Shutdown Corner

  • Colin Kaepernick's head coach doesn't want these biceps getting too much bigger. (USAT Sports Images)San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is one of the most maniacally well-prepared people in the NFL, and he's been that way for a long time. It's one of the things that allowed him to play quarterback in the pros for 14 seasons and it's what has made him one of the NFL's best head coaches.

    But it seems that even Harbaugh, the man responsible for the 49ers' recent turnaround and the man Mike Ditka once called "the most competitive player I ever coached," is concerned about the level of offseason preparation his current quarterback is putting in. Not that Harbaugh thinks Colin Kaepernick isn't doing enough -- quite the opposite.

    [Also:Orioles win scheduling conflict battle with NFL]

    Harbaugh has warned Kaepernick about becoming too yoked-up in his intense workouts, according to a story by Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.

    From the recent owners meetings:

    "If you're just talking about weightlifting and upper-body strength, yes, I think there is that fear," Harbaugh said. "It's something we've talked about. 'I don't want you getting too jacked-up, Colin.' I want some speed, quickness, not just [flexing his chest muscles]."

    Well, we're not sure how "steroidal" Kaepernick could ever look -- he's a lean-muscle guy to be sure. Certainly, it's good that Kaepernick is working his butt off, because he'll go into the 2013 season, his third in the NFL, as the team's starter on opening day for the first time. Of course, Kaepernick's receivers would prefer that his arm doesn't get any stronger.

    Read More »from Jim Harbaugh is worried that Colin Kaepernick might get too muscle-bound
  • Bianca Wilfork (second from left) was the target of unfair remarks. (Getty)When it comes to athletes and sports media members, there is — and should be — only one ironclad rule that you never violate in print or on the airwaves.

    You never, ever speak poorly of or disparage another man's wife.

    That guideline should really go without saying, but former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson stepped all over it when he recently said on his Houston radio show that current Patriots lineman Vince Wilfork had the ugliest wife in the NFL.

    “You know what, I’ve got it,” Johnson said on CBS Houston when a caller asked him to identify the player with the least attractive wife (audio here). “And this is a big, big man. This guy had his way with the Texans this year. He won’t hear this — Vince Wilfork.”

    Thing was, there was no way Wilfork — who played on the 2004 New England team with Johnson — wasn't going to hear that awful response in this age of sports blogs and Twitter.

    [Also: Ravens are business as usual despite departures]

    And once he did, let's just say that Johnson was lucky Wilfork didn't book the next flight to Houston to teach him a thing or two about respect. (Would anyone here have blamed him if Wilfork forcibly fed Johnson his microphone?)

    Wilfork instead took to Twitter to point out just how wrong Johnson was:

    Read More »from Ted Johnson calls Vince Wilfork’s wife ugly on the radio, Vince Wilfork responds
  • Ed Reed signed with the Texans to ‘win a championship’

    Ed Reed wants to deliver a Lombardi Trophy to Houston (USA Today Sports Images)

    Just over six weeks after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, former Baltimore Ravens and future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed said he's joining the Houston Texans to help the franchise deliver a championship to the city of Houston.

    [Also: Brian Urlacher was given no choice but to leave Bears]

    “I know already what they want to do and that’s win a championship. I came here to do that,” Reed said at his introductory press conference on Friday. “Houston already has the attributes. I pray and hope I am the attribute needed to take us to the next level.

    "My path has been directed here for a reason and I will truly embrace it," said Reed. "I came here to win a championship and help guys with whatever it may be, on and off the field."

    According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Reed signed a three-year contract that is worth $15 million total and includes $5 million in guaranteed money. Reed earned $7.2 million in his 11th and final season with the Ravens and was believed to be looking for similar money in what has been a largely depressed free agent marketplace.

    “From the first day of free agency, [general manager] Rick [Smith] called me and I think we both knew. It was just a matter of time for getting it done,” Reed said. "We knew it was going to end up like this, and it was a matter of just getting it (contract) done. When I came here (for visit last week), I was so impressed. It was awesome. I knew we were going to get something done, that it was just a matter of time."

    Read More »from Ed Reed signed with the Texans to ‘win a championship’
  • Jonathan Cyprien may be a small-school player, but he's got a big future. (AP)

    With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.

