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Jaguars playing the worst home football in a decade

Chicago Bears v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

For most teams, home field is an advantage.

The Jaguars are not most teams.

The Jags are an imperfect 0-3 at EverBank Field, and have been outscored by 75 points in those games, a ridiculous 95-20 margin.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, that’s the worst home start in 10 years in the NFL, since the Bengals lost their first three games by a combined 80 points in 2002.

“Like I told our team, ‘We don’t play bad at home; we don’t finish very good at home,’” Jags coach Mike Mularkey said.

The Jags host the Lions tomorrow, having already dropped a 27-7 decision to the Texans, a 27-10 to the Bengals and a 41-3 howler to the Bears, which featured a 38-0 second half for the visitors.

“What they [the Bears] did against us, they did in 20 minutes,” Mularkey said. “I don’t want anybody to think that we come in here on the first play and lay an egg the entire game. That’s not the case.”

Eh.

The Jaguars play a generally uninspiring brand of football. It’s solid, and playing clutch-and-grab isn’t the worst idea when you’re playing better teams (which they do most weeks). But they are not the kind of team to stir great emotion in the fanbase.

The Jags have tried to enhance the in-stadium experience, and make things uniquely Jacksonville.

Short of a Lynyrd Skynyrd-Tim Tebow doubleheader, however, the best thing they could do to draw a crowd is stop getting blown out.

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Recalling when a CFL club outspent Jerry Jones

Raghib Ismail #81 Getty Images

Imagine this: a CFL club outbidding Jerry Jones for a player.

Well, 23 years ago Sunday, this happened.

Yes, on April 20, 1991, the Toronto Argonauts signed Notre Dame wide receiver Raghib “Rocket” Ismail to a four-year contract worth up to $26.2 million with $18.2 million in guarantees, according to published reports.

The Cowboys, who acquired the No. 1 overall pick from New England, could not strike a deal with Ismail. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Cowboys wouldn’t give Ismail the five-year, $14.5 million guaranteed contract he sought. (Before dealing the No. 1 pick, New England also could not reach an agreement with Ismail.)

“Rocket is a fine, fine player, and we wish him a lot of luck,” Jones said after Ismail’s deal with Toronto, according to the Baltimore Sun. “We asked and received an offer from Ismail’s agents. It was very apparent when we got their offer that Rocket was legitimately headed to Canada. His numbers were totally out of our range. Basically, we wanted to see if there was a chance of an NFL team being able to sign him.”

Ismail played two seasons in Toronto, earning Grey Cup MVP honors after his kickoff return touchdown helped the Argonauts win the 1991 CFL title.

Ismail would join the Los Angeles Raiders, who held his NFL rights, in 1993. Interestingly enough, he would finish his pro career with Dallas, and he would set career-highs in catches (80) and yards (1,097) for the Cowboys in 1999.

The Cowboys, for the record, would take defensive lineman Russell Maryland No. 1 overall in 1991. He played on all three of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl-winning clubs of the 1990s. Also, the Cowboys’ other No. 1 pick in 1991, Alvin Harper, started in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII for Dallas.

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Rams could be planning to draft a quarterback

Murray AP

At the Scouting Combine in February, Rams G.M. Les Snead told NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk that there’s no way his team would take a quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2014 draft.

That doesn’t mean the Rams aren’t thinking about beefing up the position later.

As explained by Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams are “strongly considering” drafting a quarterback next month.  They’ve been spending time eyeballing the likes of Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (pictured), SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.

While the Rams by all appearances remain committed to Sam Bradford, he’s recovering from a torn ACL and under contract for only two more years.  Likewise, backup Shaun Hill has signed a deal that covers only one year.

If they land a rookie who develop quickly and quietly, it’s possible that, come next year, the Rams may be rethinking their commitment to Bradford.

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Josh McCown sees young QBs as “nice kids,” ready to be a mentor

JoshMcCown Getty Images

Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown was brought in to be the starter, but he knows it may just be a matter of time before he’s replaced by a younger player, perhaps one the Bucs draft next month.

And McCown is fine with that. The Buccaneers have brought in some young quarterbacks for visits, and McCown likes what he sees from them.

