NFL Nation: Cato June

In the midst of his introductory news conference Wednesday, new Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell confirmed the Lions would continue running a 4-3 defense under his regime.

This was expected from the outset, when general manager Martin Mayhew said they would prefer a coach who ran a 4-3 because that is what they have built this defense to be, centered around defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley along with 4-3 linebackers Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy.

And while it is not official yet, from the outset of Caldwell’s candidacy, his defensive coordinator has been expected to be the defensive backs coach at Baltimore the past three seasons and his defensive backs coach at Wake Forest from 1993 to 1995, Teryl Austin.

Teryl Austin
AP Photo/Scott BoehmTeryl Austin has coached defensive backs for much of his career and was defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators in 2010.
Here’s a look at Austin’s career to give an idea of what the Lions might end up getting should he officially be hired.

As a coordinator:
Austin’s defense at Florida in 2010 had your typical level of SEC talent, including Will Hill (now of the Giants) at free safety and Jelani Jenkins (now with the Dolphins) at linebacker and Janoris Jenkins at cornerback.

Its top tacklers were safety Ahmad Black, who ended up drafted in the fifth round by Tampa Bay in 2011, and Jenkins. Jon Bostic, the Bears linebacker, was the team’s third-leading tackler.

It was certainly a talented defense, at least in the secondary. A lot of that talent was young.

Draft picks from that defense:
2011:
Ahmad Black, S, Pick 151 (Tampa Bay)

2012:
Janoris Jenkins, CB, Pick 39 (St. Louis) *ended up at North Alabama before the NFL
Jaye Howard, DE, Pick 114 (Seattle)

2013:
Sharrif Floyd, DL, Pick 23 (Minnesota)
Matt Elam, S, Pick 32 (Baltimore)
Jon Bostic, LB, Pick 50 (Chicago)
Jelani Jenkins, LB, Pick 104 (Miami)
Josh Evans, S, Pick 169 (Jacksonville)

Potential 2014 draft picks:
Dominique Easley, DL
Jaylen Watkins, DB

One thing he did not do was recruit or coach Marcus Roberson or Louchiez Purifoy, two of the top cornerbacks coming out in this year’s NFL draft. So the obvious potential tie to drafting them there is not there despite their common Florida background.

Numbers for Austin’s defense at Florida in 2010:

  • Rushing defense: 31st (130.62 yards)
  • Pass efficiency defense: 12th (108.69)
  • Total defense: 9th (306.54 yards)
  • Scoring defense: 29th (21.31 points)
  • Pass defense: 12th (175.92 yards)
  • Sacks: T-86th (1.62 per game)
  • Tackles for loss: 40th (6.38 per game)

Here’s some thoughts from our Jaguars reporter, Michael DiRocco, who covered Austin at Florida in 2010:
Teryl Austin stepped into a tough spot when he became Florida’s defensive coordinator in 2010. He was taking over for Charlie Strong, who led defenses that were the main reasons the Gators won national titles in 2006 and 2008.

Austin did a solid job -- UF finished ninth nationally in total defense and 29th nationally in scoring -- considering he didn’t have much to work with up front. The 2009 defense featured a pair of defensive ends that would go on to become second-round NFL draft picks (Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap) but the 2010 defense had just one player on the defensive line two-deep depth chart that would go on to be drafted (Jaye Howard).

Not surprisingly, the Gators struggled against the run that season, giving up 130.6 yards per game on the ground, the worst mark since the 2004 defense gave up 142 yards per game. But Austin’s defense was pretty good at linebacker and in the secondary, finishing 12th in the nation in pass defense (176 yards per game) and intercepting 22 passes, the third-highest total in the nation that season.

The defense’s biggest issue was inconsistency, especially against better teams. UF lost all four games against ranked opponents (Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State) and was outscored 131-56 and gave up at least 31 points in each game.

Austin was pretty aggressive with blitzes, though that was partly due to the fact that the front four was unable to get much pressure on its own. That lack of pressure forced Austin to blitz more than he anticipated. The Gators managed just 21 sacks in 2010, the third-lowest single-season total since the school began tracking sacks in 1981.”
As a position coach:
This year, the Ravens were 12th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 230.06 yards a game and 12th in interception percentage at 2.9. In 2012, the Ravens were 17th in pass defense (228.13) and 19th in interception percentage (2.3).

In Austin’s first year in Baltimore, the team was fourth in pass defense (196.25) and 19th in interception percentage (2.8).

