NFL Nation: Senior Bowl

ST. LOUIS -- As college football 'All Star' games go, this week's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., is the most well regarded among NFL teams.

Senior Bowl week began in earnest Monday morning with the weigh-ins for the players and will really get rolling Monday afternoon with the first pair of practices for the two teams. From a St. Louis Rams' perspective, this week represents the culmination of the first phase of the offseason, the aptly named 'All Star' season as general manager Les Snead likes to call it.

With the Medal of Honor game, the East-West Shrine game and the NFLPA bowl all in the books, all that's left is the Senior Bowl. For the Rams, it's a game that's been quite meaningful since Snead began leading the scouting and drafting efforts.

In 2012, the Rams drafted cornerback Janoris Jenkins, receiver Brian Quick and running back Isaiah Pead after they appeared in Mobile. Safety T.J. McDonald became a third-round pick for the Rams last year after playing in the game.

For the better part of the past month, Snead and his staff have been working through this phase by using the college all-star games to confirm or possibly bolster grades for different players who will be available in the coming draft.

"As an example, if we've got a guy that's a college free agent, and all of a sudden he's getting a lot of checks through this offseason process, then we may go take a separate guy and go watch him from his game tape," Snead said. "And go, you know what, we may have missed and let's move him up."

The Senior Bowl is generally populated with players expected to land higher in the pecking order than college free agents or the seventh round, though some of those players do make their way to Mobile. This year's roster took some major hits late with players opting out by choice or by injury. The record-setting proliferation of underclassmen to declare also will likely keep the number of Senior Bowl players to land in the first round lower than usual.

That doesn't mean the game can't be a springboard for some. Last year was a perfect example, especially for players from a smaller school who might not see top competition every week.

"Eric Fisher last year, that Senior Bowl helped him," Snead said. "He goes from Central Michigan, and really, he probably had played Michigan State. Each of those schools play somebody good, and then all of a sudden he goes down there and has a good Senior Bowl against some better comp, and I'm sure that helped him rise. It really didn't say, 'Hey, make him a first-rounder,' but all of sudden he's a top 5-10 pick."

Each team varies in how it chooses to approach the game. The Rams will have their entire scouting staff in attendance and since they already have what they call the "Ram grades" on each player, each scout will be assigned a position to watch. From there, they'll use the opportunity to sort of cross-check what they've already seen. Likewise, they'll also make time to talk to many of the prospects in attendance, even if just for a few moments.

It's unlikely that the week of practices will do enough to cause a major shakeup of the Rams' general idea of players, but there's certainly value to be found in the game.

"We've got a little system, a process that we grade the practices and the game, that are totally separate from their team grade going into this whole process," Snead said. "So what may happen in this whole deal is you may have a guy where it says take him in the sixth round, take him in the seventh round, college free agent, all of a sudden he's got those checks for good all-star game, good practice. And we've got a lot of other different factors that we'll do that with. And all of a sudden you look at this guy and here's this name amongst 20 others but he's got six out of 10 checks. The other guy only has one, well maybe that breaks the tie. So that's a little bit what the all-star game can do."

Ranking the Jags' QB interest

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars are looking for a quarterback and will have a chance to get a close look at six next week in preparation for the Reese's Senior Bowl. Derek Carr, David Fales and Jimmy Garoppolo are on the South team, which the Jaguars will coach. So those three will be scrutinized more than the other three, but the Jaguars are going to get a chance to scout them all.

Here's an educated guess on how they rank in terms of Jaguars interest:

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesFresno State's Derek Carr has the size and passing yards that scouts like.
Derek Carr (Fresno State): He was once regarded as a first-round pick but his stock has fallen in the wake of a poor performance against USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: 29-for-54, 216 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. Still, he led FBS in passing yards (5,082) and touchdown passes (50) and has the size (6-foot-3, 218) that scouts like. He played in a spread offense so there are questions about his ability to function in a pro offense and whether he can read defenses.

Tajh Boyd (Clemson): He finished his career with a bang, completing 31 of 40 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions in the Tigers' 40-35 victory over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl. He's a little shorter than the ideal QB height (6-1) but he has the ability to scramble out of trouble and run with the ball (1,163 yards and 26 TDs rushing). Sometimes he's too quick to run, though, instead of trying to find a second or third option.

David Fales (San Jose State): Fales and Carr each threw for 300 or more yards nine times and Fales finished third in FBS with 4,189 yards. He has a quick release and has shown that he will look for his second and third options if his primary receiver is covered. He's a little raw, though, and probably isn't going to be a quarterback who can play right away. He may need a season or two.

