INDIANAPOLIS ? NFL Combine week is like high school on steroids with back-channel chatter and rumblings fueling speculation about what lies ahead in free agency and the draft. Here?s a sprinkling of nuggets that should interest Jets fans wondering how Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles might re-shape the roster in this next phase of Gang Green?s rebuild:
BRIDGE TO SOMEWHERE?
Although the Kirk Cousins chatter went into overdrive last week – the Vikings, Jets and Broncos are in a breathless race to land his services, according to the Chatty Charlies roaming Indianapolis ? there?s another intriguing option for quarterback-needy teams.
Teddy Bridgewater is one of the most unusual cases in memory. He?s a 25-year-old quarterback with solid starting experience (28 games), who hasn?t started a game in two seasons due to a career-threatening knee injury. My understanding is that the Vikings view Bridgewater, who went 11-5 with a playoff appearance in 2015, as nothing more than a pedestrian signal caller.
?I think we have a lot more knowledge of Teddy than anyone else,? Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said at the Combine last week. ?Our medical department has rehabbed him ever since the surgery was done. We?ve seen him in practice. Our coaches have worked with him… We probably have more in-depth knowledge than anyone on where he?s at right now in his current status.?
Should the Jets take a low-risk, high-reward shot at Bridgewater if they don?t land Cousins? I don?t believe it?s in the cards, but would a Bridgewater/Josh McCown/rookie quarterback trio make sense for Gang Green?
SIZE DOESN?T MATTER
The over-analysis during Combine week is borderline comical, but there?s actually something to be said about a quarterback?s hand size. If the guy has microscopic meat hooks, he might have some issues grabbing/securing the ball, especially during Northeast winters. So, NFL teams pay particularly close attention to a quarterback?s paws. I engaged in a couple interesting discussions last week about how a guy can actually increase his hand size. (Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes in the face of one highly respected talent evaluator claiming it was possible).
USC?s Sam Darnold , plagued by fumbling problems (21 fumbles in the past two years, including nine lost last season) checked in with 938 inch hands. Oklahoma?s Baker Mayfield was smaller at 9? inches. UCLA?s Josh Rosen?s hands were nothing to sneeze at: 978 inches. Then, there was the mutant Josh Allen, whose paws were 10 1/8 inches.
?You have to have a starting point, right?? Brown head coach Hue Jackson said. ?You want a guy to be this tall, you want a guy to be this big, you want a guy to have this kind of hand size, but at the end of the day, can the guy play the position? Everybody has a prototype that they want, but there?s always… outliers to all of this.?
Would the Jets actually draft Notre Dame guard Quinton Nelson with the No. 6 pick? Don?t rule it out if they sign Kirk Cousins in the coming weeks. Cousins would open up a world of possibilities for Gang Green in the first round. If Mike Maccagnan & Co. don?t ink the prized signal caller, then logic dictates that Gang Green would take a quarterback with their first-round selection.
Otherwise, Nelson would be a real consideration. There?s little doubt that he?d help, but is there enough value in an interior offensive lineman to justify such a high pick?
?I?m always open to good players at whatever position they come,? said Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin. ?Guards are getting paid a lot in free agency… Whether they change your fortunes or not as a team is the debatable point. Quinton is as fine a college football player as I?ve seen in a long time. As complete as I?ve seen. I?m not sure Quinton can?t play any of the five spots up front. We?ll see where he ultimately lines up as a rookie and second-year player. It?s a philosophical question: Do guards matter? Every position matters on the field. He certainly has earned his way to the top of this draft for sure.?
John Morton?s inability to marry the run and passing games was a factor in his ouster as offensive coordinator, prompting inquiring minds to wonder about the true importance of offensive balance. Will new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and run-game coordinator Rick Dennison, who are Mike Shanahan disciples, put more of an emphasis on the ground attack?
On the surface, it seems obvious to achieve an equitable run-pass division, but it?s not that simple. New Lions head coach Matt Patricia was an eyewitness to a chameleon approach in Foxborough.
?That?s a great word to throw out there: ?Balanced.?… What does that really mean?? Patricia said. ?In general, you?re probably going to be better off if you?re balanced, right? Not necessarily. I think what you?re going to do is you?re going to do whatever it takes that week to win. We?ve been in situations before, whether it was New England or whatever (when) we knew running the ball wasn?t going to work (in a particular game), so we had to throw it 50 times to win. We knew that in other situations we weren?t going to be able to throw the ball 50 times, so we had to run the ball 30-plus times to win. So, whatever it?s going to be that week to win is what we?re going to need to do.?
?What you?d like to do is go into a game with the mindset that you can be balanced, whether it?s offensively or defensively,? he continued. ?If you can do both, then you probably have control of the game and you?re probably going to be in a pretty good situation to win. Hey, if we?re balanced, we?re probably going to be in control. We?re probably going to win. So that would be a great way to approach it.?
Editor?s Note: Patricia is an extremely impressive guy. The Giants would have hit a home run if they landed him.
FREE AGENCY FRENZY?
Free agency isn?t an elixir, but it sure can help the Jets accelerate this next phase of their rebuilding process. If time weren?t a factor, the Jets ? and every team – could spend a decade to build a roster solely through the draft. It?s an affordable and ideal way to team building in a vacuum. Alas, that isn?t practical. Decision makers must efficiently and quickly put together a core through the draft and free agency.
The Jets will have more than $90 million in salary cap space to address several pivotal areas of need. All indications are that Gang Green is willing to pony up real cash to improve deficient spots. But how much better can the Jets get by plucking players on the open market?
?I think free agency is good,? Todd Bowles said. ?Obviously you can sign some pieces that you need. Not everybody needs to be a star-studded player. You have to get the pieces you need for your team. If it works out price-wise and everything else, you get some good ones. Every now and then people get injured, people get hurt. Nothing?s a guarantee. But as long as you add some pieces that are key to what you?re trying to do, I think it?s a good thing.?
LITTLE BROTHER IS WATCHING
Jets CEO and Chairman Christopher Johnson spent a few days at the Combine. Don?t get the wrong idea though: He won?t be urging his football staff to pick particular players. He just wanted to take in this unique experience. Woody, in case you were wondering, sometimes made the trip to Indianapolis too.
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