The fun at Lucas Oil Stadium continued on Friday as the NFL Scouting Combine cranked up for day two. The coaches and general managers that didn’t speak yesterday got a chance to get in front of the microphone on Friday.
Here are some of the notable quotes you need to know.
Green Bay Packers
Head coach Mike McCarthy kicked off the coverage on Friday. One of his most-interesting quotes came when talking about the rookie season of running back Johnathan Franklin. “Johnathan really did some very good things. One game that stands out is his performance against Cincinnati. We try to get him involved on special teams. Some of the things he has not done in college. That was an adjustment for him. He was a great fit for us. It was unfortunate when he did get hurt, but hopefully he’ll be ready to go next year. He fits into our program. He’s a great teammate, hard-worker. He definitely has impact play ability. We probably need to do a better job of getting him involved on Sundays.”
Ted Thompson, general manager of the Packers, is one of my favorites. When I go to the college all-star games, Thompson is always there. He’s usually the first one at the weigh-ins and the last one to leave practice. Thompson breathes, eats and sleeps football.
He talked about what he felt was the most important part of the combine process. “Ah, probably quite frankly, the ability to get medical examinations and find out all the medical information we can on each of the players. It’s quite a task that they undertake here at the combine, I think they do a great job of it. It’s nice to be able to talk to the guys and it’s nice to be able to see them work out. At the end of the day, most of them are attending big schools and we would probably be at their pro days and be able to cover that as well.”
Bruce Arians once again did his best David Dodds impression at the podium. I like what he said about second-year wide receiver Michael Floyd. “I think Michael is starting to reach his potential. He had what I consider to be a breakout year, over 1,000 yards. He still needs to be more consistent each week. He played through injuries for the first time which is a huge step for a young player to play through injuries. A lot of times they just sit themselves down. He wanted to win, he wanted to help us win. I thought he made great strides. This year, can he do it again?”
San Francisco 49ers
Trent Baalke, general manager of the 49ers, had some good things to say about second-year receiver Quinton Patton. “Any time you get injured it takes away from your growth as a player. So it was a little bit of a rocky road for Quinton. But the amazing thing about him is how resilient he is and how much fun . . . . I talk about Frank and much he loves the game, and I think if you asked anyone on our football team, ‘Give me the top two or three guys that just love to play,’ Quinton’s name’s going to come up quite a bit. He loves being on the field. He loves practicing. He loves being in the building. He’s a great teammate. He’s a hard worker, so he’s going to bounce back from that. I think you saw toward the end of the year he already started to make a leap. And we’ve always maintained the most growth that takes places is between the year 1 and the year 2. And we’ll expect that to happen in Quinton’s case.”
Baalke also added his thoughts about where Patton can play. “I think he can play inside and outside. He’s a very smart football player. He works very hard at the game, and his skill set translates inside and out.”
Baalke’s interview had just begun when Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seahawks, was announced at the other podium across the room. Many rushed over to hear what the Super Bowl-winning head coach had to say.
Carroll had some interesting comments when talking about second-year running back Christine Michael. "He's really talented and a really exciting guy in our program. Probably has the most breakout potential of anybody because we haven't seen much of him yet. We've seen him, we know that he can do really special stuff. He played in a very competitive position. It was hard to get in there with Marshawn and Robert Turbin. But he'll give those guys a real run when we come back to work. He'll grow a lot from year one to year two. We all know in our program that he's going to be very explosive and a really exciting guy. He showed that in his chances that he got."
Thomas Dimitroff, general manager of the Falcons, has an eye for talent. On Friday, he shared his thoughts about what he looks for when drafting a quarterback late. “Quarterback is a very interesting position. It’s one of the more difficult position to evaluate because there is so much involved. I had the good fortunate of being around Tom Brady in New England and now Matt Ryan to get a real good feel for what we are looking for in quarterback (in terms of) the leadership aspects, a strong arm and 6-5 height. It’s about the entire package. It’s about the entire package. That’s very important for us and it’s very important to make sure that you continue to develop a guy that’s going to be a legitimate deuce (backup/No. 2) and maybe you can parlay into a trade opportunity, which New England has done in the past to use as an example. The later picks, I think being creative with the later picks and holding on to those guys is an important part of your scouting process. I think a big part of it and one of the big topics of conversation right now is where we are with player development in this league and it’s going to be a very important part of the future of this league.”
