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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

With Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings, San Francisco 49ers O-Line Taking On An New Shape

My question is will the 49ers new scheme give Alex Smith a timed window to throw in, or will it cause him to throw without crisp, set footwork and receiver timing. In Oakland, Norv Turner didn't install the kind of precise option-route offense one would like to see in today's game. Was that him, or Al Davis? I'm less concerned with the size of the line than with the team's offensive design. We shall see.

From:

http://www.realfootball365.com/nfl/articles/2006/05/49ers-offensive-line230506.html

"In 2005, Mike Nolan tried to establish the San Francisco 49ers as a power running team. He lured massive tackle Jonas Jennings from Buffalo with a lucrative free agent contract and drafted two punishing offensive linemen in the first three rounds (David Baas-2nd, Adam Snyder-3rd).

However, Nolan's plan went off the rails early in the season when Jennings suffered a season-ending labrum injury and Jeremy Newberry's battered knees kept him out of most games and every practice. Reluctant to throw his freshly drafted rookies into the fire so soon, Nolan brought in veteran tackle Anthony Clement on the left side with disastrous results. Only when Snyder moved into the left tackle spot and Newberry withdrew himself from the rotation did the Niners have consistent success in the running game.

This year will be a different story. The left side is pretty much locked down with the return of Jennings and the addition of Larry Allen but competitions remain open at the other three spots.

At C, Newberry may never be healthy enough to practice again and Nolan has already stated that if he cannot practice, he will not play. That leaves the starting job to Eric Heitmann, who finished the season there last year and has been handling the duties this offseason.

At RG, Justin Smiley is the incumbent, but Baas will challenge hard for that spot in training camp. While Smiley is more of an athletic, technical guard, Baas is a punishing, powerful mauler who may be a better fit for the nasty attitude Nolan is trying to instill in the trenches.

And at RT, Adam Snyder is poised to unseat former first-rounder Kwame Harris. During his three seasons in the league, Harris has not distinguished himself, performing adequately in the running game but missing tons of assignments in pass protection.

However it plays out, the position battles in this year's camp will give the San Francisco 49ers a lot more depth along the line this season should the injury bug strike again."

Oakland Raiders Load Up On Free Agent Wide Receivers - 365Football.com

According to this great and funny article by Anthony Carroll, the Raiders have a large group of free agent wideouts in camp, all signed on May 5th.

"This offseason, Oakland has been busy stockpiling their frequent flyer miles, transporting every undrafted wide receiver under the sun from their couch to California.

Trip one: John Madsen - Utah

Standing 6-5, 220-pounds, it's not jaw dropping to see Madsen in a silver and black practice outfit. In 2005, he suffered a season-ending injury to his fibula with three games remaining in his collegiate career. As a result, the Utah Ute missed the NFL combine, further narrowing his chances to make his way into the NFL. Despite missing the final three games of his senior season, Madsen still hauled in 55 passes for 672 yards and six touchdowns. After receiving a call from the Raiders' front office, Madsen mentioned Warren Sapp and Randy Moss, saying, "I've idolized them since high school." It's now four years later, and the door has been cracked open to extend that admiration into affiliation.

Trip two: Rick Gatewood - Montana State

Gatewood, a Montana State graduate, was another one of the four undrafted wideouts signed by Oakland on May 5th. The 22-year-old Bobcat stands 5-11, 192 pounds in frame--relatively small for a Raiders' pass catcher. However, in 2004 and 2005, Gatewood posted surprisingly big numbers. As a junior and senior, he caught 131 balls for 1,759 yards and 13 touchdowns. Unlike Madsen, Gatewood participated in the March combine festivities, posting 40 times of 4.57 seconds and 4.55 seconds, while registering a 37 1/2-inch vertical jump.

Trip three: Will Buchanan - Southern California

Buchanan may have squeezed his 6-3, 185-pound frame into a sedan to make his short trip to Oakland. At USC, Buchanan took advantage of his distinguished last name, playing mostly as a defensive back, along with wide receiver. Overshadowed by star wide receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, Buchanan wasn't even momentarily glanced over by the USC coaching staff. At wide receiver, he caught no balls in 2005 and just four in 2004. Overall, the signing of the wideout-converted-cornerback is a bit questionable; but, then again, so was drafting a quarterback named Ronald Curry.

