The Jets are reportedly hiring former Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Rick Dennison to be their run-game coordinator and offensive line coach. ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news Friday afternoon. Under Dennison, 59, the Bills had the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense this season, but the sixth-best running game. Dennison also served two stints as the Denver Broncos’ offensive coordinator, including when they beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, and spent four years leading the Houston Texans’ offense, one of the league’s best rushing attacks at the time with Arian Foster. Dennison also was the Broncos’ special teams coach when they won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s. Dennison replaces offensive line coach Steve Marshall, whose firing was announced Wednesday.
When is the appointment of Jeremy Bates as the offensive coordinator going to become official? Or is there an issue and did the Jets hire Rick Dennison as insurance? Something is beginning to smell.
Senior Bowl Takes Center Stage
Senior Bowl week is the event that NFL coaches and General Managers attend in person to get a feel for the players before the draft and combine next month in Indianapolis. A big part of the week is watching the players during practice before the game. Between Senior Bowl week and the NFL combine we will be inundated with players who remind scouts of Lawrence Taylor, Peyton Manning and Jim Brown. No doubt there will be All-Pros to come out of this game. The Jets have a lot at stake for an NFL team. There is very little margin of error in the upcoming draft. General Managers and scouts have their own system evaluating players. With that said, it is still a crap shoot that no one knows if your going to get a Dak Prescott or Christian Hackenberg.
Senior Bowl Practice Tidbits
From Walter Football
Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen was the star of Thursday's North practice, as he had his best outing of the week. Allen showed progress throughout the week and capped it off with his best session. On the first day of the Senior Bowl, Allen was firing the ball with his big arm and sending frozen ropes around the field. By Thursday, Allen was taking a little something off his throws and putting more touch on the ball. That led to him throwing a more catchable ball that resulted in his receivers making more plays for him. Allen was excellent in the red zone scrimmage. He made a number of precise throws to produce touchdowns. On one occasion, Allen lofted in a pass to Penn wide receiver Justin Watson, who made a phenomenal one-handed catch. Allen also hit Indiana tight end Ian Thomas between defenders running vertically through the end zone and then found Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki on a crossing route in the back of the end zone. Gesicki got open for Allen again with a juke move on a slant to run by West Virginia's Kyzir White with Allen throwing a strike to Gesicki. Allen also threw a well-placed pass by defenders to Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe.
Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield was the other quarterback in Mobile who could be a first-round pick, and Mayfield had a solid session on Thursday. Similar to Allen, Mayfield was better on Thursday compared to how he started out the week. Mayfield threw some well-placed passes, connecting on a slant with Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hailton on slant for a good gain as Mayfield led Hamilton perfectly. Mayfield lofted in pass over a defender to Miami wideout Braxton Berrios, who adjusted to make an impressive grab over the defender. That catch had Mayfield clapping and praising his temporary teammate. Mayfield did a better job of pushing the ball vertically on Thursday compared with the previous practices where he checked the ball down too much and was hesitant to throw into tight windows. In the seven-on-seven and team scrimmage portion, Mayfield looks better than in the individual portions. Overall, Mayfield's Senior Bowl was a positive one and shouldn't hurt his draft stock.
From Pro-Football Focus
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield was once again one of the more accurate quarterbacks in practice even though his footwork may have been inconsistent at times. Washington State’s Luke Falk displayed more mobility and ability to move in the pocket than he did late in the season for the Cougars, and Falk moved through progressions quickly which at times didn’t allow downfield routes to develop. Mayfield and Falk appear to be a step above the other North team quarterbacks thus far.
Western Kentucky QB Mike White appeared to be the steadiest and most accurate of the South team quarterbacks once again on Wednesday. White’s practice performance will go a long way in helping his draft grade with teams, as he didn’t have the same caliber of statistical season with a new coaching staff and offense that he had 2017.
Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn was the offensive line star for the South team and was extremely solid in one-on-one pass rush reps. Oregon left tackle Tyrell Crosby stood out in the North team practice not only in run blocking drills but also one-on-one pass blocking drills. Virginia Tech’s Wyatt Teller had a second straight strong practice performance on Wednesday, showcasing his 2017 season was no fluke.
Skill Player Takeaways
Iowa RB Akrum Wadley and Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage both stood out with their performances in the North team practice. Wadley showed his ability to be a factor in the pass game with soft hands. His brightest moment came when he caught a screen pass and displayed some nice jump-cuts as he weaved through defenders; his speed to the reach the corner on outside runs was also evident. Ballage’s receiving skills have been on display for both North practices this week, as he shows he can be a mismatch weapon in an NFL pass offense. While North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels is listed as a running back here in Mobile, he still displayed the skills that make him more of an offensive weapon without a truly defined position. Samuels can be used as a move tight end, fullback or halfback but is truly at his best as a mismatch weapon in the pass game. Colorado State WR Michael Gallup had a second strong day of practice and was able to hook up with Mayfield on some nice intermediate level passes. Missouri WR J’Mon Moore also stood out in Wednesday’s South practice, making several catches and displaying the quickness to separate in routes and an ability to defeat press coverage at the line of scrimmage.Penn State’s Mike Gesicki was the North tight end who stood out the most on Day 2 practices. Gesicki consistently made nice catches, including a crossing route from Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, two receptions over Texas A&M safety Armani Watts and a pass from Mayfield while streaking down the sideline.UCF tight end Jordan Akins was the star of the South tight end group on Wednesday. Akins was able to beat both safeties and linebackers for big catches. Akins caught a one-handed touchdown from Mike White and beat his former teammate Shaquem Griffen – who slipped in coverage – for a touchdown.
From SB Nation
South dominates in 45-16 win.
The South Team blew out the North Team in the Senior Bowl, 45-16, despite having an unheralded roster that didn’t feature the headliners of the day, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. Mayfield completed just three of his seven passes for 9 yards before he was replaced after two series. He likely would’ve had more time on the field in the second half, but the Heisman Trophy winner left early to be with his ill mother. Ultimately, the week of practices leading up the game Saturday will have more bearing on the draft stock of the prospects who traveled to Mobile, Ala. for the game. Mayfield performed well in practices, and Allen didn’t have the most consistent week. Allen’s up-and-down performance in Mobile continued into the game with a slow start, but he caught fire in the second half and showed the world why many NFL teams could and likely will fall in love with his potential. In the first half, Allen made more plays with his legs than his arm and missed badly on a throw downfield.
All eyes were on Allen and Mayfield working with the Denver Broncos’ coaching staff, with the group of South Team quarterbacks mostly ignored during their time working with the Houston Texans’ coaches. But they showed what they had Saturday. Western Kentucky’s Mike White got things started with 128 yards passing and a touchdown in the first half. Then, Virginia’s Kurt Benkert stepped in with 90 yards and a touchdown. Finally it was Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta with 198 yards and three touchdowns to put the game on ice. Lauletta was named the Senior Bowl MVP. The All-Star Game is an opportunity for some of the high-profile players to prove doubters wrong and show skills they haven’t shown yet. But for White, Benkert, and Lauletta, it was a chance to prove they shouldn’t be forgotten, and they stepped up to the plate in a big way.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
In 2017, he racked up 2,248 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns on the ground for the Aztecs and was one of the most dangerous kick returners in the nation. But he caught just 19 passes in an offense that didn’t use him much as a receiver. At the Senior Bowl, he got the chance to show that’s one of his other tools, and he torched the North Team defense on a 73-yard receiving touchdown.
D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
The speedy deep threat tore apart the North Team defense with multiple big plays downfield, including a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
UTSA has had just one player ever drafted — tight end David Morgan, who went in the sixth round to the Vikings in 2016. Davenport will definitely be the second, and he has a strong chance of being a first-round pick. He lived up to the hype Saturday with a few pressures and a sack. His best highlight of the game was more lucky, though, with a fumble that bounced right into his hands for an easy touchdown.