Stephen Morris (Miami): The Jaguars are likely more familiar with Morris than any other quarterback because offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch was with Morris at Miami for two seasons. There's a lot to like about him. He's 6-2 and 218 pounds with a strong arm. He's tough, athletic, and can make all the throws. However, he has been inconsistent throughout his career, especially when he plays against some of the weaker teams that he and the Canes should dominate. He also makes too many of those what-the-heck decisions that drive coaches crazy.

Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois): He was added to the South roster as a replacement for A.J. McCarron and is coming off a week of practices before the East-West Shrine game in which he drew a lot of praise. He has been productive (5,050 yards and 53 TD passes this season) but he did it at the FCS level so there are questions about whether he can do it against a higher level of competition. The buzz about him at Shrine game practices centered on his accuracy, arm strength, and quick release.

Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech): His size (6-6, 254 pounds), athleticism and arm strength have scouts drooling and comparing him to Cam Newton physically. His production doesn't match his talent, though. He has completed only 55.5 percent of his passes in his career and has thrown 53 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions. He's a project, but the payoff could be high if he finally figures things out.
It's waaaaaay too early for 2013 predictions. But Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is not afraid to set high expectations for his young team next season.

"That’s our goal -- win the division and ultimately put us in the playoffs," Ireland told reporters this week at the Senior Bowl. "That’s our goal every year, [and] that’s going to be our goal going into next season, is win the division. Again, we’ve got a gap to close. But I think a good offseason can certainly do that. Absolutely."

The "gap" Ireland was referring to was with the New England Patriots. The reigning AFC East champions swept Miami this year, which included a 28-0 victory for the Patriots in the regular-season finale. The loss capped a 7-9 season for the Dolphins.

Miami's 2012 season had some ups and downs. But a mostly competitive year and the development of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has Miami optimistic about its immediate future. The Dolphins also could have more than $40 million in cap room this offseason and five draft picks in the first three rounds.

The Dolphins are in prime position to make a jump if Ireland plays the right cards. Miami will be a major player in free agency and have enough draft picks to still stock the roster with top college talent. This offseason's moves will affect the direction of the Dolphins for the next few years.

"This is a big offseason for us, we understand that," Ireland said. "We plan to be active in every aspect of the avenues that are available to us. We look forward to making some exciting news here before too long."

Report: No early return for Payton

January, 5, 2013
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All those New Orleans fans hoping suspended coach Sean Payton will be reinstated soon might as well forget about that possibility.

In fact, Payton might not be back on duty quite as soon as originally anticipated. The early word was that he could return to work immediately after the Super Bowl.

But ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t expected to meet with Payton before the Super Bowl. Schefter’s report also said that Payton won’t be allowed to apply for reinstatement until the day after the Super Bowl.

Even if Goodell moves quickly on the reinstatement process, it’s not likely Payton will be allowed back to work until at least a few days after the Super Bowl.

That could put Payton at a disadvantage if he’s going to make any changes to his coaching staff. Many moves already are taking part around the league, and the final wave usually comes at the Senior Bowl in late January.

But Payton won’t be allowed to attend the Senior Bowl, and that could put him in a difficult spot to make any staff changes. The Saints might be better off to let interim head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis make any changes before Payton’s eligible to return.

Ryan Tannehill getting back on track

February, 14, 2012
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- The boot was off Tuesday and Ryan Tannehill's right arm looked just fine.

The Texas A&M product, who is considered one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2012 NFL draft, said the foot injury that forced him to miss the Senior Bowl is healing fast. Tannehill said he will head to Indianapolis for the scouting combine next week and will go through medical testing and meeting with teams, but will not participate in any of the on-field drills.

Tannehill said he’ll save that for his pro-day workout in late March when he expects to be 100-percent healthy. Tannehill had been in a walking boot until recent days after having surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal a little more than three weeks ago.

The surgery was performed in Charlotte by Carolina Panthers team physician Robert Anderson, one of the best-known foot specialists in the sports world.

“Dr. Anderson basically put a screw in there,’’ Tannehill said. “It’s locked down and I shouldn’t have any problems going forward.’’

Tannehill will stay out of the physical part of the combine, but he wasn’t holding back on the field Tuesday at IMG Football Academy, where he’s taking part in pre-combine training with about 30 other draft prospects.

