NFL Nation: John Greco

Jordan Cameron in, Joe Haden out

December, 29, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- The Browns will have tight end Jordan Cameron in the season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they will not have cornerback Joe Haden. No doubt Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will notice that rookie Leon McFadden is playing corner.

Other lineup changes prompted by injury include rookie Garrett Gilkey and John Greco (back from a sprained knee) starting at guard; Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are both out with concussions. On the defensive line, Phil Taylor is out with a concussion. Ishmaa'ily Kitchen will replace him at noseguard, with Billy Winn starting at end.

Browns' Cameron, Taylor miss practice

December, 24, 2013
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Several Cleveland Browns missed the first practice in preparation for the season finale in Pittsburgh, but coach Rob Chudzinski would not speculate on their status for Sunday's game.

Offensive guard Jason Pinkston, defensive lineman Phil Taylor and tight end Jordan Cameron are all sidelined by concussions and undergoing NFL mandated testing.

Cornerback Joe Haden (hip), defensive lineman John Hughes (knee) and linebacker Paul Kruger (flu) also did not practice. Guard John Greco returned from a sprained knee on a limited basis.
The Browns will be without guard John Greco and running back Willis McGahee in practice today.

Greco sprained his right medial collateral ligament on the first play of the game in New England when his foot caught in the turf. He tried to stay in the game, but was not effective. The Browns will see how his week goes, but it does not seem likely he will face Chicago on Sunday

Jason Pinkston replaced Greco in New England and would replace him against the Bears as well.

“We’ll see as we go along what his (Greco’s) status is,” coach Rob Chudzinski said.

McGahee suffered a concussion on a goal-line run in the fourth quarter. He was sent home Wednesday and must pass the NFL concussion protocols before returning. His return for Sunday seems very doubtful. The Browns signed Edwin Baker off the Houston practice squad.

Quarterback Brandon Weeden, meanhwhile, has been cleared to practice. Weeden has been sidelined since he received a concussion nine days ago against Jacksonville.

Chudzinski would not say whether Weeden or Alex Tanney would be the backup quarterback against the Bears.

“There’s some things that Brandon has to clear this week,” Chudzinski said.

No-call on Campbell sack hurts chances

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
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CLEVELAND -- Should it have been a penalty and if it were called would it have mattered?

That’s the question the Cleveland Browns might be asking after their 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was a loss that seems to make one play meaningless, because Pittsburgh pretty much thrashed the Browns.

[+] EnlargeWilliam Gay
Jason Miller/Getty ImagesWilliam Gay sacked Jason Campbell and forced him to fumble, but the Steelers cornerback may have gotten away with striking Campbell in the head.
Again.

But one key play in the thrashing came midway through the third quarter when Steelers cornerback William Gay blitzed free and blindsided Jason Campbell at the Browns' 47-yard line. Gay forced Campbell to fumble, Will Allen returned it to the 4 and Pittsburgh scored a touchdown on the next play to extend a 13-3 lead to 20-3.

Live and on replay, it seemed clear that Gay hit Campbell in the facemask as he tackled him. The facemask would be the head, which is a no-no in the modern-day NFL.

A week earlier, Drew Brees drew a flag when San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks tackled Brees in the shoulder and neck.

That was penalized.

The hit to Campbell’s facemask was not.

“I talked to the officials about that,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I felt like he was hit on the head. They didn’t feel that way.”

Chudzinski said the official told him Campbell was hit in the shoulder. But the replay clearly showed Campbell’s head snapping as Gay hit him in the facemask.

What would have changed had the call gone the Browns' way?

Maybe not much. Pittsburgh exerted its will on the Browns from the middle of the second period on, and they had earlier sent Campbell to the sidelines for one play with a rib injury. He returned and had the Browns at the Steelers 39-yard line, down 13-3 with 7:59 left in the quarter.

Gay lined up outside Allen on the defensive right of the formation. Gay stutter-stepped to the line as if he were blitzing, then backed off. As Campbell continued the snap count, Gay lined up alongside Allen -- and looked like he was blitzing.

Browns guard John Greco said the protection was focused to the side away from Gay, the Steelers' left.

“It’s just the kind of thing where we’re working one way and they brought one extra,” Greco said. “Just kind of timing. Didn’t get it off fast enough.”

