NFL Nation: Thaddeus Gibson

It took until the fifth round, but the Titans finally added a defensive end.

At LSU, Lavar Edwards worked largely behind Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery. Mingo was the fifth pick in the draft by the Browns and Montgomery went to Houston in the third round.

Edwards lasted until the 142nd overall pick, but will find opportunity to be the third end in Tennessee. After starters Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, the Titans have no established pass-rusher in a group composed of Keyunta Dawson, Ropati Pitoitua, Scott Solomon and Thaddeus Gibson.

The Titans are expecting senior assistant defensive coach Gregg Williams will help the rush, and they will blitz more with outside linebackers Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown.

But Morgan and Wimbley each played 80 percent of the Titans' defensive snaps next year, and that’s too much.

Edwards is 6-foot-4, 277 pounds and might be able to start off by playing on some run-defense downs, easing the workload of the two starters.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few thoughts after watching the San Francisco 49ers practice in pads for most of their three-hour afternoon session Monday:

  • This was the crispest, most efficient practice I've seen while visiting NFC West camps over the past week. Coach Jim Harbaugh was everywhere, including deep inside the offensive huddle. The 49ers practiced with purpose. Harbaugh called this the best 49ers practice since camp opened. There was frequent give-and-take between offense and defense. Newly signed receiver Braylon Edwards dominated at times in the red zone. Fans in attendance cheered his every move, no matter how ordinary. Edwards' overhead touchdown grab against cornerback Tramaine Brock was a highlight.
  • [+] EnlargeBraylon Edwards
    Kelley L Cox/US PresswireBraylon Edwards was a fan favorite at 49ers practice on Monday.
  • First-round pick Aldon Smith looks the part. Does anyone in the NFL have longer arms? He might be able to adjust his knee-high football socks without leaning over. Smith didn't do much in the limited one-on-one pass-rush drills I watched. He ran into double-team blocks during a team session. The sample size was small.
  • Fans groaned audibly whenever quarterback Alex Smith or receiver Ted Ginn Jr. messed up. Fans also cheered when Smith rolled right and threw a long touchdown pass for Ginn with Patrick Willis nearby in coverage. Also, Ginn caught the ball cleanly time after time while fielding tricky punts in windy conditions.
  • This wouldn't have been a 49ers practice without Smith finding tight end Vernon Davis for a long touchdown over the middle.
  • Linebacker Thaddeus Gibson repeatedly won battles during one-on-one pass-rush drills. He beat rookie Donovan Edwards twice in a row, then beat starting right tackle Anthony Davis to the inside. Davis won the rematch. Gibson later came up short in coverage against speedy tight end Delanie Walker. Ahmad Brooks beat Davis for a would-be sack in team drills.
  • Rookie cornerback Cory Nelms got his hands on the football in coverage, including when he jumped a pass from Jeremiah Masoli to receiver Kevin Jurovich, picking off the ball. Jurovich also dropped a deep ball, as did rookie receiver Ronald Johnson. Nelms nearly picked off rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but he couldn't hold onto the ball.
  • One of the biggest collisions involved Willis and running back Frank Gore meeting on a running play up the middle. This was a draw.
  • Receiver Kyle Williams, sidelined by a toe injury early last season, was limping at times during practice after appearing to take a wrong step while running a route. He was clearly frustrated but managed to fight through whatever was bothering him. He finished practice.
  • Kaepernick showed off his speed on a bootleg that fooled the backup defense for a touchdown. More thoughts to come on Kaepernick after watching him over the next couple days.

One more note: Harbaugh plans for his starters to play 20-plus snaps against New Orleans in the exhibition opener Friday. The 49ers are back on the practice field Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. PT.
The Arizona Cardinals' running game should perk up this season if Beanie Wells revisits the hard-charging form he flashed during his rookie season two years ago.

The passion Wells showed Monday in defending his former college coach wouldn't hurt, either.

Wells, one of 11 NFC West players from Ohio State, took Jim Tressel's scandal-induced resignation hard. The third-year Cardinals runner called Tressel a "great man" who imparted life lessons upon his players. The way Wells sees things, if Tressel lied about his players' roles in the scandal, he did so only out of honor.

Wells punctuated his tweets with exclamation points, making good on his promise to "go off" while criticism against Tressel piled up.

"It's not his fault at all that he had a few go stray out of hundreds!!!" Wells wrote. "U check the success rate of the people that have been around him!!!!"

According to Wells, Tressel stepped up to help players from disadvantaged backgrounds, becoming more than just a coach to them.

Wells is among 10 current NFC West players from Ohio State, but the only one playing for the Cardinals.

All but St. Louis Rams linebacker Na'il Diggs and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Nate Clements played for Tressel. The NFC West players from Ohio State: Clements, Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Alex Boone and Thaddeus Gibson from the 49ers; Jay Richardson from the Seattle Seahawks; Diggs, Jermale Hines, Larry Grant and James Laurinaitis from the Rams.

