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USC's Leonard Williams not resting on laurels with NFL dream so close (Shutdown Corner) Courtesy of
Some call him Big Cat. Others call him テ「94,テ「 his uniform number at USC. To most, though, heテ「冱 just Leo. Trojans defensive lineman Leonard Williams is cool with all of them. He has embraced the first nickname enough to ink a menacing lion on his right arm, right next to his tattoos of wings on each arm and the words テ「彜trengthテ「 and テ「廚ourage.テ「敕つWilliams' flowing, feline mane resonates his natural charm and effortless, laid-back cool. You can't try for hair like this; you're either blessed with it, or you're not. Williams is beaming because he knows what heテ「冱 on the precipice of fulfilling テ「氾つin a few months, an NFL team picking very high in the 2015 draft will call his name and make him one of the centerpieces of their defense. "This is what I have been dreaming of," Williams says, his smooth voice trailing off a bit, letting the words hang in the air a moment. It could be the Tennessee Titans with the second pick. It might be the Jacksonville Jaguars, just up the road a few hours from where he grew up, picking third. Or maybe the Oakland Raiders, a team Williams said he wouldnテ「冲 mind playing for in December, at No. 4. Whoever lands the 6-foot-5, 305-pound behemoth of a man will also be getting a quiet fortitude that acts as his carburetor, mixing the drive to play in the NFL that heテ「冱 had since well before he stepped on campus and his big-stick, speak-softly dominance as a player. テ「廬 guess Iテ「冦 quiet,テ「 Williams told Shutdown Corner recently, offering a sheepish smile that belies his physical presence. テ「廬 can talk, but I am not a big talker." The East Coast kid has become West-Coast chill. Most comfortable in shorts and flip flops. Not much of a self-promoter. Others can do that plenty well.テつ テ「廬 am not big on social media either, and I have not been on Twitter a lot lately," he said. "I just try to take care of my own business without a lot of extra [words]. Thatテ「冱 why I like being here. Itテ「冱 all business.テ「 Here is his training facility at EXOS in Phoenix, where Williams has been gearing up for the NFL combine next week in Indianapolis working alongside current NFL players and NFL hopefuls. Heテ「冱 working on his 40 time (he ran a 4.9 the day he showed up, without any technique work or training), the other movement drills such as the 3-cone and the short shuttle and is working with position coaches alongside other draft hopefuls to improve their get-off, their short-area quickness and their technique. Itテ「冱 spartan, repetitive and somewhat thankless work, and it suits Williams just fine. For the past month, it has been Williamsテ「 life, and he has bought into the big changes that his new team テ「氾つEXOS, formerly Athletesテ「 Performance テ「氾つbelieve can squeeze even more juice out of this extremely talented player. テ「弩hen I first got into it, it was a great grind,テ「 Williams said. テ「廬 didnテ「冲 know what to expect. I was here from like 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and it was the most intense workouts I have been through. テ「廬 like it, though. Everyoneテ「冱 here to just work and get better.テ「 Caging the Q ....how do you cage Colin ...with with 10 future nfl Rushmen pic.twitter.com/a1zaJ4DPNU テ「 Thurmond Moore (@tmoore7533) February 1, 2015 With Williams, the bar was set pretty high coming in. He made first- or second-team All-America lists for most major publications and totaled 80 tackles (second on the Trojans), 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks (tied for the team lead), three forced fumbles and an interception as a junior before declaring for the draft. Over his three seasons, he racked up 36.5 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions テ「 fairly incredible numbers for a man his size and considering the role he played at USC. On a line that featured no draft picks the past two seasons (and none other than Williams expected to be drafted this year), Williams played myriad techniques and often was asked to absorb double teams and play in a two-gap system that in theory watered down his statistical production. テ「廬 played almost every spot on the D-line,テ「 he said. テ「廬 played stand-up 5-technique on the outside. I played a 5-technique with my hand in the dirt. I played a 4-technique. I played 3-technique. I also played an inside shade, [on] the nose. テ「廬 think I am best in a 4-technique in a 3-4 defense. Or if I am in a 4-3 front, I probably am best at a 3- or a 5-technique. I did whatever they asked me to do.テ「 Williams has become the most dominant USC lineman to enter the league since Jurrell Casey, who has become one of the NFLテ「冱 best unknown stars and a player who could be Williamsテ「 teammate if the Titans decide to forgo a quarterback and pick him second overall. And yet Williams wasnテ「冲 consistently dominant in 2014, despite being named the Trojansテ「 team MVP by his teammates, and he wrestled with the decision to go pro. For a player who has been mocked to go in the top five picks for the better part of the year, Williams strongly considered returning to college テ「氾つeven after a destructive performance in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska in which he racked up nine tackles and a sack and was named game MVP. Yahoo! Sat, Feb 07
 
Marrone says he left Bills with no head-coaching job in mind (The Associated Press) Courtesy of
Former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone now has a home in Jacksonville. Speaking publicly for the first time since surprisingly opting out of his contract on New Year's Eve, abruptly walking away with two years remaining on a four-year deal, Marrone said Thursday that he left Buffalo with no assurances of getting another job. ''In this profession, you can't really have that,'' Marrone said. I knew that it was all open.'' Days after he bailed on the Bills, Marrone emerged as a front-runner to replace Rex Ryan with the New York Jets. Yahoo! Thu, Feb 05
 
Which of the seven new NFL head coaches was the best hire? (Shutdown Corner) Courtesy of
When Dan Quinn could finally accept the Atlanta Falcons' head-coaching job after Super Bowl XLIX, there were no more NFL vacancies. With the coaching carousel stopped (unless we get an unexpected firing this offseason), it's time to take a look at the seven teams that made a change, and figure out which team made the best hire. We're not just looking at the coach himself, but also if the team improved itself by firing its old coach and bringing in new blood: 7. Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers Tomsula might be the next Don Shula; I have no idea. But what we know now is this: The 49ers ran off Jim Harbaugh, who has been incredibly successful at every stop and a top 5 NFL coach, top 10 at worst. And they replaced him with a defensive line coach who has been a NFL head coach for one game, as an interim. Thereテ「冱 a lot to live up to there. 6. Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders I felt bad for the Raiders fans when the テ「廱on Gruden will take the Raiders job! No, itテ「冤l be Jim Harbaugh!テ「 madness was happening. That was not realistic, but good job by their agents parlaying that into a lot of money for their clients. What the Raiders did get is a solid coach with a good reputation as a coordinator and some head-coaching experience (68-71 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have cratered since he was fired), and most important テ「 Del Rio wanted the job. Iテ「冦 not sure this was a grand slam hire or anything, but it was probably as good as the Raiders could have done. 5. Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons Iテ「冦 always a bit leery of just taking the coordinator from the top unit. Itテ「冱 probably unfair to Quinn, but itテ「冱 also fair to wonder how heテ「冤l do without Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril テ「ツヲ you get the idea. His players love him, he came off very well during Super Bowl week, and he was a hot name. Weテ「冤l see if Atlanta made the right hire. 4. Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos Yahoo! Thu, Feb 05
 
Who might the Patriots play in the 2015 opener? No clear-cut choice (Shutdown Corner) Courtesy of
By winning the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots will likely be featured to host the Thursday night NFL season opener at Gilette Stadium next fall. But who will they play? It's not an obvious choice for the league, which likes to pair up the defending champs with a sexy opponent that will bring its own share of viewers. The Seattle Seahawks, for example, opened up against the Green Bay Packers at the start of the 2014 season. We know the eight opponents the Patriots are scheduled to play at home for the 2015 season. Here's how we rank the likelihood of each team playing the Patriots in Week 1: 8. Jacksonville Jaguars: No chance. Zero. Hey, we like the Jaguars and believe they could be a surprise team in 2015 (just as we テ「 d'oh! テ「 predicted they'd be this past season). But there is no chance that the Fighting Gus Bradleys will be headed to Foxborough in the first week of September. 7. Tennessee Titans: Even if they draft a big-name rookie such as Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston ... nah. 6. Washington Redskins: Yeah, we just don't see it. Certainly Dan Snyder thinks he should he in a marquee game such as this, but there's no reason to forecast this. RG3 is like RG1.5 at this point, and there's no other real marketable way to promote this game ... unless Snyder changes the mascot name a week prior to the game. Ha! 5. Miami Dolphins: Yes, it's a rivalry game and a division game, but that's no reason to force-feed this matchup. It's just not happening, not with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback テ「 solid as he became this season テ「 and Joe Philbin back as head coach. Pass. 4. New York Jets: These teams often meet in Week 2, and it's often down in New Jersey. Yes, these teams don't like each other, and the rivalry is always good for a few interesting (and overplayed) storylines, but those things could happen any time on the calendar. And sorry, we're just not feeling a brewing Todd Bowles-Bill Belichick rivalry here. Besides: The Geno Smith factor テ「 assuming the Jets don't land Mariota or Winston or, heck, even the ghost of Richard Todd テ「 trumps all.テつ 3. Buffalo Bills: What a nice bone this would be to Terry Pegula's franchise, with new head coach Rex Ryan, who is freshly tattooed and still gunning for the Patriots and his old foil, Belichick. We like the potential here, but until they improve at quarterback, we're still not quite feeling this one. We're willing to adjust this ranking slightly depending on how the offseason shakes out, but for now it's an also-ran game. 2. PhiladelphiaテつEagles: A great wildcard choice. Yes, since the NFL has started awarding the Kickoff game to the defending champions, only once テ「 New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts, in 2007 テ「 has it featured an intra-divisional matchup. We think this one easily has the best chance to be the next one to do so. Why? Chip. As in Kelly. Yes, even after the Eagles missed the postseason, Kelly remains a huge figure in the NFL, and it would mark the first fascinating matchup in a regular-season game of two highly regarded coaches. Belichick clearly has a ton of respect for Kelly, picking his brain while he was at Oregon and then running joint training-camp practices with his Eagles each of the past two seasons, with both coaches firing off praise at one another up and down. But is that a big enough selling point for this game? We're not quite convinced on that. テつ 1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Is it a bit stale? Yes, but it's guaranteed ratings. Some might argue that you could line up the prison-guard team from up the street in Walpole, Mass. and this game would rate highly. That said, bringing a traditional team (and a semi-rival of the Patriots) and putting two marquee quarterbacks together in Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger together just makes the most sense and feels the most right. The Steelers might not be a great team, but they remain competitive, which could give us an entertaining four quarters of action with this matchup. One final note: There's nothing in the NFL rules that say the game MUST be played in Foxborough. After all, the Baltimore Ravens played their 2013 season opener in Denver after a scheduling conflict with the Orioles. If the league really wants to maximize the matchup, they could send the Patriots on the road where they could stage a deflate-gate rematch with the Indianapolis Colts, another Peyton Manning-Tom Brady matchup in Denver or ... wait for it ... a date with the Dallas Cowboys under the bright lights of Jerry World. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm Yahoo! Tue, Feb 03
 
Shutdown Corner NFL Power Rankings: Way-too-early ranks for 2015 (Shutdown Corner) Courtesy of
And the long wait begins. At least the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks gave us a classic Super Bowl to remember over the long seven months that await before we get another competitive football game. The fans of 30 other teams had started thinking about the 2015 season a while ago. To help pass the time through the NFL scouting combine, draft, free agency, training camp and preseason, here are the way-too-early NFL power rankings heading into the offseason. Think of it as a snapshot of where each team is at the moment, with a few guesses as to free agents re-signed, draft picks made and whether certain future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will come back for another year. It will change dramatically over the next few months. But why not have some fun? Itテ「冤l be a long time before we have actual football again. So here are the insanely early 2015 NFL power rankings: 32. Tennessee Titans Will they grab a quarterback with the second pick? Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota have (much different) flaws. Zach Mettenberger showed some good things as a rookie. Whatever they do, they need to resist the urge to make a trade offer for Jay Cutler. 31. Washington Redskins Just copy and paste all the テ「廚an Robert Griffin III improve if he stays healthy?テ「 stuff from last offseason. Nobody knows who the quarterback will be. And after one year of Jay Gruden, we can probably bet on an in-season change or five being made at the position anyway. 30. Jacksonville Jaguars Yahoo! Mon, Feb 02
 
Current Roster
Quarterback College External Player News Links
Blake Bortles UCF
 
 
 
 
 
Chad Henne Michigan
 
 
 
 
 
Stephen Morris Miami (FL)
 
 
 
 
 
Runningback College External Player News Links
Bradie Ewing Wisconsin
 
 
 
 
 
Toby Gerhart Stanford
 
 
 
 
 
Storm Johnson UCF
 
 
 
 
 
Denard Robinson Michigan
 
 
 
 
 
Will Ta'ufo'ou California
 
 
 
 
 
Jordan Todman Connecticut
 
 
 
 
 
Wide Receiver College External Player News Links
Justin Blackmon Oklahoma State
 
 
 
 
 
Damian Copeland Louisville
 
 
 
 
 
Tandon Doss Indiana
 
 
 
 
 
Allen Hurns Miami (FL)
 
 
 
 
 
Marqise Lee USC
 
 
 
 
 
Allen Robinson Penn State
 
 
 
 
 
Ace Sanders South Carolina
 
 
 
 
 
Cecil Shorts III Mount Union
 
 
 
 
 
Nathan Slaughter West Texas A&M
 
 
 
 
 
Tommy Streeter Miami (FL)
 
 
 
 
 
Tight End College External Player News Links
Clay Harbor Missouri State
 
 
 
 
 
Nic Jacobs McNeese State
 
 
 
 
 
Marcedes Lewis UCLA
 
 
 
 
 
Fendi Onobun Houston
 
 
 
 
 
Kicker College External Player News Links
Josh Scobee Louisiana Tech
 
 
 
 
 
Defensive Lineman College External Player News Links
Tyson Alualu California
 
 
 
 
 
Andre Branch Clemson
 
 
 
 
 
Red Bryant Texas A&M
 
 
 
 
 
Chris Clemons Georgia
 
 
 
 
 
Ryan Davis Bethune-Cookman
 
 
 
 
 
Ziggy Hood Missouri
 
 
 
 
 
Abry Jones Georgia
 
 
 
 
 
Sen'Derrick Marks Auburn
 
 
 
 
 
Roy Miller III Texas
 
 
 
 
 
Chris Smith Arkansas
 
 
 
 
 
Linebackers College External Player News Links
A.J. Edds Iowa
 
 
 
 
 
Khairi Fortt California
 
 
 
 
 
Jeremiah George Iowa State
 
 
 
 
 
Geno Hayes Florida State
 
 
 
 
 
John Lotulelei Nevada
 
 
 
 
 
Paul Posluszny Penn State
 
 
 
 
 
LaRoy Reynolds Virginia
 
 
 
 
 
Telvin Smith Florida State
 
 
 
 
 
J.T. Thomas III West Virginia
 
 
 
 
 
Carson Tinker Alabama
 
 
 
 
 
Defensive Back College External Player News Links
Alan Ball Illinois
 
 
 
 
 
Will Blackmon Boston College
 
 
 
 
 
Tommie Campbell California (PA)
 
 
 
 
 
Aaron Colvin Oklahoma
 
 
 
 
 
Johnathan Cyprien Florida International
 
 
 
 
 
Matt Daniels Duke
 
 
 
 
 
Josh Evans Florida
 
 
 
 
 
Dwayne Gratz Connecticut
 
 
 
 
 
Jeremy Harris New Mexico State
 
 
 
 
 
Craig Loston LSU
 
 
 
 
 
Sherrod Martin Troy State
 
 
 
 
 
Demetrius McCray Appalachian State
 
 
 
 
 
Rashaad Reynolds Oregon State
 
 
 
 
 
Teddy Williams Texas-San Antonio