Which would indicate that in that situation Campbell had to get the ball out quickly to his hot read. He didn’t.

Gay and Allen both blitzed, and running back Chris Ogbonnaya had to block the guy closest to the quarterback -- Allen.

Gay made Campbell pay. But even in making a good play, Gay hit Campbell in the facemask.

Had the penalty been called, the Browns would have had a first down at the 24, with Brandon Weeden at quarterback.

Do they go on to win? Doubtful, considering the way the Steelers played.

Should the play have been flagged? Many less obvious flags have been thrown. It wasn’t a vicious hit. It was just a fast play in which Campbell flinched and Gay got his hand up.

But it also sent Campbell to the sidelines for the game with a concussion, which he could have received on the hit or when the back of his head hit the frozen field.

Either way, the no-call cost the the Browns possession, field position and a quarterback the believed in.

Cornerback Joe Haden said the injury deflated the team.

"You saw it," Haden said. "That's what happened."

It also led to a ton of frustration from a team that two weeks ago had hopes of getting into the mix of the AFC North race, but now is back in last place in the division.

“It’s how the tide turns, right?” said safety T.J. Ward.
The Cleveland Browns reached a long-term deal with an offensive lineman, but it's not the one everyone had expected.

The Browns agreed to terms on a five-year contract with guard John Greco, the team announced. Many thought the first lineman to be extended would be center Alex Mack.

This means Greco will be assured of the right guard spot on the top offensive line in the AFC North. Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao will compete for the left guard job.

“One of our goals," Browns CEO Joe Banner said, “is whenever possible to develop and keep our own players. We’re glad in this case that it worked out, and was mutually beneficial.”

Greco, 28, started 10 games at left guard last season when he replaced Pinkston, who had a blood clot in his lung. He established himself as a strong run blocker and moved to the right side during offseason camps this spring.

“John is a solid, all-around teammate on and off the field,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He was given an opportunity to play last year and really showed well. He’s respected in the locker room for his approach, consistency and team-first attitude.”

Greco was scheduled to make $800,000 in the final year of his deal.
Now that Carolina’s trade of Jeff Otah to the New York Jets has been voided because he couldn’t pass a physical, it might be a good time to revisit the 2008 draft as it pertains to offensive tackles and NFC South teams.

There’s an old school of thought that you’re not getting any sure things with an offensive tackle unless you take one in the top half of the first round. That, very much, holds true when you look back at what happened in 2008 and how the careers of the tackles have played out.

Otah
The No. 1 overall pick in that draft was Jake Long by Miami. He was viewed as a sure thing then and that’s turned out to be true. Long has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. Denver selected Ryan Clady at No. 11 overall and he’s been to two Pro Bowls.

After those two is when you start to see a drop off. Kansas City selected Branden Albert at No. 15. He’s started 60 games, but hasn’t been to any Pro Bowls. It’s a similar story for Gosder Cherilus, who went to Detroit at No. 17. He’s started a lot of games, but doesn’t have any real accolades on his résumé.

Now, we’re getting toward the back half of the first round where there’s an even bigger drop off and, sadly, that’s where the NFC South comes into the equation.

The Panthers already had drafted running back Jonathan Stewart, but they felt they really needed a tackle and they saw the good ones were coming off the board in rapid order. They made a trade to get Otah at No. 19. Otah was pretty good his first two seasons, but he was playing right tackle. You don’t need to reach for a right tackle (the Panthers had and still have Jordan Gross on the left side), and I think time has shown the Panthers reached on this one. Otah started having knee problems and played in only four games the past two years. At least for the moment, the Panthers hold his rights. But they’re ready to go with Byron Bell at right tackle and they have some depth behind him. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Panthers work out an injury settlement and release Otah. I would be surprised if he ever plays for Carolina again.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney has made a lot of good draft picks through the years. But the final verdict is in on Otah and he clearly was not a good draft pick.

The final verdict isn’t in on Sam Baker just yet. The Falcons still hope Baker can overcome injury problems and be their starting left tackle this season. If Baker doesn’t have a good season, then you can label him as a bad draft pick. At the time, a lot of people said the Falcons were reaching when they traded to get Baker at No. 21. That may turn out to be true in the final analysis.