Laurinaitis reportedly used the term "sad day" to describe the events Monday. Smith was once suspended for accepting money from a booster when Tressel was coach.

Seahawks without top receivers vs. 49ers

December, 12, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Seattle Seahawks named injured receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu inactive Sunday.

Playing without Williams, in particular, puts the Seahawks at a significant deficit as they try to improve their NFC West record to 4-1 against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Williams' presence on third down, in particular, helps the Seahawks sustain drives. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has played at a higher level lately -- more confidently, more efficiently -- with Williams in the lineup.

Seattle might now need to rely more heavily on its ground game. The ground game showed improvement against Carolina last week. The 49ers are allowing 3.6 yards per carry on the ground, however. That is the third-best average for any defense in the NFL this season.

Also inactive for Seattle: guard Breno Giacomini, guard Chester Pitts, tackle William Robinson, defensive lineman Amon Gordon and defensive lineman Jay Richardson. J.P. Losman is the third quarterback.

The 49ers' inactive players: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, running back DeShawn Wynn, cornerback William James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback.

Hitting key points on MNF inactive lists

November, 29, 2010
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wide receiver Steve Breaston is active for the Arizona Cardinals despite his questionable status on the injury report.

Teammates Calais Campbell and Greg Toler, both starters on defense, will miss the Cardinals' game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both were named inactive. Alan Branch starts for Campbell (injured ankle) at defensive end. Michael Adams starts for Toler (foot) at right cornerback.

Toler had struggled some before suffering the injury. Adams is tenacious, but he lacks size.

Breaston will play despite a knee injury. Versatile running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is also active for the Cardinals. A hamstring injury sidelined him against Kansas City last week. Stephens-Howling has dynamic skills as a kickoff returner. The Cardinals use him as a running back and wide receiver on offense. He's particularly useful to them on second down, often with fullback Jason Wright and three wide receivers.

Inactive for the 49ers: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback Williams James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, left tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback. Barry Sims starts at left tackle for the 49ers. He was steady in relief last season, but perhaps a bit rusty against Tampa Bay last week. His matchup against the Cardinals' Joey Porter could be worth monitoring.

Inactive for the Cardinals: receiver Max Komar, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker, center Ben Claxton, Campbell and Toler. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

Making sense of major Week 10 injury news

November, 14, 2010
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.

Steelers at Dolphins inactives

October, 24, 2010
MIAMI -- Here are the inactive players for Sunday's game here between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins:

Pittsburgh Steelers
Miami Dolphins

Mel Kiper's AFC North draft grades

April, 25, 2010
I'm not big on grading an NFL draft 24 hours after it's complete. But I know a lot of people are.

So we bring in ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper to do the heavy lifting and provide his evaluations for the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's draft grade: A

Analysis: Only two teams received the highest grade possible from Kiper, and the Ravens were one of them. To fully appreciate what Baltimore did in the draft, you have to consider the team began the week with just five draft picks. Then the Ravens shrewdly traded out of the first round with the Denver Broncos for three picks later in the draft, and that's when the Ravens went to work. Kiper loves the second-round selections of linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody. Kiper also believes the team grabbed a pair of quality tight end prospects in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Baltimore acquired as much talent as anyone without having a single selection in the first 42 picks.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's draft grade: B

Analysis: Kiper doesn't believe the Steelers drafted any huge impact players. But he liked the solid acquisitions, which resulted in a solid grade. I haven't seen anyone so far who doesn't like the choice of first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey. The former Florida center seems like a perfect fit in Pittsburgh's interior offensive line and should bring toughness to that unit. Linebackers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson were risky in terms of need, but Kiper believes they can help for now on special teams. Kiper highlighted running back Jonathan Dwyer as a possible sleeper.

Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's draft grade: C

Analysis: Outside of the opening pick of tight end Jermaine Gresham, Kiper wasn't all that impressed with the Bengals' draft. Kiper, like most draft experts, believes defensive end Carlos Dunlap is a boom-or-bust player who underachieved despite great physical tools. Third-round cornerback Brandon Ghee potentially could help in sub packages against multiple-receiver sets, where Cincinnati struggled last season. No mention of receiver Jordan Shipley from Kiper. But he does think former Kansas receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who was taken in the sixth round, might surprise.

Cleveland Browns

Kiper's draft grade: C

Analysis: The first draft of the Mike Holmgren era in Cleveland also received an average grade from Kiper. He praised the pick of cornerback Joe Haden at No. 7 overall. But otherwise Kiper felt safety T.J. Ward and tailback Montario Hardesty were drafted too high and considered them reaches. Cleveland traded up in the second round to get Hardesty, who Kiper likes but didn't think the move up was necessary. Kiper also questioned why the Browns drafted Ward and Larry Asante, who are both considered "in-the-box" safeties. Kiper feels quarterback Colt McCoy at the end of the third round was a good value pick.

AFC North draft analysis

April, 24, 2010
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

This season is expected to be a close race in the division. So the drafts of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns could go a long way toward determining who comes out on top.