    [Also: Brian Urlacher was given no choice but to leave Bears]

    40: Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International

    We continue this year's series with Florida International strong safety Jonathan Cyprien. Lightly recruited (at best) out of North Miami Beach High, Cyprien had two collegiate offers: Western Michigan and Florida International. He chose to stay closer to home and play for the Panthers, and he'll now follow former teammate and current Indianapolis Colts speed receiver T.Y. Hilton into the NFL. Hilton was able to make a pretty big splash in his rookie year, and in the right system, I think Cyprien could have an equivalent impact at a different position. Though he excelled against weaker competition, and some evaluators will ding him because he didn't always deal with stronger offenses, there's enough tape of his abilities against bigger programs (Louisville, Rutgers, Maryland, Texas A&M) to ease some of those concerns. In addition, he blew it up during Senior Bowl week -- Cyprien was obviously there to prove a point, and he left Mobile as the best safety in the group in the minds of many.

    How will his skills translate to NFL success? At 6-foot-0 and 217 pounds, Cyprien has the valuable ability to play front-half and back-half coverage with relatively equal aplomb, which makes him an interesting chip in today's more advanced defenses. In addition, his experience in the slot makes him a potential every-down defender. You want versatility? In 2012, he led his team in tackles (93) and interceptions (four). You want durability and dependability? How about 45 collegiate starts in four seasons? Some NFL teams will devalue any player who doesn't light it up for one of the big schools, but as the only small-school player in this year's Shutdown 50, he's certainly transcended that stigma around here.

    Pros: As a back-half pass-defender, Cyprien displays estimable speed and covers a lot of ground to make plays. Anticipates the ball well in the air, and will converge in a hurry. Runs from sideline to sideline to keep deep sideline receivers from making bigger gains after the catch. Has the potential to be an outstanding route-jumper. Big hitter in space who is exact with his tackling form when converging. Comes down from center field of in halves in two-deep coverage to make impact tackles on receivers after catches between the seams, and will force turnovers when doing so. Aggressive tackler, but not reckless -- doesn't spear with his helmet and makes an effort to use his arms and his shoulders. Good wrap-up tackler when he does it. Has the turn speed and awareness to defend back-shoulder fades and other boundary passes. Defends the slot well enough to come down in sub-packages -- would be ideal in "big nickel" three-safety packages like the New York Giants run.

    Read More »from The Shutdown 50: Florida International SS Jonathan Cyprien
  • Tavon Austin is custom-built for the modern NFL. (Getty Images)

    You didn't think that we were finished doing podcasts with our buddy Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN's NFL Matchup just because the NFL season is over, did you? Well, if you did, fear not -- we're back in the saddle (and Greg's now writing for Shutdown Corner as well) to do a new series of podcasts in which we evaluate the draft prospects by position. We've already discussed the quarterbacks and running backs in this year's class, and how it's time to talk about a very intriguing group of receivers and tight ends. Greg has taken his decades of experience, and oodles of coach's tape, and transferred both to the college side just in time for the pre-draft process.

    The Shutdown Corner draft podcast with Greg Cosell: Evaluating the WR/TE class

    A few words of wisdom from Mr. Cosell:

    On Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson: "Patterson will be drafted high solely because of his size, and his dynamic movement. I don't think he's anywhere close to being a quality receiver in terms of the subtleties of how to run routes. In fact, he's so much quicker and more dynamic with the ball in his hands, as opposed to running routes. Running routes, he's not that dynamic, because he doesn't know how to do it yet. He needs to go to a team with a very good receivers coach, and he needs to be taught how to become a receiver."

    On West Virginia WR Tavon Austin: "He may be one of my favorite players in this draft, and I spent a lot of time talking about this on Twitter the other day. I would select this kid in the top 10 or 12 in the draft, and I think that this is where the league is going. I wrote about this in my last column on Shutdown Corner. The NFL has now become a passing space league in many ways, and the conventional concepts of how to use receivers -- that's a little old-school. I think Tavon Austin fits where this league is going."

    The Shutdown Corner draft podcast with Greg Cosell: Evaluating the WR/TE class

    On Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins:

    Read More »from The Shutdown Corner draft podcast with Greg Cosell: Evaluating the WR/TE class
  • Brian Urlacher says contract offer from the Bears was an ultimatum

    Brian Urlacher says departure from Bears is not mutual (USA Today Sports Images)

    The Chicago Bears announced on Wednesday that they were unable to reach agreement on a new contract with longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and that the two sides were moving on from one another in 2013.

    That news came as a surprise to...Brian Urlacher, Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports.