After fellow quarterbacks Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) and Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) finished the on-field portion of their workday, Tannehill remained on the field for about 15 minutes getting one-on-one work with former Carolina quarterback Chris Weinke, who runs IMG’s football operations. Tannehill said the fracture happened during a January workout at IMG, but Anderson told him it probably was the result of a pre-existing stress fracture.

Tannehill said he plans to come directly back to Bradenton after the combine and begin doing more intense on-field work with Weinke.

“We’ll come back and push it pretty hard,’’ Tannehill said. “I’m thinking I should be getting close to 100 percent by right after the combine and we’ll really jump into the on-field stuff then to make up for the time I missed and get ready for pro day.’’

Tannehill has been mentioned as a possible first-round pick by some draft experts. Last year, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Minnesota’s Christian Ponder came to IMG to work with Weinke and both ended up starting as rookies.

"I knew that Cam and Christian worked with coach Weinke and he helped elevate them,’’ Tannehill said. “That’s what you look for in a QB coach is someone who can take you to the next level. We lost a little time because of the foot, but we’ll make up for it.’’

(Note: I'll have much more from my visit to IMG, including features on some top prospects over the coming days.)

Bucs' search approaching crunch time

January, 23, 2012
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I’ve been saying all along the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been wise to move slowly in their coaching search.

They promised an exhaustive search and they’re coming through on that. It appeared to be ending Sunday night when the Bucs reportedly were working out a contract to bring in Oregon coach Chip Kelly. But that changed Monday morning when the news broke that Kelly had decided to pull out and stay at Oregon.

The Bucs have interviewed at least eight other known candidates and only one of them, Joe Philbin who wound up with the Miami job, is off the market. It’s possible the Bucs could want to interview some more candidates that have been tied up with the postseason and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell could be one of them.

But the Bucs are approaching a point where continuing to be exhaustive can be counterproductive. The week of Senior Bowl practices starts Monday in Mobile, Ala. It’s not imperative the Bucs have their new coach there to see the college prospects. The scouting department can handle that.

However, the Bucs are getting close to running the risk of putting their new coach at a big disadvantage. For those who haven’t been to the Senior Bowl, let me describe it a bit.

Sure, it’s about the players. This is the first real step in beginning to determine where they’ll be ranked on draft boards. But the Senior Bowl is more than that. It’s also a convention for coaches and there’s as much networking going on there as there is at a job fair.

When John Fox was about to get the Carolina job back in 2002, I watched him on the sidelines during Senior Bowl practices. Coach after coach walked up to him and handed him their business card or a piece of paper with their name on it.

Later in the week, I sat with Fox and his agent in the Mobile airport, waiting for a flight to Charlotte. As we talked, Fox pulled out the stack of cards, he had received. I’m guessing the total amount of cards was somewhere around 200. A day or two later, Fox was hired and there’s no doubt he called some of the numbers on those cards as he filled out his staff.

Cards are being handed out in Mobile right now as teams with new coaches try to fill their staffs and other teams try to patch holes on existing staffs and the supply of coaches without jobs is going to dwindle very soon.

The Bucs, Raiders and Colts currently still have vacancies for head coaches. If the Bucs don’t hire a coach soon, he’s not going to have a deep pool of candidates to hire as assistants. Putting together a strong staff is one of the most important things a coach does.

Former Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris hired an initial staff that included Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator and Jim Bates as defensive coordinator. Jagodzinski was fired before the end of Morris' first preseason and Bates was gone by the middle of that season. One of the knocks on Morris in league circles was he didn't have a very good group of assistant coaches.

The Bucs have pledged to learn from past mistakes. But, if they don't hire a coach soon, they may once again end up with a group of assistants that's less than stellar.
I’m just looking at the latest on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching search and starting to wonder if the Bucs are trying to set some sort of record.

The latest is the Bucs will interview Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and quarterbacks Tom Clements at some point soon. The Bucs are interviewing Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzkinski on Tuesday.

The Bucs previously interviewed former NFL head coaches Mike Sherman, Marty Schottenheimer and Brad Childress as well as Tennessee defensive coordinator Jerry Gray.

Check my math here, but assuming the Bucs do interview Clements and Philbin, that will bring the number of interviews to eight. And that also is assuming the media as reported every coach who has interviewed. We chase these things like crazy, but sometimes an interview or two can slip through the cracks. The Bucs also could decide to interview more candidates that are still involved in the playoffs. There’s been some speculation about New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell possibly being a candidate.

But, for now, the number will stand at eight, probably later this week. I seriously think that might be some kind of record. ESPN Stats & Information does a wonderful job, but does not keep numbers on how many candidates have interviewed for any given job throughout history.