But the Falcons wanted a left tackle to protect the blind side of quarterback Matt Ryan, who they selected third overall in that draft. They didn’t have the currency to move up any higher and there weren’t many other options. The only other tackle taken in the first round was Duane Brown by Houston at No. 26. He’s been a solid starter for the Texans, but the Falcons must have had Baker rated higher.

After Brown, no tackle was taken until the third round. John Greco went to St. Louis with the No. 65 overall pick. Chad Rinehart (Redskins) and Oniel Cousins (Ravens) were selected late in the third round. Greco has made four career starts. Rinehart spent two seasons in Washington before moving onto Buffalo, where he became a starter at guard last season. Cousins has made only five career starts.

The lesson here is pretty obvious. If you want an elite tackle, chances are good you’re not going to get one unless you’ve got a pick in the first half of the first round.
Three of the four AFC North teams need to add a wide receiver in free agency, but you wouldn't know it by the first hour of free agency. The division has been extremely quiet in what has been a fast-moving market for receivers.

Pierre Garcon, who I thought would be a good fit for the Browns, announced on his Facebook page that he will sign with the Washington Redskins. Robert Meachem, who has been linked to the Bengals, is scheduled to visit the Bills, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Other wide receivers could soon be off the market as well. According to Schefter, Vincent Jackson is negotiating with the Buccaneers, and Laurent Robinson is set to visit the Jaguars. Marques Colston didn't even make it to the free-agent market, re-signing with the Saints.

Other top free-agent receivers include Reggie Wayne, Brandon Lloyd and Mario Manningham. But Manningham told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the Browns are not on his radar.

How quiet has it been in the first hour of free agency for the AFC North? The biggest news in the division so far has been the Browns re-signing reserve offensive lineman John Greco.

The slow start isn't a surprise. The Steelers are limited by cap space. The Ravens have a history of waiting out the first wave of free agency. The Browns made it known that they weren't "going crazy" in free agency. And the Bengals have a lot of cap room, but they aren't known for being aggressive in free agency.
Some around here thought John Greco was more than ready to assume a starting role on the St. Louis Rams' offensive line.

"John Greco is much better than anyone realizes and will be a starting-caliber guard if they give him a chance," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said during a May discussion. "They should be excited about him. He doesn't have a discernible trait where he is a real masher or a wonderful technician or a great athlete, but he is good at all of the above and he really has a nasty streak to him. He is somebody to keep an eye on."

I don't think the Rams saw that nasty streak.

After landing Harvey Dahl in free agency and finding a way to keep Jacob Bell amid salary concerns, the team traded Greco to the Cleveland Browns. Adam Goldberg, the starting right guard in 2010, could still return in a backup role. But with Dahl in and Greco out, the line has undergone a massive overhaul since Steve Spagnuolo's arrival as head coach for the 2009 season.

Orlando Pace, Goldberg, Brett Romberg, Greco and Alex Barron were the starters in the final game before Spagnuolo's hiring. Cory Withrow and Roy Schuening were backups in that game. Bell, Richie Incognito and Anthony Davis were listed among inactive players. Bell is the only one of those 10 players still with the team.

The projected starting five this season -- Rodger Saffold, Bell, Jason Brown, Dahl and Jason Smith -- each started all 16 regular-season games last season (Dahl was with Atlanta).
Esteemed espn_nfcwest Twitter follower Big_B_39 was on the right track early Friday afternoon when he wondered whether Harvey Dahl's signing in St. Louis would affect Jacob Bell's status with the team.

Dahl plays right guard and Bell plays left, so Dahl's arrival does not affect Bell directly. But it was fair to wonder whether the Rams would want to pay Bell's full $6 million salary this season, particularly after investing significant amounts in the rest of the line as well.

The Rams did ask Bell to accept a pay cut. Bell told me Friday the sides couldn't reach an agreement and that the team will release him as a result. Bell plans to test the market. He also said the door remains open for a return to St. Louis.

The Rams appear set at every other position on the line. Rodger Saffold (left tackle), Jason Brown (center), Dahl (right guard) and Jason Smith (right tackle) are the projected starters. Bell started all 16 games last season and 13 games in each of the previous two seasons, his first with the Rams after signing as a free agent from Tennessee.