Trip four: Jayson Boyd - Texas at El Paso

For now, Jason Boyd will reunite with UTEP teammate Thomas Howard in Oakland. Measuring 6-4, 220-pounds, Boyd is an athletic prospect with deep-ball potential. At the pre-draft combine, Boyd ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.59 seconds and registered a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump. In 2002, he played as a member of Oregon State, catching just 10 passes for 169 yards and a single touchdown. Thereafter, he transferred to UTEP in 2004, catching an impressive 42 balls for 560 yards and five touchdowns. In his final season, Boyd was sidelined with groin and foot injuries for half of the 2005 season; he finished the year with just 12 receptions for 222 yards.

Trip five: Burl Toler - California

The 23-year-old Golden Bear last played in 2004, when he caught just eight balls for 78 yards. However, in 2003, the 6-2, 190-pounder filled in nicely for the team's 2002 leading ball-catcher, grabbing 48 passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns. Reflecting back upon his walk-on performance at California, Toller commented, "My dad said I should never give up; good things can still happen. Making the team was a testament to what my dad had been telling me." Obviously, that advice has stuck with him years later; he is now battling his way towards an NFL career.

Along with seventh-round draft choice, Kevin McMahan, Oakland's receiving corps includes Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Doug Gabriel, Ronald Curry, Alvis Whitted, Johnnie Morant, and Carlos Francis.

Rest assured, a handful of the above names won't make it into Week One of the regular season.

But, then again, a bit of friendly competition amongst colleagues never hurts.

In fact, it only helps."

Anthony Carroll can be contacted at acarroll@realfootball365.com

Reggie McKenzie - Packers Director Of Personnel Being Interviewed For Texans GM Job - Houston Chronicle

The unwritten story here is that both McKenzie and Rick Smith of the Denver Broncos are black, which is a sign that we're entering an era where African American front office execs are being considered for higher positions because they're well-acquainted with the head coach. In this case, both McKenzie and Smith played with and worked with new Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak

GM candidate McKenzie familiar to Texans brass
Personnel man, Sherman teamed with the Packers

By MEGAN MANFULL
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006 - Houston Chronicle

When Reggie McKenzie arrives in Houston for his interview, the introductions won't take long.

The longtime director of pro personnel for the Green Bay Packers is scheduled to visit the Texans to discuss the general manager vacancy on Wednesday. Before he arrives, coach Gary Kubiak hopes to sit down with Mike Sherman, now the Texans' assistant head coach/offense, to get a report on the latest candidate.


Kubiak is familiar with McKenzie, but it goes back to their days as players in the NFL. Sherman worked closely with McKenzie, 43, just last season when Sherman was the Packers' head coach.

"They did such a great job in Green Bay, and (McKenzie) was such a big part of that," Kubiak said. "We know each other, and I respect him very, very much and the job he's done. Mike's the one that knows him very well on the business standpoints, so I'll catch up on that."

Sherman said he hasn't spoken to McKenzie since the interview was scheduled but wasn't surprised the Texans are pursuing McKenzie for the job.

"Here or somewhere else, yes, I think he's at a point in his career where that is certainly his next step," Sherman said.


Rising fast

McKenzie joined the Packers after a seven-year career as a linebacker with the Los Angeles Raiders (1985-88), Arizona Cardinals (89-90) and San Francisco 49ers (1992). McKenzie and Kubiak first met as players when Kubiak was the backup quarterback for the Denver Broncos from 1983 to 1991.
While Kubiak went into coaching after his playing career ended, McKenzie headed almost immediately to the front office. He was named the Packers' pro personnel assistant in 1994 and was promoted to director of pro personnel just three years later.

In 2000, Sherman was named the Packers' head coach and started working closely with McKenzie.

"I relied on him an awful lot," said Sherman, who spent six years as the Packers' head coach and three as their general manager. "He was a guy who always had a good pulse on our team, as well as other teams in the league.