They all seem like nice kids. They look so young,” McCown told the Tampa Bay Times. “It was cool to say hello to them; just briefly with Johnny [Manziel] and Teddy [Bridgewater] and Jimmy [Garoppolo]. Just, ‘Hey. How’s it going?’ and wish them well. It’s funny. You look at them, and you think back a few years and remember how fast it can go.”

The Bucs have another “nice kid” currently on the roster in Mike Glennon, and McCown will mentor Glennon as well. While McCown was out of the league in 2012 he briefly served as a high school coach, so he has experience as a mentor, and that’s a part of the job he welcomes. Even if the better he does mentoring, the sooner he could lose his job as the Bucs’ starter.

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Brandon Marshall expects big things from Marquess Wilson

Marquess Wilson AP

The release of Earl Bennett in Chicago opens up a clear path for Marquess Wilson to be the Bears’ third receiver next season.

Coach Marc Trestman would only say that Wilson will have “a chance to compete” for that job, but one of the two receivers definitely ahead of Marshall on the depth chart is expecting a bit more than that. Brandon Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com that he’s feeling good and looking forward to his “best year ever,” but the subject of Wilson was more exciting for him.

“I really want to talk about Marquess Wilson,” Marshall said. “He came down and trained with us the whole offseason. We’re really looking for him to do some big things. This guy, he’s probably the steal of the draft last year. I’m going to say that. He came in, he put in the work, he looks like a body builder. Fast, strong, explosive. I’m looking forward to seeing him in OTAs.”

Wilson is 6-4, which would make him, Marshall and Alshon Jeffery one of the taller receiving trios in memory. Bennett wasn’t targeted all that often last season, but the Bears offense will be tough for defenses to measure up to in multiple ways if Wilson lives up to Marshall’s hype.

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Jason Verrett slated for visit with Jets

Jason Verrett AP

The Jets have either met with or set up meetings with a lot of prospective first round wide receivers and cornerbacks recently and that trend that will continue on Monday.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports that TCU cornerback Jason Verrett will visit with the team a few days before Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard also drops by the team’s headquarters. Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert and Ohio State’s Bradley Roby have also drawn interest from a team looking for help at cornerback after cutting Antonio Cromartie earlier this offseason.

Verrett is expected to go in the latter half of the first round despite shoulder surgery in March. He’s expected to be ready to go in time for training camp, which is a similar timeline to the one Jets cornerback and 2013 first-round pick Dee Milliner followed last offseason.

The Jets are also expected to have receivers Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham and Marqise Lee, in for visits this week which means they could just sort things out by having everyone go one-on-one to determine the best fit for the 18th overall pick.

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One owner says Trump’s confirmation wouldn’t be a slam dunk

Trump AP

Recently, an NFL ownership-level source told PFT that it could be difficult to muster nine votes to keep Donald Trump out of the world’s most exclusive club of billionaires.  Another owner has told Gary Myers of the New York Daily News something very different.

He did try to bring the NFL down,” the unnamed owner told Myers.  “Certainly, a lot of owners aren’t around anymore.  Maybe some of the new guys wouldn’t bear the same type of resentment that some of the older guys would.  Do you think he would be a good partner for us or be somewhat of a maverick and be in it for himself?  All questions that have to be asked.  It’s not just the USFL stuff.  Who knows how serious he is.  He likes to have his name out there.  Let’s put it this way:  I don’t think his confirmation would be a slam dunk.”

Myers notes that 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams are still owned by the same person or family who owned those teams when Trump and his USFL cronies filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league.  Of the 32 teams, 24 owners must approve the sale of the Bills to Trump.  And Trump arguably has given some of the owners more incentive to oppose him with the intelligence-insulting claim that the USFL, not Trump, sued the NFL.
The AFL, with owners including the late Ralph Wilson, once battled the NFL toe-to-toe for players and fans and attention.  Ultimately, the AFL and NFL put their differences behind them and made a stronger league.  Trump would be wise to own what he did 30 years ago, and to hope that the owners who vividly recall the battles of the 1980s would be willing to treat Trump the way the AFL owners ultimately were treated.
“[Trump] said a lot of stupid things, and a lot of us still remember it,” said the unnamed owner, who reportedly laughed at Trump’s claim that he didn’t sue the NFL.  “If he ends up being the only guy interested in buying the Bills, then he could be it. I know Jon Bon Jovi is a serious contender. I think there will be some competition.”
Bon Jovi may be a serious contender, but he may not have the cash.  Trump apparently has the cash, but it’s unclear whether he’s serious about buying the Bills or whether he’s simply serious about generating free publicity by talking about buying the Bills.
Either way, if he’s going to try to buy the Bills, Trump’s best move would be to quit talking and start writing a check.
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Lions looking for a few good closers