The new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has to find himself a quarterback. Christian Ponder was selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft with the idea that he could be a quality starter. Injuries and inconsistencies have held back Ponder during his pro career, so the team may be running out of patience.
On Friday, Zimmer talked about Ponder. "I think everybody realizes that Christian has a ton of talent. He's got a great arm, he runs good, he's a very bright guy. I think everybody wants him to live up to his expectations, not only that we all have of him, but he has of himself. It's hard for me to judge him when I haven't been out on the field with him, asked him to do things, seen how he does different things. The patience part, I'm not a patient person with anybody. I just think, once we get on the field, we'll figure all those things out."
Like head coach Jim Caldwell did yesterday, general manager Martin Mayhew talked about quarterback Matthew Stafford’s mechanics. “I think like every other quarterback and any other athlete, you can continually work on your technique and what you’re doing in terms of mechanics. I see him working on at practice every day so I know he’s willing to work on it, we have coaches who will coach him on it. I’m really excited to see the player he can become working with coach Caldwell who worked with Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco (Jim Bob Cooter). And Joe Lombardi worked with Drew Brees. We’ve got a good group of guys around him and he’s very coachable.”
Marvin Lewis, longtime coach of the Bengals, was asked about potentially expanding the roles of running back Gio Bernard and tight end Tyler Eifert. “I don’t know how much increase we can get with Gio because he touched it two out of three times already. At this point you want to make sure you don’t pound one guy. I thought what we did last year was great. Tyler got a lot of opportunity to play and to grow. Guys earn opportunity. You earn it and we’ll give it to you.”
The Jaguars need to select a quarterback in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Head coach Gus Bradley had some good things to say about Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. “I can tell you, we've watched enough that we're very intrigued by him, the traits he has - big, tall, timing, accuracy, decision making. Those are the things we take a close look at it. The evaluation process is never over. The Combine is important but it's just another piece of the puzzle. I'm looking forward to seeing him really compete. There's a chance to compete here and we'll keep an eye on him.”
New head coach Bill O’Brien has been rumored to be a fan of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles. He talked about his impressions of the potential number one pick. “We played against him at Central Florida in the Penn State game. He played well. They beat us and I thought he threw the ball well that night. Obviously I have a connection with (coach) George O'Leary and their coaching staff thinks very highly of him there. He's a big guy. He's athletic. He's a competitive guy. So it's been fun to watch him play on tape and it'll be good to watch him work out here.”
General manager Rick Smith spoke about his impressions of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. “Yeah, DeAndre, he did a nice job for us. We were very pleased with what he did. Personally, the wide receiver position is one of the most difficult to come into the NFL and play early. There’s so many things for a wide receiver to think about and to process and play at the speed that they need to play with. I think he did a nice job with that.”
New York Giants
Tom Coughlin, head coach of the Giants, is looking forward to his quarterback Eli Manning having a bounce-back year in 2014. On Friday, he was asked if there were any internal concerns about Manning. “Internal concern? I don’t know where the internal concern is. We’re very confident that Eli will, with the help of others around him, he’s not by himself in this by any means, with the help of his coaches and the help of his teammates, will return to the high stature that we hold him in. I feel very good about that. I’ve seen it in his eyes as he’s returned back a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. We’re excited about that too.”
St. Louis Rams
Les Snead, general manager of the Rams, answered a few questions about quarterback Sam Bradford. “Sam's young still. A lot of experience. You don't want to throw that experience away. When you start talking about a starting quarterback, we could spend all day on why we're standing by Sam. It's probably pretty well-documented the NFC West is a pretty tough division, but since 2012 when Jeff and I got here, he's 5-2-1 in that division. When we kind of found our identity this year, he played really well. We're gonna have to win this division to get to the tournament, and he's proven he can do it. And he's proved he can play very well in the offense post (first) San Fran game. Those variables are why we're standing by him.”