In Arizona from 2007 to 2009, his pass defense was 23rd in 2009 (233.69), 22nd in 2008 (221.25) and 28th in 2007 (232.25). The team’s interception percentage was eighth in 2009 (3.5), 19th in 2008 (2.5) and 17th in 2007 (3.2).

As a position coach, he didn’t have complete control over his secondary, but his cornerbacks were typically 5-foot-11 in Arizona his first two seasons until his third year, when he had Bryant McFadden (6-foot) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6-foot-2).

In Baltimore, he clearly preferred taller cornerbacks. Only one corner, Lardarius Webb, was under 6-foot among his starting corners in his three seasons with the Ravens.

At Michigan, he coached Cato June, Marlin Jackson, Charles Drake and Jeremy LeSueur -- all of whom were drafted. At Syracuse, he coached former Detroit Lion Kevin Abrams, who was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft as well as Tebucky Jones, Donovin Darius and Phil Nash, who signed with the Lions as a free agent in 1999.
The Pro Bowl is a watered-down disaster and has no more outspoken critic than I.

But it’s still used as a measuring stick, and since it’s a watered-down disaster for everyone, it’s not unreasonable to look at for comparison purposes. (And it didn't used to be quite as diluted.)

The Texans released this team-by-team list of draft picks and college free agents who’ve gone to the Pro Bowl since 2002. If a team drafted a player or signed one as an undrafted free agent and he went to the Pro Bowl with another team, he still counts.

There are some quirks in the list. It gives the Texans credit, for example, for having drafted Jason Babin. But Houston traded up to draft Babin and then completely miscast him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He was a bust for the Texans. But he went to the 2010 Pro Bowl after becoming a productive pass rush end with the Titans.

The Texans have found Pro Bowlers in top picks, as you’d expect -- Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Brian Cushing and Babin. Owen Daniels was the 98th pick and Jerome Mathis was 114th. Those are the more impressive Pro Bowlers to me.

The Jaguars have only found a couple of Pro Bowl-caliber players with lesser picks or in college free agency. David Garrard was drafted 108th and Montell Owens was undrafted. (Yes, Garrard did have one Pro Bowl-worthy season.)

The Colts and Titans have fared better in this category.

Indianapolis found Robert Mathis 138th, Cato June 198th and Antoine Bethea 207th. Mathis and Bethea remain key players.

And Tennessee unearthed Marc Mariani 222nd and Cortland Finnegan 215th. The two have combined to help fill the crater left by the No. 6 pick in the 2005 draft, Pacman Jones.
Chicago’s decision to sign free agent linebacker Cato June is an ominous signal about the condition of linebacker Lance Briggs, who injured his knee during Sunday’s 36-10 loss at Minnesota.

We don’t have any official word yet from the team, but June’s signing has been confirmed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Early indications have been that Jamar Williams would replace Briggs in the short term, but if nothing else, June will provide depth at the position.

The Bears have already lost two of their opening-day linebackers, Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa, to season-ending injuries. We’ll keep you updated on Briggs as more information is confirmed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
 
  Bill Baptist/Getty Images
  A healthy Chris Brown could be a big plus for Houston.

Houston Texans

Training camp site: Houston, Texas

Campfires: Weakside linebacker appears to be the biggest battle for a starting spot. Xavier Adibi has bulked up in an effort to become more rugged and withstand the 16-game pounding. Zach Diles appears to be an underdog here, as does veteran Cato June, who signed up after spending time in Indianapolis and Tampa Bay.

Finding a back to complement Steve Slaton is a big priority, but the Texans didn't spend much to increase their options. A healthy Chris Brown could do well in the role, but Houston is living on the edge if it's counting on 16 games from him. Undrafted rookies Jeremiah Johnson and Arian Foster are in the mix along with Ryan Moats and Clifton Dawson

The safety position remains an issue, with Nick Ferguson and Eugene Wilson in line to start now. But the team will allow for the possibility of Dominique Barber to nudge his way into the lineup.

Camp will be a downer if: Anything bad happens to Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson or Slaton. This is an offensive team keyed around that trio, and the loss of any of them for any extended time will be a huge setback.

Schaub's been labeled as injury prone, but it's really been more about being unlucky. It's not as if other quarterbacks would have played through some of the things he's faced. Still, Gary Kubiak's talked about how players can learn how to stay on the field, and he needs his signal-caller to do that.

Camp will be a success if: A defensive identity develops under new coordinator Frank Bush, who's pledged to be more aggressive.