    "My phone was blowing up, and I had no freaking idea what was going on," Urlacher said. "I had 10 messages in 20 seconds. Then I was like, 'Holy crap.' It was crazy."

    According to the report, the Bears offered Urlacher, who earned $8 million in 2012, a one-year contract worth $2 million, with only $1 million in guaranteed money. Urlacher's camp had been seeking a two-year contract worth $11.5 million, but they would offer the Bears a counter proposal worth $3.5 million for one season.

    Read More »from Brian Urlacher says contract offer from the Bears was an ultimatum
  • Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson likes how his team's front office has handled free agency, especially how they beefed up their offensive line by signing guard Andy Levitre to a six-year, $46.8 million contract, but one move in particular does not get his full approval.

    According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Johnson doesn't understand why the team signed free agent running back Shonn Greene to a three-year, $10 million contract.

    "I have never been a big fan of the two-back system, so I don’t know how we plan on using him," Johnson said. "I’m not afraid of competition, but I was thinking we’d maybe get a draft pick for the other back. And you don’t give a guy that kind of money to be just a goal-line guy and in tough-yardage situations. So we’ll see what happens."

    Read More »from Titans running back Chris Johnson is not a big fan of the Shonn Greene signing
  • Star Lotulelei appears to be back on the right track. (Getty Images)

    Before the heart condition that was diagnosed at the scouting combine, Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was thought by most NFL analysts to be a top-3 pick in the upcoming draft, and top-10 at worst. But it was reported on February 24 that abnormalities seen in his echocardiogram -- Lotulelei's left ventricle was pumping at 44 percent efficiency compared with the normal range of 55 to 70 percent.

    That put his combine drills on the shelf, and his future as a high draft prospect in doubt. There has been some speculation that Lotulelei's reading could have been related to dehydration, and Jeff Reynolds of the Sports Xchange reported in late February that Lotulelei lost 10 pounds in a three-day stretch as he prepared for the combine's frenetic schedule.

    [Also: NFL's latest helmet/hit rule puts coaches in bind]

    On Wednesday, Utah held its pro day, and Lotulelei got another chance to prove to NFL teams what he couldn't in Indianapolis. By all accounts, be absolutely nailed it. Multiple reports indicated that the 6-foot-3, 311-pound Lotulelei put up 38 reps on the 225-pound bench press, had a 30-inch vertical leap, ran the three-cone drill in 7.76 seconds, and the short shuttle in 4.65 seconds.

    Gil Brandt of NFL.com reported that Lotulelei was cleared to work out by cardiologist Josef Stehlik, referred to Lotulelei's agent, Bruce Tollner, by the San Francisco 49ers. Lotulelei will visit Stehlik again in April. Brandt also said that Tollner didn't want Lotulelei to run 40-yard dashes due to conditioning issues, but he did anyway, clocking in at 5.31 and 5.36.

    Those pro day numbers would have tied Lotulelei for first among defensive linemen with SMU's Margus Hunt and Missouri Southern's Brandon Williams in the bench press, tied with Florida's Sharrif Floyd in the middle of the pack on the vertical, and on the high side for defensive tackles in both agility tests. The 40s would have been on the low end of the scale, but the fact that he felt comfortable running them at all seems to indicate that he's on the mend.

    [Also: Ed Reed agrees to terms with the Houston Texans]

    NFL Network analyst Akbar Gbajabiamila reported that Lotulelei was just as impressive when going up against pads in position drills.

    If Lotulelei gets multiple clean bills of health and the reading at the combine isn't seen to indicate a chronic condition, he could easily be the first defensive player selected in the draft, and perhaps the first player taken overall -- because the tape shows a player who is every bit that good.

    Read More »from Star Lotulelei dominates at Utah’s pro day, may regain esteemed position after combine diagnosis
  • E.J. Manuel cuts loose at Florida State's pro day. (AP)

    From 2007 through 2012, Florida State has seen just three of its alumni called in the first round of the NFL draft -- linebacker Lawrence Timmons in 2007, cornerback Patrick Robinson in 2010, and quarterback Christian Ponder in 2011. That will certainly change in 2013, when as many as four Seminoles could be selected within the first 32 picks if they play their cards right. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and quarterback E.J. Manuel were all looking to cement their status when Florida State held its pro day on Tuesday.