Bell received a $7 million signing bonus as part of his deal with the Rams. The contract was scheduled to pay him $6 million in base salary for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons. His contract was going to count more than $7 million against the salary cap this season.

Restricted free agent John Greco provides depth at guard for the Rams. He has four starts over the past three seasons. Adam Goldberg, an unrestricted free agent, was the starting right guard last season.
The St. Louis Rams got meaner Friday when they reached agreement with Atlanta Falcons guard Harvey Dahl on a four-year deal, as reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The move fills a void at right guard while giving the Rams what I would consider needed bite up front.

[+] EnlargeHarvey Dahl
Dale Zanine/US PresswireHarvey Dahl brings an attitude to the Rams offensive line that it often lacked last season.
Dahl is one of those offensive linemen who gets under opponents' skin, the type teammates love and opponents love to hate. Dahl ranks third among NFL offensive linemen since 2008 in penalties for personal fouls and unnecessary roughness, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In 2009, he drew then-San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Singletary into a verbal spat during a game. Singletary later apologized.

Adam Goldberg had been starting at right guard for the Rams, but he was best suited, in my view, as the type of versatile backup every team can use. Goldberg, an unrestricted free agent, gave the Rams flexibility through his ability to play guard or tackle.

Dahl was undrafted out of Nevada in 2005. He spent time with the 49ers in 2006 before working his way into the lineup with Atlanta.

Our Scouts Inc. Insider report on Dahl reads, in part, that Dahl "gives Atlanta a competitive, try-hard blocker on the inside. He has excellent dimensions for the position and is an adequate knee bender, but has limited lateral range and change-of-direction agility."

Dahl isn't likely to challenge for Pro Bowls, but he's going to challenge the defender in front of him. He's going to play with attitude. Again, the Rams can use that dimension up front. They had it for a while in Richie Incognito, but his over-the-edge behavior on the field became untenable.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. told me he thought the Rams would be fine turning over the right guard job to John Greco, a player Williamson considers vastly underrated. Greco probably has more talent than Dahl, but Dahl brings an edge the Rams can use on offense.

The Arizona Cardinals began the Ken Whisenhunt era by drafting an offensive tackle, Levi Brown, fifth overall in 2007.

No NFL team has allocated less draft capital for offensive linemen than Arizona in the subsequent three years, however. Whisenhunt has defended the line's play, particularly in relation to the team's struggles last season. But with all three interior starters unsigned for 2011, this could be the year for Arizona to restock through the draft.

By my calculations, the Cardinals had the oldest offensive linemen in the NFL last season, largely because they tended to have veteran backups.

The chart shows how much draft capital teams have allocated for their offensive lines since 2008. By draft capital, I'm talking about the cumulative draft-chart value for the draft choices used on the position.

For example, the St. Louis Rams used the 33rd overall choice of the 2010 draft for left tackle Rodger Saffold. The trade chart values that pick at 580 points. In 2009, the Rams used the second overall choice, valued at 2,600 points, for tackle Jason Smith. In 2008, the Rams used the 65th overall choice (265 points) for John Greco and the 157th overall choice (29.6 points) for Roy Schuening.

Add up those totals and the Rams have allocated a league-high 3,475 draft points for the offensive line over the last three drafts. The San Francisco 49ers, the only team to use more than two first-rounders on the position since 2007, rank third. The Seattle Seahawks are fourth after using the sixth overall choice for Russell Okung last year and a 2009 second-rounder for center Max Unger.

The trade-value chart isn't perfect. It might become more outdated depending on a how a proposed rookie wage scale affects how teams value early choices. At best, though, the values can provide a guide. And in this case, the guide says the Cardinals could stand to draft a lineman.

Matt Cassel among active Chiefs vs. Rams

December, 19, 2010
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ST. LOUIS -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has done little during warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome.

He might play anyway.

Cassel's name was not among the list of inactive players Kansas City submitted 90 minutes before kickoff. The Chiefs named Tyler Palko as their third quarterback. The Chiefs did not immediately disclose any lineup changes. Cassel or Brodie Croyle could start at quarterback.