I’ve been through a few coaching searches in my day. Generally speaking, most teams interview three or four candidates and I think five is the highest number I’ve ever seen.

But I’m not seeing any huge drawback with Tampa Bay’s methodical approach. Indications are, the Bucs could narrow their list and bring back a few candidates for second interviews. That makes it sound like we might not see a hire for at least another week.

Assistant coaches are being hired all over the league and the Bucs may be missing out on some good candidates. But there still are lots of other assistants available. The East-West Shrine Game is this week and the Senior Bowl is next week.

Ideally, you’d like to have your full coaching staff in place for those two events, so the coaches can get a good look at the college prospects. But any assistant that’s available will be at the Senior Bowl and will be watching players on their own.

Besides, the coaching staffs aren’t the ones who do the bulk of the work at the college all-star games. The scouting staff does that.

Yeah, there comes a point when coaches need to start evaluating the current roster and getting ready for free agency. But, as long as Tampa Bay has its staff in place by the end of the month, there’s plenty of time for that.

I know a lot of Tampa Bay fans are looking at the candidates and saying there’s no one with a “wow factor." That’s true, but was there anybody with a “wow factor’’ out there to begin with? Maybe Jeff Fisher, who ended up in St. Louis. But Fisher is a good, but not tremendous coach and his stock was elevated in a year when Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy and a few other big names refused to join the league-wide candidate pool.

The Bucs aren’t going for the “wow factor" and there’s nothing wrong with that. The deliberate approach might be the right thing. Maybe the Bucs will get a coach who is the right fit. Then, two years down the road or so, maybe fans will say “wow’’ at what that guy has done.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As the Carolina Panthers were preparing to make Cam Newton the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, we talked several times about how the climate in the offices of Bank of America Stadium was changing.

Heck, the Panthers gave a pretty good indication of that before the lockout when they signed tight end Jeremy Shockey. Newton and Shockey would have been the kind of players the old Panthers wouldn’t have gone near.

Newton’s a quarterback and former coach John Fox didn’t believe in drafting quarterbacks early because he thought they took too long to develop. Even with Fox out of the equation, there were reports about possible background issues for Newton, and the Panthers generally have stayed away from guys with checkered pasts. The current regime did its homework on Newton’s past and it didn’t stop them from taking him. But, even as a pure football decision, taking Newton didn’t come with any guarantees.

That’s a break from the past, when the Panthers almost always went with the safe or conservative choice. Shockey, who is aging and more than a little flamboyant, also wouldn’t have fit the old profile.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Hogan
Mark Zerof/US PresswireCornerback Brandon Hogan had several off-the-field issues at West Virginia.
But times have changed and the latest evidence of that came in the fourth round when Carolina drafted West Virginia cornerback Brandon Hogan. He’s a guy with a rather-lengthy history of off-field issues and is also coming off major knee surgery.

Back in the old days, there was a running joke between scouts around the league and scouts for the Panthers.

When they’d all get together at the Senior Bowl, combine or college pro days, the topic of some prospect with character issues would often come up. The Carolina scouts would say there was no way they could touch a guy with major issues because owner Jerry Richardson simply wouldn’t allow it.

The other scouts would almost always fire back with something like, “What about Steve Smith?’’ and the Carolina scouts would roll their eyes about the one guy who was the exception to a lot of rules in Carolina.

Now, it sounds as if Smith might be traded as soon as trades are allowed. But that doesn’t mean the topic of character issues will go away with him. More than ever, or at least since the days of Kerry Collins and Rae Carruth, it looks like the Panthers have opened their doors to guys who come with some questions.

Seven-step drop: Steelers' experience

January, 31, 2011
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- As Super Bowl week officially kicks off for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers on Monday, here are seven notes and observations on the division:

  • [+] EnlargeMike Tomlin
    Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMike Tomlin is taking the Steelers to their second Super Bowl in three years.
    Super Bowl experience should be an advantage for Pittsburgh, not only in the game, but in the way the team prepares during the week. For most Steelers players, this is their second trip to the Super Bowl. For some veterans like Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior and Troy Polamalu, this is their third opportunity. The two-week break and enormous hype can be very distracting for teams, and Green Bay is much more likely to fall victim this week. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin also got his first Super Bowl experience out of the way two years ago and will surely tighten things up in his preparation the second time around.
  • Expect some retirement speculation with the Steelers, although I'm not sure they will entertain it. Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Ward will be at the center of it. LeBeau, 73, said three years ago that he's coaching on a year-to-year basis, and now he has a chance to go out on top. LeBeau also is in the final year of his contract with Pittsburgh. Ward said in the offseason that another Super Bowl title would make his career complete and he would retire. But last week Ward downplayed those comments and said he hasn't thought about retirement. Both will be asked to revisit the topic in Texas.
  • With Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) sidelined, it's time to start thinking about who will take his spot on Sunday's 45-man roster. It could be as simple as making defensive end Aaron Smith active. Smith has missed the past 12 games, including playoffs, following triceps surgery and is listed as questionable. If Smith cannot go, the Steelers will likely take on another offensive lineman such as Tony Hills or Chris Scott to provide depth.
  • It's never a good thing when your quarterback is making disparaging remarks toward the organization, which is what Joe Flacco did recently to the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco was not happy about the firing of quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, and Flacco took it as a personal shot at his performance. Flacco's perception is inaccurate since he put up career highs in yards (3,622), touchdowns (25) and quarterback rating (93.6) this season. But the offense could have done better and probably had too many voices, which is why the Ravens never established one identity and one direction this season. Flacco is a major part of the Ravens, and the organization needs to do a better job of communicating these things to its starting quarterback so there is no confusion or public rifts in the future.
  • In other AFC North drama, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has to deal with an unexpected problem this offseason. Now that he's finished coaching the Senior Bowl, Lewis has to return to Cincinnati and immediately address the morale of his team, which appears very low. Franchise quarterback Carson Palmer wants out and is threatening to retire. That's a huge blow to the Bengals, because it creates a dark cloud of uncertainty over the entire team. This could also impact free agents coming or staying with the Bengals. Cincinnati already is coming off a 4-12 season, which is tough enough, and it will be Lewis' job to convince Palmer and others the team is still heading in the right direction. Based on Palmer's reaction this offseason, that looks like a hard sell.
  • You can pretty much rule out Washington quarterback Jake Locker as a possibility for the Bengals. By all accounts, Locker had a bad week at the Senior Bowl, which will drop his stock a considerable distance from Cincinnati's No. 4 overall pick. Even with Palmer's situation, the Bengals still may not draft a quarterback in the first round because they have other needs. But if Cincinnati considers it, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert seems to be the only possibility currently in the top four.
  • Speaking of the draft, I'm starting to believe the Cleveland Browns will go offense early this year. President Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur are both offensive coaches, and I have a hard time believing this pair wants to spend another year with the same talent deficit it had on that side of the football. Cleveland helped the defense last year by spending its first two picks on cornerback Joe Haden and safety T.J. Ward. Both were good selections. But if there's an equally-rated player available at No. 6 on offense and defense, my feeling is the Browns will break the tie on offense and want to help that side of the football more this offseason.

Could Panthers go with CB at No. 1?

January, 26, 2011
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Conventional wisdom is that the Carolina Panthers will take a quarterback, defensive end or defensive tackle with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Since it is January, none of the NFC South teams are in the Super Bowl and we have no idea how the league’s labor situation will play out, let’s play around a bit with conventional wisdom and have some fun.

[+] EnlargePeterson
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswirePatrick Peterson is projected to be the first cornerback taken in April's draft.
LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson was scheduled to meet with the Panthers at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. For perspective, let’s remember that virtually all draft prospects meet with virtually every team at the Senior Bowl or combine and some get invited to private interviews as the draft gets closer. For more perspective, Peterson also is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans Saints, who hold the 24th overall pick, at some point this week.

Now, let’s veer away from perspective a bit and ask the thought-provoking question: Could Peterson be the No. 1 choice in the draft? It’s at least possible.

Peterson is a very good cornerback and a lot of draft experts currently have him rated among the top 10 overall players, with some ranking him in the top five. It’s pretty much universally accepted that Peterson will be the top cornerback taken. But teams often frown on using the No. 1 overall pick on a cornerback.

Would the Panthers fall into that category? Maybe and maybe not.

Quarterback is their biggest need, but it remains to be seen if Carolina will deem Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert or any other quarterback worthy of the top pick.

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley would seem to be the safe choice. He plays a position where the Panthers have a need and most experts have him rated either at the top or very close to it. Then, there is Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Opinions on him are similar to those of Fairley. Defensive end isn’t as great a need for the Panthers after the emergence of Charles Johnson this season, but Bowers still would have to be a consideration.