Division Camp Previews
Tuesday: NFC North | AFC North
Wednesday: NFC East | AFC East
Thursday: NFC South | AFC South
Friday: NFC West | AFC West

MORE
Camp battles: AFC | NFC

Schedule: Training camp dates
With new coaches overseeing the defensive line and the defensive backs, there is a real chance for new messages and approaches to have a  bearing on players and units.

The Texans need some preseason success on both sides of the ball to carry into the regular season, because another shaky start will be cause for concern based on the team's history. If Houston is to plot a course to its first playoff berth, it needs to avoid a poor start.

Second time around: Slaton was a revelation as a rookie, and while there is uncertainty about who else will get carries, the line should be better. It's the second year for the group under Alex Gibbs running his scheme, which should mean better and more consistent play.

Additionally, not only does the unit have Gibbs and John Benton as coaching resources, but can look to assistant Bruce Matthews, the Hall of Famer who's now part of the staff.


Indianapolis Colts

Training camp site: Terre Haute, Ind.

 
  Donald Miralle/Getty Images
  Peyton Manning's receiving corps will be without Marvin Harrison this year.
Campfires: Targets for Peyton Manning are crucial, of course, and that's why there is such a large focus on the three-way fight for the No. 3 receiver spot. Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Roy Hall will draw a lot of attention as that's sorted out. Garcon seemed to be getting a lot of positive reviews in OTAs and min
icamp, with Hall not generating much buzz.

Returning defensive tackles Keyunta Dawson, Eric Foster, Raheem Brock (an end on early downs) and Antonio Johnson will be fighting for roles at a position that welcomed back Ed Johnson and has two young, thick additions from the draft in Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor. Getting bigger inside while maintaining athleticism was a priority for the Colts.

The plan at linebacker is for Clint Session to play on the weakside and Philip Wheeler to replace him on the strongside. But guys with starting experience like Freddy Keiaho and Tyjuan Hagler will be looking to take the team away from that blueprint.

Camp will be a downer if: Left guard Ryan Lilja, perhaps the team's best run blocker, can't make it back after the knee injury that cost him all of 2008. Trouble on the return path for cornerback Marlin Jackson (knee) would also be a bad thing.

With those injuries, the two surgeries on Manning's knee, a dinged Joseph Addai and a bunch of additional problems for the offensive line, the Colts got to show that they could survive. It's not anything they want to be in position to prove again.

Camp will be a success if: New head coach Jim Caldwell sets an early tone that gives the team no room for doubt about the transfer of power from his mentor, Tony Dungy. The players also must take to the thinking of new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer (a bit more aggressive) and new, fiery special teams coach Ray Rychleski.

It also would be great if Manning develops increased rapport with Anthony Gonzalez, who's graduated to No. 2 receiver with Marvin Harrison gone. Manning also needs to gain a real feel for the guy who wins the battle for No. 3 as well as the young tight ends, Jacob Tamme and Tom Santi.

Off the record: Even with a new coach and changes on his staff, it's unlikely there will be any different emphasis on preseason results. Indianapolis is 3-15 in the preseason over the last four years and 51-13 in the regular seasons that followed.

The Colts have a good feel for how to get ready and don't have to worry about building fan enthusiasm with preseason wins. Everyone knows to look at smaller things early in the game to gauge the team's readiness.


(Read full post)

 
  AP Photo/David J. Phillip
  The Texans' Xavier Adibi is putting on weight in a bid to beat out Zach Diles and Cato June for the starting weakside linebacker's job.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Weakside linebacker might be the most intriguing Houston Texans' training camp position battle. 

Second-year man Xavier Adibi, recovering Zach Diles and newcomer Cato June are expected to slug it out for the third starting spot alongside middle man DeMeco Ryans and rookie strongside linebacker Brian Cushing.

"With Adibi and Zach and Cato, we're as strong at that position as we've been since I've been here," coach Gary Kubiak said.

"That position group will have a heck of a battle this training camp," GM Rick Smith said. "That's one I'm looking forward to watching."

Getting more rugged and durable at linebacker was one of the team's offseason priorities.

Adibi was slow to get involved last season and played in just seven games. Diles broke his left tibia in a practice halfway through the season and was lost for the year. Kevin Bentley, Morlon Greenwood and Chaun Thompson filled in. Greenwood's gone now.

At 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds, Cushing was drafted 15th overall to help beef up the Texans at linebacker. He's a versatile player who should be able to rush and cover.

When I heard about Adibi bulking up -- he said he's gone from 220 to 240 -- I recalled comments Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio made about steady weight gain for young players. Del Rio said when he was an assistant at Baltimore, the plan was for Ray Lewis to gain five pounds a year.

Maybe Adibi will be good to go with a 20-pound leap. Everyone in Houston said it's not a concern. But maybe it will be something we have to monitor.

"I was making sure I didn't put on too much, I didn't want to get to the 245, 250 range," Adibi said. "This is weight that I need just to get through the regular season playing 17 weeks of the NFL. That's one of my goals, make it through the season 100 percent, not miss any games.

"This is what I had to do and I feel good. I feel real good."

Two things that should benefit all the linebackers: A healthy Amobi Okoye at defensive tackle and the addition of veteran lineman Antonio Smith, who will start at end but could kick inside in certain situations.

"Sometimes a linebacker is only as good as his D tackles," Adibi said. "They're keeping blocks off you, they are shooting upfield, they are penetrating, they are causing havoc and that just lets the linebackers roam and make plays."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

  • Jerome Solomon says DelJuan Robinson is perfectly happy wearing No. 66.
  • The Texans are looking for a mini-advertiser to buy space on their practice jerseys, reports Megan Manfull.
  • Cato June's Super Bowl ring sets him apart in the Texans' locker room, writes Jordan Godwin.
  • Another look at June, from Alan Burge.

Indianapolis Colts

  • Peyton Manning is not on Twitter. The Colts want it known so much, they linked to this Sam Farmer story about fake Twitter accounts that allege to belong to big names in sports.
  • "To me, you stick with what they've built here." So said defensive coordinator Larry Coyer, writes Mike Chappell.
  • Guard Ryan Lilja is participating in a limited basis in the Colts' OTAs, says Chappell.
  • Coming off a broken leg, Gary Brackett said he'll be ready for camp, says Chappell.
  • An assessment of the offense as minicamp approaches, from John Oehser.
  • Mike Vanderjagt speaks, Oehser finds the story.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

There will be picks on Saturday and Sunday that prompt brows furrowed into question marks on the faces of fans of the four teams of the AFC South.

So in advance of this weekend's draft, the AFC South Blog is here to warn you: Don't be surprised when the Colts look to cornerback; don't be shocked when the Titans turn to a tight end and/or a defensive end. Should the Texans invest a reasonably high pick in a receiver or the Jaguars dip again in to the pool of defensive ends, they won't be making redundant roster choices.

They'll be thinking more about 2010 than about 2009.

We've discussed the current needs of all four teams a lot in the build-up to the draft. But teams obviously have to look further ahead than that. They can't count on the CBA expiring and the rules of free agency changing. Because if a new labor deal is struck and free agency continues to operate in the fashion we are used to -- with players who've logged at least four years and have expired contracts hitting the free market -- teams have to be prepared to lose people, and they need to have replacements ready.

Some of those potential replacements are already lined up, of course, working as backups. But others must be targeted.

"You're not just drafting for this year, you're drafting for future years too," Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "You have to have the vision of what they might be in two or three years. ... You're always building depth on your team and you're getting, especially in the later-round guys, traits that can be developed."

Here is a look at the issues teams may be facing in terms of departing free agents in 2010 with some suggestions, courtesy of Scouts. Inc.'s Matt Williamson, on mid- and late-round picks who could fill the holes.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

  • John Oehser's list of Peyton Manning's most underrated moments: No. 5 and No. 4.
  • Oehser's look back at the Colts in the first round: 2001.
  • Oehser's top 25 picks of the Polian era: No 23 and No. 22.
  • A look at Peria Jerry, courtesy of Oehser.

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Gene Frenette is anxious to see how Gene Smith and the Jaguars do on draft weekend.
  • Vito Stellino looks at the improbable story of Michael Oher.
  • When the Jaguars head into the weight room for the start of the offseason program Monday, they'll see a completely revamped area, writes Vic Ketchman of Jaguars.com.

Tennessee Titans

  • Chris Johnson is trying to scale back on fast food, says Jim Wyatt.
  • David Climer ponders Chris Johnson and asks, why not live where you work?
  • I know these two aren't Titans related, but a lot of Titans fans are interested in Vanderbilt and Jay Cutler:
Cutler can look to history and find a Vanderbilt quarterback who led the Bears to a title: Bill Wade. Wyatt takes a look.
Bears receiver Earl Bennett was actually in a Vanderbilt classroom when he learned about the Cutler trade.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Just posted an item over in our breaking news area on Tampa Bay's signing of linebacker Angelo Crowell, but wanted to expand upon that a bit here.