Golden Tate AP

When a team is talking about looking for closers, the natural inclination is to assume that we’re talking about baseball.

This year’s draft will feature one team looking for football versions of Mariano Rivera, however. The Lions lost six of their final seven games last season and they held a fourth-quarter lead in all six of those losses, which is leading vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White to look for players who can help them finish out a lead in free agency and the draft this offseason.

“You saw six games out of seven where we did not finish. So we’re going to be looking for closers,” White said, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. “Look for them in free agency — guys who have been there, guys like our coaching staff that have been there, guys that will not quit. We have some now, but we need some additional players that have that same kind of mind-set. That’s what we’ve done so far, and we still have a lot of work to do.”

Wide receiver Golden Tate and safety James Ihedigbo were both brought in via free agency and they each won Super Bowl rings in the last two years, which is likely the kind of closing kick the Lions would like to see from their team in the future.

The inability to finish what his team started helped seal former coach Jim Schwartz’s fate. Should 2014 feature more of the same, his won’t be the last head to roll in Detroit as they try to build a team that can go the distance.

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Seahawks QB coach: Regardless of record, we saw imperfections

Russell Okung AP

The Seahawks start their offseason workouts on Monday, which marks the first official work for the team since they were crowned Super Bowl champions.

That title and the Seahawks’ limited losses from the roster during the offseason would seem to leave the team with few concerns heading into next season. Coaches don’t get paid to say that all is well and that practice will be little more than a necessary evil, however, so it’s no surprise that quarterbacks coach Carl Smith is focused on the few negatives he saw on film from last season as the Seahawks get back to work.

“What we saw was lots of problems, regardless of the end result,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “We saw the imperfections and there’s a lot of work that we’ve still got to do. What we did get cleaned up during our playoff run were penalties and our protections. We had problems with both of those during the season and it made a lot games harder than it could have been.”

The Seahawks protected Russell Wilson much better in the second half of the season, likely because left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini returned from injury and forced backups back to reserve roles. Giacomini is now with the Jets, so his replacement will have to keep things rolling but the overall concern with the line should be mitigated a great deal if everyone stays healthy this time around.

If they do, the Seahawks’ attempt to become the first team in a decade to repeat will be enhanced and Smith will have to dig a little deeper next season.

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Marcus Lattimore: “I’m ready”

Marcus Lattimore

A year after the 49ers took him in the fourth round of the NFL draft, running back Marcus Lattimore says he’s healthy enough in recovery from the gruesome knee injury that ended his college career that he could take the field today.

Lattimore said his next steps aren’t about rehabbing his knee, they’re just about convincing 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh that he deserves significant playing time.

“If he wants to put me in, he’ll put me in,” Lattimore told GoGamecocks.com. “If I prove it in practice, I don’t think there’s no excuse why I can’t play. I’m ready.”

The knee injury Lattimore suffered in 2012 was so serious that sitting out his rookie season, as he did last year, was far from his biggest concern. When he first got hurt, Lattimore feared he’d never play football again.

“After my injury, I just wanted to walk again,” Lattimore said. “It was tough, very tough. We’re a playoff team, so we play 20-plus games. Being on that sideline, we got so close to the Super Bowl title the last three years. But I’m blessed to be in this situation. Never would have thought in a million years I’d be in this situation.”

Lattimore has heard the reports that backup running back LaMichael James is not in the 49ers’ long-term plans, which means Lattimore would move up to third on the depth chart behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter.

“If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot,” Lattimore said. “But I’ve just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I’ve got to show that.”

If he can run now the way he ran at South Carolina, Lattimore will show a lot in San Francisco this year.