    [Also: NFL, NFLPA divided over team doctors issue]

    Manuel, who was celebrating his 23rd birthday, may be the most intriguing prospect of the bunch. His stock has been rising since an impressive combine, and a decisive Senior Bowl week in which he was named the game's Most Valuable Player and looked very strong in practices. He was thought to be a second- or third-round prospect based solely on some fairly inconsistent game tape, but that's changed, and two events marked the transition on Tuesday. First, there was the fact that Manuel threw very well to his own receivers during a 54-play scripted throwing session. Then, he was invited to attend the draft in New York City -- an honor generally reserved for those who the NFL believes will be drafted in or near the first round. More players are invited these days, but that didn't lessen the thrill for Manuel.

    "When I got the invite, I was about to cry, really, because that was probably my biggest goal," Manuel told CBS Sports. "I know there's a lot being said about me going into it, but I never listened to it."

    In his 2012 season, Manuel completed 263 of 387 passes for 3,397 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, leading the ACC in completion percentage (68.0) and total yards per play (7.2). He also ran for 310 yards and four touchdowns on 103 attempts, adding to his currency as a mobile quarterback. He kept the momentum rolling at Doak Campbell stadium.

    "It was great," Manuel told NFL.com's Mike Mayock. "Great weather -- a little overcast this morning, but I didn't care. I just wanted to come out here and compete again, and show everybody what I can do. I think the biggest thing is just having timing with my receivers. Obviously, the pro day is built for you, so if you can't come out here and complete 95 percentage-wise [of your passes], you can't play. The biggest thing was to show my timing, accuracy, and arm strength."

    He's been doing that for the last few months, but there are still concerns. As I wrote in Manuel's Shutdown 50 scouting report, he does have issues making multiple reads, throwing into zone defenses, and lining up with his receivers on throws that require anticipation. I also wonder if these shortfalls are a function of scheme, and I have posited that Manuel can acquire these skills when football is his primary priority, as it will be in the NFL.

    [Also: Roger Goodell stands alone regarding L.A. stadium situation]

    "When you look at Manuel, there's a lot to work with," Greg Cosell told me on Shutdown Corner's draft podcast dealing with quarterbacks.

    Read More »from Happy Birthday: E.J. Manuel excels at Florida State’s pro day, gets invited to NFL draft
  • Mike Glennon throws a ball into the air. Where it goes, he knows not where. (USAT Sports Images)

    With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and pro day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.

    41. Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State

    We continue this year's series with North Carolina State's Mike Glennon, one member of a quarterback class that has been perhaps unfairly maligned, standing in the shadows of a 2012 class that gave us Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. At least the 6-foot-7 Glennon is used to standing in the 5-foot-11 shadow of Wilson; he had to wait until Wilson transferred from N.C. State to Wisconsin in 2011 before he could be a starter in college. Glennon showed flashes of the ability that made him one of the most prized high school recruits in the country in 2007.

    [Also: NFL, NFLPA divided over team doctors issue]

    In his first year as a starter, Glennon completed 283 passes in 453 attempts for 3,054 yards, 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, the burden of production shifted far more to Glennon's shoulders in 2012, and that wasn't always a good thing. He led the ACC in interceptions with 17, while attempting over 100 more passes and throwing for over 1,000 more yards. Estimable production and frustrating mistakes? That was the snapshot view of Glennon's time in Raleigh.

    At the Senior Bowl, Glennon looked great in practices, when he didn't have pass rushers bearing down on him, and he could show off his amazing throwing arm. But in the game itself, that old bugaboo of his -- severe inconsistency under pressure -- reared its ugly head. Glennon completed eight of 16 passes in the game for 82 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. Teams in love with pure physical attributes will surely value Glennon highly, but when you watch the game tape, there's a lot to worry about. The version of Mike Glennon we see in the NFL will depend a great deal on coaching, scheme and personnel.

    Pros: Glennon displays a smooth and consistent dropback form on long passes that require five-and seven-stop drops. His footwork isn't choppy, and he times the rock from his back foot to the throw on his plant foot well. More mobile than he looks; will bail out of pressure, especially to his right, and make throws (though accuracy is something we'll talk about later). When moving in and around the pocket, tends to reset pretty quickly and keeps his eyes downfield. Can roll right off of boot action and make tough throws downfield. Has an easy, quick, relatively compact delivery (a little hitch when he's bringing the ball back to the side of his head), and the ball just zings off his hand.

    Read More »from The Shutdown 50: North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon