NFC South: Gruden's QB Camp

Over the past few months, I spent a lot of time out at the Fired Football Coaches Association office in Tampa. That’s where Jon Gruden works and that’s where Gruden’s QB Camp was filmed.

My assignment was to help Gruden write scouting reports on all the players who were coming through and it was a blast. I learned a lot about X's and O's, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.

But one of the most memorable sessions was one for a guy who isn’t a quarterback. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the most intriguing guy (at least in my eyes) to come through the camp.

Lattimore’s coming off a major knee injury. You can read Gruden’s entire Insider scouting report here. But I learned to read Gruden a bit and I instantly could tell he thinks Lattimore can be a special player.

That got me thinking. The Atlanta Falcons are good for the moment at running back with Steven Jackson taking over for Michael Turner. But the Falcons have the luxury of having 11 picks in this draft. They also have the luxury of being a team that doesn’t have many holes.

They’re the type of team that can afford to take a shot on Lattimore somewhere in the middle rounds and bring him along slowly. Jackson’s not young and Lattimore could be his eventual replacement.

“I would think that putting him on the shelf for a year would be the way to go,’’ Gruden said. “It would be a luxury. It would be an expense. You've got to put him on injured reserve and you've got to pay his rookie contract. But he's 21 years old and he's only a true junior. So he's just a kid.

“You put this kid in the bullpen and get him with a great training staff and the right support system. He'll learn the offense and get himself ready to be a 22-year-old kid who comes back the next year, knowing the offense and has a big impact.’’

NFC South programming notes

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
9:07
AM ET
We have perhaps the busiest week of the offseason coming up and it’s kicking into high gear already. Let’s take a look at what’s coming up.
  • I’ll be heading out to One Buccaneer Place shortly for the introductory news conference for cornerback Darrelle Revis. I’ll be back with more on what Revis and the Bucs have to say this afternoon.
  • A bit later this morning, I’ll begin rolling out a series in which I rank the pre-draft needs at each position for the four NFC South teams.
  • I spent a good chunk of the past six weeks helping Jon Gruden produce written scouting reports on the prospects coming through Gruden’s QB Camp. Here’s a page where you can check out what he had to say about all the quarterbacks that were featured in his camp.
  • On Tuesday, we’ll have the Blog Network mock draft and I’ll play general manager for all four NFC South teams. After the Revis trade, the Buccaneers are without a first-round pick. I’m going to see if I can pull off some sort of trade to get them back into the late stages of the first round.
  • On Wednesday, Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. will have their updated mock drafts.
  • On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we’ll have continuous coverage of the draft.

Tavon Austin's biggest fan

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
4:48
PM ET
There has been a growing buzz about the possibility of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin with the 13th overall pick in next week’s draft.

Austin
Personally, I think it’s a long shot. I think the Bucs will use the pick on a cornerback (or some other defensive player) if they stay put and haven’t made a trade for Darrelle Revis.

But if Jon Gruden, who was fired by the Bucs after the 2008 season, still was coaching the team I think there would be a very good chance of Austin landing in Tampa Bay.

“He's my favorite player in the draft," Gruden, now an ESPN analyst, said in a conference call with the national media. “I'm sensitive to him because he's 5-foot-8 like myself. When you watch the kid play, he's magnificent. He's a great return man -- punts, kicks. He lines up at tailback, and he plays like a tailback. He looks like Darren Sproles at tailback and he looks like Wes Welker in the slot."

I’ve spent a lot of time around Gruden the past few months, helping with his Insider scouting reports on the players coming through Gruden’s QB Camp. Gruden has liked just about every player to come through the camp. But, for Gruden to say Austin (who was not part of the camp), is his favorite player in this draft is pretty significant praise.

“I've seen him be magnificent after the catch, all-purpose yardage, look, he's tough," Gruden said. “Tremendous stop and start quickness and flatout finishing speed. I've seen quick guys, fast players, but I've never seen very many that have the combination of speed and quickness like Austin has. He ran for 8,000 yards as a high school tailback in Maryland, and he averaged 7 or 8 yards a carry this year when they handed it to him. He's just a fun, deluxe joker to have on your football team. He's going to make an impact, I believe, big time."

We’ll see if current coach Greg Schiano likes Austin as much as Gruden does.
Since late February, I’ve been working on a side project. I’ve been spending a lot of time out at the Fired Football Coaches Association offices in Tampa.

For those that don’t know what the FFCA is, it’s the headquarters of former Tampa Bay and Oakland coach Jon Gruden and his television show, Gruden’s QB Camp. My assignment was to work with Gruden to help turn his scouting reports on each prospect coming through into the written word.

These Insider scouting reports have started to run. Here’s Gruden’s scouting report Insider on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and here’s his take Insider on Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson. Over the coming days, we’ll have a bunch more on all the prospects that came through the camp, so watch our main NFL page for them.

I’d keep a close eye on some of the quarterbacks that are viewed as mid-round picks because Atlanta and Tampa Bay are in the market for backups, New Orleans could be in the market for a project as a third quarterback and I’ve been hearing some rumblings that even though Carolina has Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen as backups to Cam Newton, the Panthers have been doing some homework on some of the later-round quarterback prospects.

In addition to the nine quarterbacks that came through, Gruden also brought in Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

When the scouting report on Lattimore runs, I’ll have an accompanying blog post because I think there’s one NFC South team where he could be a very logical fit.

NFC South afternoon update

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
5:03
PM ET
Time for a run through some odds and ends from around the NFC South:
  • Tampa Bay safety Ronde Barber said he still is undecided if he’ll retire or play another season. Barber said he expects to make a “gut decision,’’ but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t get the sense that the Buccaneers, who have said they want Barber back, are putting too much pressure on a guy that’s earned the right to make his own choice. But it would be helpful if Barber gives the team an answer before the draft.
  • Speaking of the Buccaneers and defensive backs, Alabama’s Dee Milliner, will begin a pre-draft visit with the team Wednesday night, according to Ian Rapoport. I’d be shocked if Milliner lasts until Tampa Bay picks at No. 13. But, then again, maybe the Bucs aren’t planning on staying put at No. 13.
  • Carolina linebacker Jon Beason said he expects to be fully healthy by training camp after finishing last season on injured reserve. Beason also said he’s fine with moving to outside linebacker. Luke Kuechly took over in the middle and excelled when Beason went out. Although Beason has spent most of his career in the middle, I think he can be an impact player on the outside.
  • The Panthers agreed to terms with former New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, according to Jason LaCanfora. Carolina suddenly is looking very deep at receiver, but the Panthers still could look to draft a long-term replacement for Steve Smith.
  • This one’s a little off beat, but country music star Kenny Chesney talks about his very brief stint as a receiver with the New Orleans Saints with Jon Gruden.
  • Speaking of Gruden, I’ve spent much of the past five or six weeks watching the filming of Gruden’s QB Camp, which debuts this week on ESPN. I’ve been working with Gruden to get his written scouting reports on all the prospects and they’ll run on our Insider pages in the coming days. Here's the television schedule for Gruden's QB Camp.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Apologies for being out of pocket the past few hours, but I was on assignment as an upcoming episode of Gruden’s QB Camp was being filmed.

You know the show. Former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden puts quarterbacks through work in the film room, on the chalkboard and sometimes on the field. But this one was a little different because the camper was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

Gruden’s had some non-quarterbacks on the show before, but Te’o will be the first linebacker. Gruden also brought in a special guest to be part of the show. Enter one of the best linebackers in NFL history -- Derrick Brooks.

I caught up with Brooks after he was done and asked the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star and current president of the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena League for his scouting report on Te’o.

“He’s impressive," Brooks said. “His football knowledge on the board and knowing what everybody on the defense is supposed to be doing. You can tell he’s comfortable with communicating. That shows up on the tape as well as in person. I think, for him, it’s just a matter of keeping doing what he’s doing. I think he’s looking forward to just getting drafted. As I told him, once you’re drafted, that’s over with. You’re only drafted once and accept that position whatever it is and go to work."

Brooks said he also brought up the infamous hoax that was played on Te’o.

“I told him to expect players to ask him about it. Have fun with it," Brooks said. “At this point, laugh at yourself. That’s the best icebreaker you can have in the locker room. Have fun with it. Say your two or three words about it and it’s over. He only has to do it once. He’ll win his teammates over and win their support once they get in and see how much this kid loves football. I think the team will then come to his defense and keep everything about football. He just needs to be himself. He wants to be successful and I think he will be."

NFC South programming notes

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
1:22
PM ET
Thanks for your patience while I was off Tuesday and while I was out on assignment the past few hours.

I was at the “Fired Football Coaches Association’’ office in Tampa. That’s Jon Gruden’s office. I got a chance to watch the filming of an upcoming episode of "Gruden’s QB Camp." I’ve been assigned to get Gruden’s scouting report on each of the draft prospects that will be featured on the show. The scouting reports will run once the shows start airing as we get closer to the draft.