 
  Rich Kane/US Presswire
  Ex-Bill Angelo Crowell should take Cato June's place at strongside LB.

First impression? Nice move by the Bucs and it starts to clear up some of the clouds on their defense. Crowell was a productive strongside linebacker in Buffalo and the Bucs presumably will play him at the same spot. This also comes on a day when it became public the Bucs are going to take a look at strong safety Jermaine Phillips moving to weakside linebacker.

Barrett Ruud stays in the middle. Essentially, what the Bucs are doing is replacing Cato June with Crowell and Derrick Brooks with Phillips, although there are fallback options like Quincy Black, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes. But those guys likely will end up as backups.

There was outrage when the Bucs let Brooks, the best player in their history, go on Feb. 25. They let June go that same day and there were at least some raised eyebrows on that move.

Well, now, the other shoes have fallen. I think Crowell can be a slight upgrade over June. As far as Phillips, it's impossible to know how he'll fare in a new spot, but he has the potential to do some good things. He'll never be the Brooks of four or five years ago, but he might be able to become as good as Brooks was the last year or two.

The Phillips move also means the Bucs can get Sabby Piscitelli onto the field as the starting strong safety. At times this offseason, it's looked like the Bucs didn't really have a plan. But, gradually, it's coming together and they're filling their needs.

They still could use a cornerback and at least one defensive tackle, but there's still time to work on that. There's also a chance the Bucs will re-sign veteran defensive end Kevin Carter. Take care of all that and that basically leaves quarterback as the only glaring need.

Anybody want to talk some more about Jay Cutler?

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

The Texans brought back safety Nick Ferguson, says John McClain.

Indianapolis Colts

Dennis Polian, son of Colts president Bill Polian, is the new assistant to Brad Childress in Minnesota, writes Mike Chappell.

John Oehser doesn't know that Peyton Manning deserves the heat he's getting for passing on a Mississippi ceremony honoring his family to play golf with Tiger Woods.

Former Colts linebackers Freddy Keiaho and Cato June are waiting on word from Buffalo about their future, says Oehser.

Colts.com assesses the team's running backs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Thoughts on Mel Tucker from Cole Pepper.

Tennessee Titans

As the Titans wait on Chris Carr, they took a look at Carolina return man Mark Jones, reports Jim Wyatt.

Albert Haynesworth was indicted on traffic charges, reports Mitchell Kline.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

New York Jets

New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills continue to line up visits with free agents.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Cato June and Chicago Bears running back Kevin Jones will be dropping by One Bills Drive.

June is an intriguing possibility for the Bills. He's an undersized linebacker (6-foot, 227 pounds) at a time when the NFL is trending toward 3-4 schemes.

But the Bills still run a 4-3 defense and could use a weakside linebacker. June, who turned 29 in November, finished third in tackles for the Buccaneers with 104. He recorded five tackles for losses and intercepted a pass.

I wonder if Cato will have trouble playing in a stadium that has O.J. Simpson on its Wall of Fame. Sorry. I couldn't help myself. 

If you play fantasy football, then you may have had your heart broken by Jones.

The injury-prone, former Detroit Lions starter rushed for 1,133 yards as a rookie and developed into one of the league's top receiving backs -- 61 catches in 12 games three years ago -- before tearing a knee ligament toward the end of 2007.

The Lions cut him. The Chicago Bears picked him up, but used him sparingly. In 11 games, he had only 34 carries for 109 yards.

Here's one side to the story

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
6:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- We generally don't run full transcripts of news conferences here. But, in light of today's events and because a lot of us are still trying to figure out exactly what the Bucs did, we'll make something of an exception.

My friend, Jim Flynn, of Pewter Report, has the entire transcript of what coach Raheem Morris and Mark Dominik had to say after announcing the release of Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn, Ike Hilliard, Joey Galloway and Cato June.

One quick highlight before you look at the whole thing: I like the part where Morris said, "We're not here to speak for Derrick Brooks." Again, there are always two sides to every story and we're still waiting to hear what Brooks has to say.

Pat Yasinskas discusses Tampa Bay's decision to release veterans Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard, Warrick Dunn and Cato June.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The reports are true. The Bucs are releasing Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway, Warrick Dunn, Cato June and Ike Hilliard.

That's just been confirmed by a team official. There will be a 3 p.m. ET news conference to announce the moves. I'm on my way to One Buc Place and will have much more on this later on.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 10/23
Sunday, 10/26
Monday, 10/27
WEEKLY LEADERS