Jeff Fisher, head coach in St. Louis, talked about the state of the offense heading into 2014 and why he expects to improve. “We've got younger players that got to play (in 2013). Zac came in in Week 5 and showed what he's capable of doing. We got some late-season production –real production –out of Stedman Bailey. Our little receiver (Tavon Austin) before he got hurt was really coming on. (Jared) Cook had an outstanding year, so I think we're much further ahead than we were. When young players get valuable experience like that, you expect improvement.”
Kansas City Chiefs
John Dorsey, general manager of the Chiefs, continued the dialogue that we’d see more of Knile Davis to help keep Jamaal Charles fresh. “I will say this; when I first got there, I will say this; I knew Jamaal was very fast, very talented. I didn't realize how tough he was. He is unbelievable. With that being said, I think that as the end of the year came along, you saw Knile Davis begin to develop that role to take some reps away and make Jamaal a little bit fresher in the fourth quarter. If you can have a two-headed running attack with Knile, with Jamaal, that helps everybody."
Ryan Grigson, Colts general manager, answered more than one question about running back Trent Richardson. “Overall feeling is he’s a tough, good talented football player that has a broad skillset that’s still learning what we do.We’re still optimistic about his future.”
Grigson continued later with another answer about Richardson. “Trent expects what we expect, and that’s greatness. He’s always been at the top of the rung every time he’s played. He knows this is the NFL and it’s a bottom-line business. We’re all on the same page. We all have expectations for Trent and he has expectations for himself. And they’re for him to be great. he has expectations of himself to be great. I think he’s in a great place and we’re in a great place with him. We’re looking forward to having a great offseason with him and all our young players because we have the bar set high, and that’s to the 90th man on the roster. I think there’s room for improvement like I can say for anyone. But there are areas in Trent’s game where he did show up and help us in key situations. There’s obviously the big magnifying glass on him every week. But we see positives. We watch the tape and we evaluate and look under every nook and cranny and how a guy is progressing. We feel he’s going in the right direction. He had the shoulder (surgery) and he’s going to be fine.”
Chuck Pagano, Colts head coach, gave us some insight on his feelings about wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers. “There’s a guy there that physically is what you’re looking for. Height, weight, speed and all those things. He makes ‘wow’ plays. Again, he’s a young guy that’s got some playing experience, which is going to be invaluable moving forward. It’s a matter of him coming in and getting better every day and have a great offseason. You’ve got a big target. Big, fast guy that can make those huge plays down the field. He’s a mis-match against a lot of the guys he goes against. We saw him make some big plays when he had some opportunities. He needs to become more consistent.”
Ron Rivera, head coach of the Panthers, knows the Panthers need better play from weapons in the passing game. Two of those players who could see an expanded role in 2014 are Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt. “They're two good young guys that we look at as almost being kind of like draft picks. They're young guys that we brought in, put them on our roster so we have them as we go forward. You want to see young guys develop. They've got good size, good athleticism. Both have tremendous hands, make good decisions. Both very smart young men. I like their personalities, they seem to be very competitive. But we don't know a lot about them. As we go forward, we have a little bit of a leap of faith that these young men can develop into players and be the kind of guys that can help us as we go forward as a football team.”
Jay Gruden is the new head coach in Washington. He is tasked with getting quarterback Robert Griffin III III back on track after a disappointing 2013 season. On Friday, Gruden talked about improvements Griffin needs to make. “Well, he’s only going into his third year, obviously. Last year was a tough year, it was a humbling year for a lot of people, especially him. He’s eager to get back into shape. He’s eager to work. He’s got a great work ethic already, I can see that. He’s excited to get the new playbook. We can’t give it out yet, we’re still in the process of making that. But once OTAs start, we’ll introduce it to them. I think the one thing about him is that he’s a fiery competitor, you can see that. He’s a good, solid leader and he’s excited to get to work. Obviously, he has a ton of talent that we have to try to continue to mold and get him comfortable in the offense.”
John Elway, general manager of the Broncos, talked about the possibility of bringing Knowshon Moreno back in free agency. “We are still in that process. We are still in the process of evaluating where we are. When you talk about Knowshon, he had a tremendous year for us. You look at the year—he was reliable, he caught the ball, ran the football for us and was also tremendous in pass protection. Knowshon was a big part of what we did this year. It’s still early in the process as far as what we’re going to do in the free agent market.”
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