Cassel has already missed one game since having an appendectomy. He practiced on a limited basis during the week and did not participate fully in warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday morning. Croyle and Palko threw intermediate routes to receivers running at full speed. Cassel tossed soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer while working off to the side.

The Chiefs' inactive list featured cornerback Mike Richardson, safety Ricky Price, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.

Inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, running back Kenneth Darby, fullback Mike Karney, linebacker David Nixon, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.

The situation at running back is a little troubling for the Rams. Darby is the top backup for Steven Jackson. The team has been naming Karney inactive by choice.

Rookie Keith Toston is the No. 2 running back behind Jackson.

Rams' Karney, Cards' Watson inactive

December, 5, 2010
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals named some healthy contributors inactive Sunday.

The Rams sat down fullback Mike Karney for a second consecutive week even though Karney was available to them. Brit Miller is getting some snaps at fullback in the base offense. Miller also offers more on special teams. The Rams have sometimes moved a tight end into the backfield for blocking help, although their preferred choice in that role, Mike Hoomanwanui, is inactive with an ankle injury.

The Cardinals named defensive lineman Gabe Watson inactive after their defensive front struggled badly against the San Francisco 49ers last week. Defensive end Calais Campbell, inactive with an ankle injury last week, is active Sunday. Watson had been active for the previous three games.

Also inactive for Arizona: receiver Max Komar, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker and center Ben Claxton. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Also inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Jerome Murphy, linebacker Bryan Kehl, guard John Greco and defensive tackle Darell Scott. Scott has been injured. Defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, inactive against Denver, is active for this game.

Making sense of major Week 10 injury news

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers announced their list of inactive players for Week 10 without making waves.

The situation was much different in Arizona, where the Cardinals named defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) inactive against Seattle. The Seahawks named left tackle Russell Okung inactive, no surprise but a significant development nonetheless.

A look at NFC West inactives:

Arizona Cardinals: Wells, Dockett, receiver Max Komar, cornerback A.J. Jefferson, safety Hamza Abdullah, linebacker Cyril Obiozor and center Ben Claxton. John Skelton is the third quarterback. Paris Lenon is starting at linebacker despite an ankle injury. Alan Branch starts for Dockett. Branch has played well this season; he had two sacks against the Seahawks earlier this season in a breakout game for him.

Seattle Seahawks: Okung, receiver Brandon Stokley, fullback Michael Robinson, guard Mike Gibson, receiver Golden Tate, nose tackle Colin Cole and defensive lineman E.J. Wilson. Gibson provided quality depth on the offensive line. Ruvell Martin is active at receiver while Stokley and Tate recover from injuries.

St. Louis Rams: cornerback Justin King, cornerback Quincy Butler, safety James Butler, tight end Fendi Onobun, linebacker David Vobora, guard John Greco, receiver Danario Alexander and defensive end Eugene Sims. The Rams are thin in the secondary, as usual, but the 49ers aren't likely to spread the field with wide receivers all afternoon, either.

San Francisco 49ers: receiver Kyle Williams, quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Tramaine Brock, linebacker Keaton Kristick, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Barry Sims, tackle Alex Boone and receiver Jason Hill. The 49ers are keeping four wide receivers active, the minimum. They are healthier at tight end.

Rams won't have to worry about Seymour

September, 19, 2010
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- The St. Louis Rams might be catching a break in Week 2.

Starters Robert Gallery, Michael Bush and Richard Seymour will not play for the Oakland Raiders. Gallery's absence weakens an already suspect offensive line. Bush, who would share time with Darren McFadden, remains sidelined. Seymour is the most established player on the Raiders' defensive line.

The Rams will be without starting defensive tackle Clifton Ryan, who did not make the trip after experiencing migraine headaches.

Inactive for Oakland: Walter McFadden, Hiram Eugene, Travis Goethel, Chaz Schilens, Seymour, Gallery and Bush. Former Rams backup Kyle Boller is the third quarterback.

The Rams released third quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to help them juggle injury issues in the secondary. Cornerbacks Justin King and Kevin Dockery are inactive, as are Fendi Onobun, Chris Chamberlain, Brandon Gibson, John Greco, Michael Hoomanawanui and Ryan.

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