"He's a diligent worker. You could ask him about any player in the league, and he'd know the player inside and out because he was constantly looking at tape. I don't think I've ever walked in his office and he didn't have tape on watching teams around the league and studying players. That's obviously what his job is, but to do it as often as he did was a credit to his work ethic."

Sherman and McKenzie had a tremendous amount of success in Green Bay, compiling winning records in five seasons. The Packers won the NFC North division titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

"I think he's an excellent evaluator of players," Sherman said. "Not just on the talent side, but on the character side as well. He's just a good judge of people and of football players."

Texans owner Bob McNair traveled Monday to the owners' meetings in Denver and will return to his office Wednesday. The Texans are still lining up other candidates in the search for Charley Casserly's replacement.

Rick Smith still in running

The top two candidates are McKenzie and Rick Smith, the Denver Broncos' assistant general manager, who interviewed for the job last week. McNair has made it clear that the person hired must be able to work well with Kubiak, a criteria Sherman said he can clearly understand.
"It seems like that's a focus of this to make sure we have everybody on the same page, seeking the same things," Sherman said. "I think that's a big part of the process, having somebody you can communicate with on a daily basis as a head coach that knows what you want in your defense and your offense."

megan.manfull@chron.com

2006 NFL Draft Recap Part Two - Bill Chackles

The 2006 Draft Recap Part II-Prospecting for Draft Gold

So just who are these players who get picked on the second day of the draft each
year? Are they the guys who were the stars of their class in high school, and went to college on that big fat scholarship, but sometime during their 4 years (or 5 or 6) they fell back to the rest of the pack and became "ordinary" or "average." Or possibly they had a "sub-standard" season as a sophomore or junior, and didn't improve enough the following year to erase memories of the past. So many of them go from "can't miss 1st round selections to "lucky to be drafted at all." Some however are rare but raw unpolished bodies of work that could become the backbone of a championship contender.

Some players who might have that type of impact are: Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles, an OG selected by the Eagles with the 99th Pick (#2 in round 4) and Jason Avant, the WR from Michigan selected by the Eagles 10 picks later. Both these players will bolster the Birds passing offense. The Niners selection of the versatile Michael Robinson (WR/KR/RB/QB) will also help San Francisco's crumbling offense.

The Jets and Giants both had two choices in round 4. Gang Green selected Brad Smith, a QB/WR from Missouri, and RB Leon Washington from Florida State. The Giants selected Barry Cofield, a DT from Northwestern, and Guy Wimper, an OT from East Carolina. Both teams appear to be drafting from the need for depth at those positions, but all four are capable of stepping in as starters should the need arise. The Dolphins chose OT Joe Toledo from the University of Washington. Many scouts had Toledo ranked in the top 10 tackles in this class, and his value had only risen in the days before the draft.

Round 5 saw two players who could become the steals of the entire draft, let along the second day. Dallas selected Florida State FS Pat Watkins, who is both fast and strong enough to contribute in several special teams roles. Cincinnati selected Florida State OLB A.J. Nicholson. A.J. had some problems of a personal nature, but if that is truly behind him, he could be the best LB in this class. Seattle chose USC's David Kirtman, the FB who cleared the way for Reggie Bush and LenDale White. Kirtman was also a long snapper in high school. Also in the round, the Eagles went for WR/KR Jeremy Bloom from Colorado. Bloom is noted for his Olympic Skiing career, but he claims he is now committed to football.

Round 6 & 7 saw lots of players go who were considered higher selections just days before. Some will develop into solid players, and some will contribute briefly before becoming afterthoughts of this class. The cowboys selection of DT Montavious Stanley of Louisville (#182 in rd 6) bears special mention, as he has a boatload of talent, but must live up to his upside potential. The Bengals took QB/WR Reggie McNeal from Texas A&M, who could develop into a solid receiver if he learns to focus on the ball. The also selected WR Bennie Brazell, the LSU wide out. The Bears selected Penn State's Tyler Reed, who had a good career at OG for Penn State. Atlanta took local product DJ Shockley, the QB from Georgia. Many had him as the 4th best QB in the draft after Jay Cutler, but fall to round 7 he did. What all these second day players have in common is that some scouts and personnel directors saw enough Film on them to moe then just take a chance, or else they'd have been signed as free agents instead of being drafted.