Jets Gm Mike Maccagnan stayed longer than most other General Managers trying to fact find every detail on all the players. Maccagnan’s mission is to resolve the Jets quarterback situation. He knows his job is on the line this year. The college crop looks good this year and the Jets are in a good spot with an extra second round pick thanks to the Sheldon Richardson trade with Seattle. If you read the Jet scribes and listen to talk radio, it is apparent the Jets are going to go all out for Redskin QB Kirk Cousins. I prefer to groom my own quarterback for the long term. No matter what Maccagnan does, he should draft two quarterbacks this year. Richmond’s QB Kyle Lauletta was the Senior Bowl MVP which helped his stock. This is one QB I was hoping the Jets would snatch with a late round pick but with his excellent game, he will probably go no later than the third round. Mike White the QB from Western Kentucky threw the nicest pass of the day and Virginia’s QB Kurt Benkert is a name to keep on eye on for a late pick. According to my sources the Jets would prefer Josh Allen over Baker Mayfield. NFL scouts have said he has more upside than any other quarterback in the draft. Rumors swirling around New York is that the Giants will pass on a quarterback which I don’t believe. Successful franchises don’t get to pick second in the draft too often with a draft thick with QB talent. I have said and I still maintain that Sam Darold is my favorite of all the quarterbacks.
Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton is one player who stood out to me when I observed some of the Senior Bowl practices. The knock on him is his speed but he runs excellent routes and is one player the Jets should look at. He was projected as a 5th round pick but he helped his cause this week and may go in the third or fourth round. Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State was all over the field again on Saturday, recording a game-high 14 tackles. Cornerback Chandon Sullivan from Georgia State looked real good.. He is not big and comes from a small school but he is one player who always seem to play up against his opponents. Walter Football is projecting he can be picked anywhere from the third to fifth round. Love to see this player on the Jets.
This week’s mock draft is from CBS Sports. Please keep in mind that mock drafts are interesting and fun but in the end an opinion as good as yours or mine.
CBS Sports Draft Projection
1. Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
3. Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
4. Cleveland Browns — Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama
5. Denver Broncos — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
6. New York Jets — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
8. Chicago Bears — Arden Key, DE, LSU
9. San Francisco 49ers — Derwin James, SS, Florida State
10.Oakland Raiders — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
11.Miami Dolphins — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
12.Cincinnati Bengals — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
13.Washington Redskins — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
14.Green Bay Packers — Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
15.Arizona Cardinals — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
16.Baltimore Ravens, Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
17.Los Angeles Chargers — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
18.Seattle Seahawks — Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
19.Dallas Cowboys — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
20.Detroit Lions — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
21.Buffalo Bills — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
22.Buffalo Bills — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
23.Los Angeles Rams — Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
24.Carolina Panthers — Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
25.Tennessee Titans — Taven Bryan, DE, Florida
26.Atlanta Falcons — Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
27.New Orleans Saints — Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
28.Pittsburgh Steelers — Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
29.Jacksonville Jaguars — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
30.Minnesota Vikings — Billy Price, G, Ohio State
31.Philadelphia Eagles — Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, W. Michigan
32.New England Patriots — Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
What The Jet Scribes Are Saying
Rich Cimini, ESPN
Quarterback Josh McCown, who was noncommittal near the end of the season on whether he wanted to play in 2018, said Tuesday he has decided to continue his career and would like to return to the New York Jets. "Right now, that's how it's looking," McCown said on the NFL Network's "Total Access" show. "At this time of the year, I go through those conversations with my family, talk with them through that, pray through that. "But where we're at right now, I feel like I want to play. ... I'm looking forward to the next few months, seeing what happens, and I'll be ready to go." McCown, who turns 39 on July 4, is a pending free agent after playing on a one-year contract that earned him $7.625 million, including playing-time bonuses. The Jets have said they'd like him back, but they also left open the possibility they could explore other options. They will look at other free agents and the trade market. They also could draft a quarterback with the sixth overall pick. Statistically, McCown enjoyed his best season in 2017. He set career highs in completion percentage (67.3), passing yards (2,926) and touchdown passes (18). He finished 11th with a 94.5 passer rating. McCown said his surgically repaired left hand, fractured in Week 13, still is "a few weeks away" from being healthy.
Brian Costello, NY Post
The Jets did not look far to find their new offensive coordinator. The team is expected to promote quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, according to ESPN. Nothing was official yet, but Bates has been a strong candidate to replace John Morton for weeks. The team fired Morton after one season on the job. Bates will be the Jets’ sixth offensive coordinator in the past eight seasons and the third in the last four since Todd Bowles has been the head coach. He takes over a group that finished 28th in total offense in 2017 and has plenty of holes to fill — starting at quarterback.
The NFL’s offseason meat market (aka pre-draft evaluation process) begins in earnest at Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala., where prospects will be dissected with the hope of uncovering future contributors. Breaking news: The Jets roster needs plenty of upgrades.
Here’s a look at five players to keep an eye on this week:
1. Josh Allen, Wyoming QB
Allen was the third wheel in the Sam Darnold-Josh Rosen lovefest this season, but some NFL talent evaluators believe he might be the best of the bunch when it’s all said and done. His 6-5, 233-pound frame and tantalizing upside might turn him into the No. 1 pick in a few months. Scouts know better than to obsess over his less-than-stellar statistics. Although he only threw for 5,066 yards and 44 touchdowns in his career, including just a 56 percent completion rate in the past two seasons, his skill set and potential are through the roof.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
The Heisman Trophy winner might be the most polarizing player in the draft. Mayfield’s numbers jump off the page — he threw one fewer touchdown pass this season than Allen did in three seasons, for Pete’s sake — but there are fair questions about his relatively small size (6-1, 220 pounds) and maturity. There are also legitimate concerns if Mayfield can make a successful transition from a spread system to a pro-style scheme.
3. Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio DE
The Jets’ biggest need other than quarterback might just be pass rusher. They need a presence that can consistently get home. Leonard Williams, who played well after his ailing wrist calmed down in the second half of the season, could use some help. Davenport probably wasn’t on your radar three months ago, but look for his public stock to soar during this evaluation process. The 6-7, 255-pounder had 8½ sacks and 17½ tackles for loss last season, but NFL evaluators will be paying close attention to how he fares against stiffer competition this week. Could he be that edge guy who wreaks havoc for Todd Bowles?
4. Kameron Kelly, San Diego State CB
It’s no secret that the Jets need upgrades at cornerback. In an ideal world, Gang Green would prefer to re-sign Morris Claiborne and add a true No. 1 cornerback in free agency. Regardless, Kelly is an interesting option given his size and versatility. The 6-2, 200-pounder made a nice transition from safety to cornerback this season. Senior Bowl week will be pivotal for Kelly, who could be an interesting mid-round option if he impresses this week. Speaking of cornerbacks, also keep an eye on Southern’s Danny Johnson.
5. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State RB and Kalen Ballage, Arizona State RB
The Jets will be in the market for backfield upgrades. Veteran Matt Forte will be gone. Bilal Powell is creeping up on 30. Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles will be evaluating options to bring more juice to an offense that languished in the bottom third of nearly every statistical category. The 5-11, 220-pound Penny could be a punisher for Gang Green. Ballage was in the shadows for much of his collegiate career (fewer than 10 carries per game), but he might be a Day 3 steal.
Senior Bowl Highlights
"The most complete book I've ever seen on youth baseball."
-Bobby Woods, former pro player and coach
"The only book I've ever seen that explains strategies in simple detail."
-Tony Milewski, coach for 30 years