Around the league notes: WR draft class lauded for blocking

Len Pasquarelli, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Wide receivers don't get selected in the first round of the draft because of their blocking skills, but led perhaps by Michael Floyd of Notre Dame, the pool of wideouts for the 2012 draft in two weeks might be among the best group of downfield "edge" blockers in recent years, some scouts feel. The ancillary ability may boost the draft stock, at least a little, of a few wide receivers.
--The addition of Rivers, if he can stay healthy, may prompt Giants coaches to switch weak-side 'backer Michael Boley to the middle, a spot where New York has struggled the past couple seasons.
--Following up on the restricted free agent theme cited earlier: Although the Patriots would likely have matched an offer, there are some in the NFL who wonder why no one dangled an offer sheet at New England backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Tom Brady's backup has appeared in only 13 games over three years in the league, and has registered just 43 attempts, but a few scouts feel he is a better prospect than all but Luck and Robert Griffin III among this year's candidates in the draft.
--Personnel people likewise wonder why, even at a low-priority position like safety in free agency, Dallas' Abram Elam is getting so little play. The six-year pro has only three interceptions in his career, but is pretty smart and has started in 47 games the past three seasons.
--Why would the Atlanta Falcons even consider the invitation from HBO to participate in this year's edition of the "Hard Knocks" series? A lot of reasons: Head coach Mike Smith has twice already been exposed to the show, both times as an assistant head coach. Owner Arthur Blank has rarely avoided an opportunity, either personally or for his franchise, to garner the spotlight. And Blank, who is obsessed with bringing a Super Bowl to Atlanta, is keenly aware that the enhanced profile that "Hard Knocks" could bring might help deliver to him the new open-air or retractable roof stadium he so desperately wants. The stadium proposal has received mixed reviews in Atlanta, and "Hard Knocks" and the attention inherent to it could help to swing some skeptics.
--On the Falcons: Isn't it about time someone counseled wide receiver Roddy White about his propensity for "tweeting" before thinking? White this week had to again apologize, for about the umpteenth time, it seems, for some Twitter remarks. This time around, they dealt with anti-gay sentiments.
--Washington officials, who have signed safety Tanard Jackson, are relying on the advice of new secondary coach and former Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris that the four-year veteran isn't quite the incorrigible he's been portrayed as being. The troubled Jackson was released by the Bucs earlier in the week.
--In the past five drafts, an average of just 12.4 quarterbacks were selected. Even with the need for passers, the average doesn't look like it will be much higher in two weeks. But teams have already begun to identify quarterbacks they might sign an bring to camp as free agents, and who have a shot at developing into more than simply camp "arms." Among them: G.K Kinne (Tulsa), Alex Tanney (Monmouth), and Nick Stephens (Tarleton State). A few scouts are also intrigued by LSU's Jarrett Lee, although there are plenty of questions about his decision-making acumen.
--Scouts seem to be satisfied that the charges lodged against Bruce Irvin a few weeks ago for destruction of property aren't a major deterrent to choosing him, and the West Virginia defensive end/rush linebacker is getting serious play as a second-rounder at worst. On the flip side, the off-field indiscretions of cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was dismissed from the Florida squad and finished his career at North Alabama, are giving some teams serious pause. Jenkins is a top-three corner, at worst, but the reservations about him could keep him out of the first round.
--Although Chicago dealt for Brandon Marshall, look for the Bears, who haven't had a receiver with 1,000 yards since Marty Booker in 2002, to add a speedy wideout in the draft. That will be especially true if the Bears feel that Johnny Knox, who is attempting to come back from a serious back injury, won't be ready for the start of the season.
--Another team that's suffered a 1,000-yard receiver drought, Cleveland, feels second-year pro Greg Little could be the guy to end the streak. Little posted 709 yards as a rookie in '11 and, while he had some streaks of inconsistency, made some strides. The Browns haven't had a 1,000-yard receiver since Braylon Edwards in 2007.
--As noted on Tuesday by The Sports Xchange, teams really have come up the past few weeks on Mississippi offensive tackle Bobby Massie.
--Houston officials feel really good about the addition this week of former Dallas inside linebacker Bradie James. They feel that James, who played for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in Dallas, will be a very good influence on Brian Cushing. James won't be as good as the departed DeMeco Ryans, but he should be more than adequate.
--They've been ripped by some students of the game for not having done much in free agency, despite having bushels of money, but most personnel folks feel the Bengals have helped themselves with quiet, under-the-radar, modest-cost additions. Cincy has added a pair of starting guards in Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell and bolstered a shaky cornerback situation, one that will be even stronger if Leon Hall returns whole from injury. The Bengals have added/retained three corners, all former first-rounders. Cincy seems confident that Dallas castoff corner Terence Newman can be serviceable, and will return to form now that he will be reunited with coordinator Mike Zimmer, under whom he had some productive seasons with the Cowboys.

*The last word: "That's karma. Just because he knows X's and O's, that doesn't mean he's a nice person." -- former NFL strong safety Lawyer Milloy, who played with the Atlanta Falcons and Bobby Petrino in 2007, on the deposed Arkansas coach

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