USC Throws Monkey Wrench Into NFL / LA Coliseum Planning Process - LA Times


In perfect California fashion, there's always some person or organization that feels slighted or left out and in an effort to remind everyone of its importance, runs to the press, rather than express its concerns and work toward a resolution behind the scenes. In this case, it's USC.

Part of the blame for this rests with the LA Coliseum execs, who may have forgot about their National Championship-winning tenant while basking in the glow of a possible NFL franchise deal. If so, they do owe USC an public appology for an enormous blunder.

Meanwhile, will the Raiders return to LA? More here.


Letter Expresses USC's Concerns With NFL Deal
By Alan Abrahamson, LA Times Staff Writer
May 23, 2006

DENVER -- Even as NFL owners convened Monday to mull a return to the greater Los Angeles area, at the Coliseum or in Anaheim, USC President Steven B. Sample raised concerns that the university could be left "totally vulnerable" should the league return to the Coliseum without a deal also being reached for USC to keep playing there.

In a letter dated last Friday that apparently was not delivered until Monday to the Coliseum Commission, Sample asks for "assurances" that the commission "will not sign any lease deal with the NFL unless a sublease deal has also been reached between USC and the NFL that is acceptable to USC."

Failure to do so, he says, could "forever" force USC out of the Coliseum, "with our athletic program reduced to shambles."

Sample, out of the country Monday, could not be reached for comment. Stanley P. Gold, chairman of the USC board of trustees, also could not be reached for comment.

The letter comes as an unexpected development in the long-running saga involving the league's potential return to the nation's No. 2 television market after a 12-year absence, painting a doomsday scenario for USC without offering evidence or rationale for such concerns but nonetheless injecting a further complication into what has long been an enormously complex matter.

The letter surfaced as an 11-owner NFL committee, dubbed the "L.A. working group" and meeting at a downtown Denver hotel, reviewed the variety of extensive construction projects now ongoing in and around downtown Los Angeles. A similar review of Anaheim developments is on tap in the near future, league officials said.

"From our perspective," said Pat Lynch, general manager of the Coliseum, referring to the NFL and USC, "we've always put them in direct contact with each other.

"The NFL is negotiating directly with USC. We talk to both sides continuously and have been assured negotiations are progressing satisfactorily. Frankly, we were surprised at the letter."

A full complement of NFL owners is due today to consider a proposal that would authorize Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to direct the spending of $5 million to $10 million for extensive design and architectural studies at the Coliseum, in Anaheim — or both.

An NFL delegation, perhaps including Tagliabue, is due to visit Southern California, tentatively June 14 and 15, to gauge business support for an NFL return. The area has been without an NFL team since after the 1994 season, when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders moved back to Oakland.

The working Coliseum plan is for the NFL and the Coliseum Commission to enter into a lease — the commission as landlord, the NFL as tenant for a 25-year lease extendable to 55 years. USC would be a sub-tenant.

USC and the NFL have been involved in "on-again, off-again discussions" for two years without reaching an agreement, Sample says in the letter.

He acknowledges that the university has not been given a copy of "the draft Coliseum lease agreement" but nonetheless says USC believes "the NFL's latest draft of the lease" says only that the league and the university "will work together to attempt to develop a mutually satisfactory arrangement."

He also says it is his belief that the draft lease suggests the NFL and USC would have two years to work out deal points; if they could not do so in that time, USC "could be forced out of the Coliseum forever."

Sample says, "We need the commissioners to confirm in writing the promise that there will be a single signing day for the NFL lease and the USC sublease."

He also asks that renovation not force USC out of the Coliseum for more than two seasons and that seating for USC games not fall below 80,000.

The remodeled Coliseum project, approved last Friday by the Los Angeles city council, would see the 92,000-seat bowl reworked around the famed peristyle end into a 68,000-seat stadium, expandable to 80,000 for Super Bowls and USC games.

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