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John Harbaugh joins “Cradle of Coaches”

Harbaugh AP

Last year, Ravens coach John Harbaugh won a Super Bowl.  This year, he secured something even more rare.

On Friday, a statue was unveiled in his honor at Miami of Ohio’s “Cradle of Coaches,” a bronze gallery of tributes to coaching legends who played college football at the school.

“There’s nothing like the Cradle of Coaches.  I don’t think there’s a bigger honor in coaching,” Harbaugh said, via the team’s official website.   “People may not understand that, but once you take a look at it, it means a lot.”

The Ravens’ website has video of the unveiling, which fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) wasn’t disrupted by Mr. T.

The throng of 260 family members, friends, and colleagues who attended a Friday night dinner in Harbaugh’s honor included a surprise visit from John’s brother, Jim, head coach of the 49ers.

“There have been a lot of proud moments but I’ve never been more proud of him than I am today,” Jim said at the celebration.  “I always prided myself on being the tallest Harbaugh, but that all changed today when they unveiled that statue.”

John Harbaugh played college football at Miami in the early 1980s.

“I wasn’t a really good football player, but I was the best football player I could ever be,” John Harbaugh said. “And there were a lot of challenges and a lot of difficult things.  But then 10 years later, or 15 years later, or 30 years later, you have a chance to look back and you understand why you were there at that time with those people.”

Harbaugh’s likeness joins Paul Brown, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank, Earl Blaik, Carm Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Ara Parseghian and John Pont in the grove of statues outside Yager Stadium.

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Odell Beckham has visits with Eagles and Dolphins this week

Odell Beckham Jr., Taveze Calhoun AP

On Saturday, MDS passed along a report from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald regarding the Dolphins’ interest in draft-eligible wide receivers and what it might mean for Mike Wallace’s future in Miami.

One of the receivers mentioned in the report is LSU wideout Odell Beckham and the Dolphins will get some more information about Beckham this week. During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Saturday, Beckham said that he will be visiting with the Dolphins on Friday and Saturday as he winds up a busy week. Beckham confirmed that he will visit with the Jets on Monday and Tuesday before moving on to talk to the Eagles in the middle of the week.

“It’s been a fun process,” Beckham said. “It’s been a little tough at times to be able to catch your workouts because you’re traveling for days at a time. It’s been fun to go around and meet coaches and general managers and just be able to reach out.”

Beckham also said that he has already met with the Bills, which he called a “fun experience,” and Bengals while making the rounds of interested teams. There will likely be other interest as well as Beckham is almost certainly going to be off the board before the first round comes to an end on May 8.

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Manziel worked out for Browns Saturday, will meet with them this week

Johnny Manziel AP

It took the Browns some time to get around to checking out Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but they’ll have plenty of information about one of the draft’s top signal callers by the end of the week.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Browns watched Manziel work out in College Station, Texas on Saturday, giving them a taste of what they missed at Manziel’s pro day earlier this offseason. Schefter also reports that Manziel will be in Cleveland for a meeting with Browns brass during the week.

Once that’s complete, the Browns will have met with and/or worked out all of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s draft. There have been reports that Fresno State’s Derek Carr has caught the team’s eye, but any final decision will likely have to wait until the Browns have a full picture of what Manziel brings to the table.

With the fourth and 26th picks in the first round and three more picks in the next two rounds, the Browns have plenty of options when it comes to adding a quarterback to compete with Brian Hoyer for the starting job. The audiences with Manziel should play a big role in which of those options they wind up choosing.

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Sunday morning one-liners

John Harbaugh AP

The Bills helped the United Way set new fundraising records.

What kind of impact will offensive coordinator Bill Lazor have on the Dolphins?

Cracking the Patriots roster won’t be easy for rookies.

Said Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson, “We finished 8-8. People expected us to finish worse than that, so we exceeded their expectations but not ours. It was a good way to finish the season but hopefully we’ll roll it over into the upcoming season.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was overwhelmed by a statue of him going up at Miami (Ohio) University.

Coley Harvey of ESPN.com doesn’t think the Bengals should take a quarterback in the first few rounds.

Digging into the Browns’ reported love for Fresno State QB Derek Carr.

He won’t make it to the 15th pick, but the Steelers could use Texas A&M WR Mike Evans.