But cornerback also could be a need position for the Panthers. They’ve got some decisions to make on Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall. Gamble has a big contract, but fell into the doghouse of former coach John Fox last season. It’s not known yet how new coach Ron Rivera feels about Gamble. What is certain is Marshall didn’t endear himself to the front office by seeking a big contract extension before last season. There haven’t been any changes in the front office, so it’s unlikely the feelings toward Marshall have changed.

That means the Panthers could be looking for one or two cornerbacks this offseason. If Peterson impresses throughout the interview process and continues to impress on the field, he could be a consideration for the Panthers at No. 1.
The Carolina Panthers, just like every other team in the NFL, are out in force this week in Mobile, Ala. They’re there to watch Senior Bowl practices and they have coaches, front-office people and scouts watching the quarterbacks closely.

But it’s not very likely the Panthers are seeing anyone worth taking with the first overall pick in the draft at the Senior Bowl. Washington’s Jake Locker is probably the biggest name there and he’s considered a first-round pick by some draft experts, but he would need a huge week at the Senior Bowl and strong showings at the combine and in private workouts to have any shot at being No. 1 overall.

The top quarterbacks in this year’s draft are all coming out of college early and the Panthers will have to wait to see Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Arkanas’ Ryan Mallett in person because only seniors are allowed to participate in the college all-star games. Carolina officials will have to wait until the combine or private workouts to see Gabbert, Newton and Mallett in action.

The other quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl are Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, TCU’s Andy Dalton, Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Florida State’s Christian Ponder.

The Panthers also were at the East-West Shrine Game last week. The quarterbacks in that game were Delaware’s Patrick Devlin, Navy’s Ricky Dobbs, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson, Idaho’s Nathan Enderle and Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien.

Tebow mania expected in Indy

February, 26, 2010
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INDIANAPOLIS -- University of Florida's Tim Tebow is expected to be among the quarterbacks interviewing with the media Friday at the NFL combine.

Tebow
Tebow
This means a lot of hype and a lot of stern questions will come Tebow's way.

Tebow has been a lightning rod for discussion during the NFL draft process. He is arguably the most accomplished collegiate player of all time, yet many question if Tebow's skills will translate at the NFL level.

Expect Tebow to be grilled on his delivery, his poor performance at the Senior Bowl, and his choice not to throw at the combine. Currently Tebow is working on changing his mechanics in an attempt to improve his draft stock. The next time he will throw in front of scouts will be during his individual workout.

Either way, it should be an interesting day in Indianapolis with Tebow as one of the headliners. Other high-profile quarterbacks scheduled to meet with the media Friday include future first-round picks Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame.

Morning take: Browns get GM

January, 26, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC North:

Morning take: It's about time. The Senior Bowl has come and gone, but at least the Browns will be at full strength for the combine next month.

  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs wants the power trio of himself, Ray Lewis and Bart Scott to remain with the team next season.

Morning take: Suggs even hinted at a hometown discount, which sounds good in January. But when it's time to negotiate a player's future on the open market, reality usually sets in.

  • In more Ravens news, it appears the team will announce soon that linebackers coach Greg Mattison will be promoted to defensive coordinator to replace Rex Ryan.

Morning take: Mattison has huge shoes to fill as the last three defensive coordinators in Baltimore have moved on to become head coaches. It will be interesting to see how much the scheme changes or remains the same.

  • As former college teammates at Michigan, LaMarr Woodley and Steve Breaston are making an impact for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.

Morning take: It's low-profile draft picks like these that help teams reach the Super Bowl. Woodley was a second-round pick and Breaston was a fifth rounder in 2007.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Greetings on a warm morning in the Valley of the Sun, although the sun hasn't come up yet, making it hard to confirm we're in a valley. Anyway, let's hit the best reads of the NFC North before hopping on a plane here at Sky Harbor Airport. (Thanks for the wireless, by the way.)

  • Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times recalls that Arizona assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm was once a candidate for the Bears' top job. Grimm famously referred to the Bears' owners as the "McClaskey" family.
  • John Niyo of the Detroit News sets up the Lions' week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where they will be scouting draft prospects and also seeking assistant coaches.
  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press asks the $64 million question: If the Arizona Cardinals can make the Super Bowl, why can't the Lions?
  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Philadelphia would not have let defensive backs coach Sean McDermott out of his contract to allow him to interview for the Packers' defensive coordinator job. The Packers decided to hire Dom Capers on Sunday night for the job.
  • Minnesota defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spoke to the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press about his failure to land a head coaching job this offseason. Said Frazier: "I did everything I could do. I'm honestly not disappointed because I have such a good job here with the Vikings."

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