I’m back at NFC South Blog headquarters now and will be back with more in a bit. NFC West colleague Mike Sando speculated Tuesday that the Atlanta Falcons could be a landing spot for running back Steven Jackson. I’m about to put together a post with my thoughts on that scenario.

Quick NFC South notes

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
3:48
PM ET
A couple of quick programming notes.

The Carolina Panthers have announced they have traded running back Mike Goodson to Oakland for offensive tackle Bruce Campbell. Nothing big here. This is simply one backup getting traded for another backup. Campbell appeared in only four games for the Raiders last season.

I’ll be joining Tom Krasniqi on ESPN Tampa Bay (1040 AM) at approximately 4 p.m. ET. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, tune in. If you’re not, you can listen live on the station’s website.

ESPN.com has launched The Draft Machine. This a tool where fans can create and share mock drafts or compare their drafts to those done by SportsNation and Todd McShay.

Also, this year’s debut of Gruden’s QB Camp will air Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The first player featured will be Andrew Luck. Obviously, he’s not going to end up in the NFC South, but you still might want to tune in because Jon Gruden is a former Tampa Bay coach and he’s pretty entertaining.

Another round of Gruden's QB Camp

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
1:22
PM ET
The NFC South may not have nearly as much of a vested interest in this as it did last year, but Gruden’s QB Camp is returning for a third season this spring.

Last year, Jon Gruden, the former Tampa Bay coach and current "Monday Night Football" analyst, had a fascinating session with Cam Newton. Their time in the film room gave us all plenty to talk about as we waited for the Carolina Panthers to select Newton at No. 1 overall.

This year, I don’t see any NFC South team taking a quarterback in the first round. But I do think you could see some NFC South quarterback moves later in the draft. Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson is similar to New Orleans’ Drew Brees in a lot of ways. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if the Saints took Wilson in the middle rounds and try to groom him as the heir apparent to Brees. There even has been a bit of a buzz that the Panthers could look at Wilson as a guy to complement Newton.

The Falcons and Buccaneers also could be keeping an eye out for potential backups in the draft.

Wilson’s session with Gruden will air April 11 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

The show will debut with Andrew Luck on March 31 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. The segment with Robert Griffin III will air at 9 p.m. ET on April 2 on ESPN. Kellen Moore will be featured April 12 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Kirk Cousins’ episode will be shown April 16 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

Case Keenum will be featured at 5 p.m. ET on April 17 on ESPNU. The segment on Brandon Weeden will air April 18 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. Brock Osweiler will be featured April 19 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

A segment on Nick Foles will air April 23 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU and Ryan Tannehill will be featured April 24 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
Take a look at this preview clip from Gruden’s QB Camp featuring Terrelle Pryor, which will air in its entirety Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

It’s pretty interesting stuff as Jon Gruden and the former Ohio State quarterback go over some film work. As you’ll see in the clip, Gruden’s not a big fan of bubble screens. In fact, he pretty much rips the whole concept.

That alone would be enough to make a lot of quarterbacks coming out of college just nod their head and agree with Gruden. Pryor doesn’t do that. In fact, he puts up a little argument on the virtues of bubble screens and takes to the chalkboard to show Gruden a bigger play that can develop in that situation.

Pryor’s planning to enter the NFL supplemental draft. As I’ve said before, I think it’s a long shot that he lands with an NFC South team. Three division teams are set with quality starters and Carolina has a lot invested in Cam Newton and Jimmy Clausen. Personnel people around the league seem to be split on if Pryor’s future is as an NFL quarterback or if he needs to move to wide receiver or tight end.
We’ve already shown you video clips of Jon Gruden and Cam Newton in Gruden’s QB Camp here and here.

Newton is one possibility for the Carolina Panthers if they choose to go with a quarterback at No. 1 overall in the draft. But Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert also is believed to be another possibility.

In this clip of Gabbert in Gruden’s QB Camp, Gruden asks the quarterback how he would adapt to the NFL after playing in a spread offense in college in which he usually lined up in the shotgun formation.

Gabbert gives a pretty solid answer, saying he threw the ball a lot in college and, with some adjustments, can do the same thing in the NFL.

By the way, you can check out the full 30-minute programs of Gruden with Newton and Gabbert at ESPN U. Newton’s segment airs Monday at 7 p.m. ET. Gabbert’s spot is scheduled to air in the same time slot Wednesday.

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