Injuries were a big factor for the Texans last season.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off played a role in former Colts OL Ryan Diem’s NFL career.

Jaguars LS Carson Tinker has written a book about his experience when tornadoes hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama while he was in college.

Mulling a trade down the draft board for the Titans.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post reveals a reason why the Broncos shouldn’t trade out of the 31st overall pick.

Will the Chiefs draft a quarterback this year?

Raiders T Austin Howard lands on this list of players overpaid in free agency.

There are 52 Pro Bowlers on the Chargers’ schedule in 2014.

What will the Cowboys be looking at when they settle on their draft picks?

Running through some of Giants General Manager Jerry Reese’s greatest hits.

A look at some linebackers that might interest the Eagles in the draft.

Former Redskins RB John Riggins gets busy in the kitchen.

Safety continues to look like the Bears’ biggest remaining need.

An argument in favor of the Lions trading back in the first round.

The Packers’ Tailgate Tour returned to Lambeau Field.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson shares some thoughts on the team’s future at quarterback.

The Falcons might be able to use Missouri DE Kony Ealy, but they’re unlikely to land him in the draft.

Some Panthers draft questions and answers.

Looking ahead to the release of the Saints schedule.

Buccaneers DE Michael Johnson has been watching tape of Simeon Rice.

Colorado State C Weston Richburg drove home to Texas after a meeting with the Cardinals in Arizona.

It looks like the Rams will be drafting a quarterback at some point next month.

49ers fans want the color of seats on BART trains to change to something less reminiscent of Seahawks colors.

CB Dwayne Harper ranks No. 19 on this list of the best Seahawks draft picks of all time.

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Nick Foles on DeSean Jackson: It’s surprising, but it’s a business

DeSean Jackson

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles didn’t expect to lose his No. 1 receiver, DeSean Jackson, and didn’t see it coming before the Eagles sent Jackson packing.

You know, it’s surprising,” Foles told CSNPhilly.com. “But at the same time, you learn that it’s a business. It’s a tough business, at times. We develop a lot of friendships on a team and I’ve had many of my close teammates let go. It’s very tough, but at the same time, you know it’s part of the game, part of the business.”

Despite talk that Jackson was a trouble maker in the locker room, Foles said he never saw any of that.

“He was a great teammate to me,” Foles said. “We had a great relationship on and off the field. Everybody has other things going on, but to me personally, I really enjoyed playing with him and I’m excited that he landed on his feet. He’s a heck of a player.”

Now he’ll be a heck of a player for Philadelphia’s NFC East rival in Washington.

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Warren Moon: Johnny Manziel has to adjust his game in the NFL

Johnny Manziel AP

Warren Moon is a fan of Johnny Manziel’s skill set.

However, Moon does have a few reservations about the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

In an interview with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Moon said the 6-foot, 207-pound Manziel must avoid seeking contact as much as he did on the college level. Moreover, Manziel also must prove he can regularly operate from the pocket, according to the Hall of Fame quarterback.

“Well, he’s one of the most exciting players to play college football, no question about it,” Moon said of Manziel. “He’s a risk taker, and he gets away with a lot of those things.

“I just think in the NFL, some of those things, he’s going to have to take out of his game. He just won’t be able to get away with some of those things that he did in college football, especially taking on people, being as physical as he likes to play the game. I don’t think you can do that in the NFL or you won’t be available for your football team.

“So if he changes a lot of those things out of his game, those are the things that made him special. Now all of a sudden he becomes a pocket passer. Can he do that on a consistent basis? That’s something I’m really not comfortable with right now. I’d have to see him do a little bit more of that.

“But no question about it, he’s an exciting football player that brings some very exciting athleticism to the position.”

Moon praised Manziel’s approach to the predraft process, noting that the former Texas A&M star has focused upon his craft.

Nevertheless, Moon still isn’t sure if Manziel’s collegiate production will translate to the NFL.

“He’s doing all the things right to move himself up in the draft, but still, what makes Johnny Manziel ‘Johnny’ is those special, magical plays that he makes, and I just don’t know if there’s going to be as many of those when you’re playing against the talent that he’s playing against in the NFL,” Moon said.

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