With that said, here is a look at the decisions made this week in the AFC North:

Best move

The "Wizard of Oz" was at it again. After trading out of the first round for the first time in franchise history, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome came back strong in the second round by grabbing two first-round talents in linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody.

[+] EnlargeSergio Kindle
Harry How/Getty ImagesSergio Kindle notched 16 sacks over the past two seasons for Texas.
Baltimore passed over some good players in the first round when the team traded its No. 25 overall pick to the Denver Broncos, who surprisingly selected former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. In return the Ravens got three valuable picks and selected two potentials steals on defense in Kindle and Cody.

"Well, I think the biggest thing that we did [is] we got guys that we wouldn't want to play against," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "You know, these guys all have, really, a dominant trait in some respect. They do different things very well, and that's intriguing in our situation to get a linebacker that can really rush the passer -- a very explosive guy. And then we've had a lot of success over the years with these massive run-stuffers. Terrence Cody is that guy."

The Ravens had Kindle rated very high on their board and weren't scared off by injury concerns about his knee. That was the reason he fell to the second round. Cody has weight issues. But if he's able to keep that under control, Cody can be a force alongside Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata to create one of the biggest pairings of defensive tackles in the league.

Riskiest move

It's hard to doubt the Steelers with their stellar track record. But they did ignore more immediate needs in the top half of this year's draft.

Pittsburgh passed over help in other areas early to grab pass-rushers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson. Barring injuries, this pair of outside linebackers will have a very hard time getting on the field while sitting behind Pro Bowlers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

Worilds and Gibson could turn out to be productive players at some point. But if I had rated positions of need for the Steelers entering this draft, outside linebacker would have been last.

In particular, there were plenty of quality defensive linemen available in the first three or four rounds who could've provided a more immediate impact in Pittsburgh's defensive rotation. But the team did a solid job addressing another immediate need at cornerback by trading with the Arizona Cardinals for former Steelers starter Bryant McFadden.

Most surprising move

Although it wasn't shocking the Browns landed former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the manner in which Cleveland did it was very surprising.

The Browns really liked McCoy, particularly his intangibles and accuracy, but felt they had more pressing needs to address early in the draft. Cleveland instead plugged holes in the secondary and at running back for three rounds as McCoy surprisingly slid further than expected.

When the Browns came up at No. 85 overall, Cleveland finally got its quarterback of the future.

"In Colt's case, I really didn't think that he would be available to us," Browns president Mike Holmgren said. "I really felt that he would go before we had a chance to pick him. But when it didn't happen, it was something I really wanted to do and [coach] Eric [Mangini] and [GM] Tom [Heckert] went along with me and there you have it."

McCoy, a projected early second-rounder, wasn't too thrilled about his slide. But it could work in his favor.

As much as the city of Cleveland tends to love its backup quarterbacks, McCoy is coming to the Browns as a low third-rounder and without a ton of pressure to perform immediately.

Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme is the starter in 2010, and the team has an experienced backup in Seneca Wallace. So McCoy should be able to hold a clipboard, learn the offense and get used to the NFL game for a full season before Cleveland thinks about putting him on the field.

"I don't expect him to play this year," Holmgren said. "We didn't draft [McCoy] to play this year."

File it away

The Bengals' third-round selection of Texas receiver Jordan Shipley adds a tremendous amount of competition to Cincinnati's receiving corps. Out of necessity, expect a surprise cut or two at the position coming out of training camp.

Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco and free-agent pickup Antonio Bryant are set as the two starters. But Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Matt Jones, Quan Cosby and former second-round pick Jerome Simpson also will compete for roles on the team.

There are not enough roster spots to carry everyone. Could this be the year Cincinnati cuts ties with Simpson, who has been a bust his first two seasons? Or will the controversial signing of Jones, who’s had off-field troubles and was out of football last season, be for naught? Cosby, last year's punt returner, also is a possible cut.

The Bengals have a lot of options in their passing game, which struggled at the end of last season. But they will have to make some key decisions about who will be a part of it in 2010.

AFC North fourth round recap

April, 24, 2010
The fourth round of the NFL draft is in the books.

Here is a recap of the latest additions in the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

Pick: Dennis Pitta, TE, Brigham Young

Skinny: Pitta is the second consecutive tight end the Ravens selected in this draft, joining third-rounder Ed Dickson. It's apparent Baltimore is preparing for its future without former Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap, who turned 30 in March and has a lengthy injury history.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick: Thaddeus Gibson, OLB/DE, Ohio State

Skinny: The Steelers have other needs (cornerback?), but that hasn't stopped them from taking as many pass rushers as possible. Despite an inconsistent college career, Gibson is another player Pittsburgh feels can convert from a college defensive end to outside linebacker.

Cincinnati Bengals

Picks: Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia

Skinny: The Bengals need depth on the defensive line and added another plugger in Atkins. Last year when Domata Peko was injured, it severely hurt the defense. Tank Johnson also battled injuries last season. Cincinnati also selected former Texas linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy with its compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round.




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