a developing offensive line, highlighted by first-round picks Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, and Murray, Garrett said the Cowboys simply have to trust the running game more.

"We're stronger up front than we've been in the last few years, and hopefully we can continue to add to that, control the line of scrimmage more," Garrett said. "The best teams in the league are able to do that, and we're hoping to be able to do that, have the kind of balance we want for our team."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, a potential New York Giants draft pick, tried to clear his name Thursday in connection with a rape case that rocked his campus.

Lewan's former teammate, kicker Brendan Gibbons, was thrown out of school in December for reportedly violating the school's student sexual misconduct policies in 2009, when he was accused of rape by another student. The alleged victim accused Lewan of threatening her, claiming he said he wanted to rape her if she pursued charges against Gibbons.

Speaking before 20 or 30 reporters at the NFL scouting combine, Lewan insisted he made no such comment.

"It’s a situation between two people,” Lewan said, alluding to Gibbons and the woman. “I’ve said a lot of dumb things, but those are not things I’ve said. I would never disrespect a woman like that. I consider myself a guy who holds doors, not threatens people."

Lewan, widely regarded as one of the top three tackles in the draft, is projected as a first-round pick. He could be available for the Giants (12th overall pick), who absolutely need to upgrade their offensive line. The Giants are a relatively conservative organization, usually staying away from red flags. Obviously, they'd perform due diligence on Lewan.

On the field, there's not much to dislike. Lewan is a polished technician -- he actually returned to school for his senior year -- and he plays with a nasty streak.

"I think my strength as a player is, I like to think I'm very consistent," he said. "I definitely play through the whistle. I also think that's a weakness because everyone likes to comment on that. But I like to play through the whistle and put people in the dirt as much as possible."

Lewan has been known to take it too far. He was involved in a helmet-twisting incident against Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis, and he reportedly was investigated for possible assault after Michigan lost to Ohio State.

“I wasn’t in any fight,” Lewan said. “That’s not who I am off the field.”