The Raiders’ defense is improving by leaps and bounds, he has cover skills and an ever-improving pass rush and front seven in front of him. I love Raiders defensive backs coach Rod Woodson, who believes he can cull more from Hayden, and few have Hall of Famer Woodson’s first-hand knowledge of the position.
Despite upgrades to the roster, Hayden still has a chance to see the field. David Amerson stepped into a starting corner spot for Oakland, but that doesn’t mean Hayden couldn’t supplant him, and the safety pair of newcomer Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson should be able to give the corners the freedom to jump routes. It’s do-or-die time for Hayden in Oakland, and I’m not ready to write him off just yet.
LB Jarvis Jones, No. 17, Steelers: This team knows a thing or two about drafting linebackers, and it hasn’t been all that unusual for some recent edge players — be it LaMarr Woodley, Cam Heyward or Jason Worilds — to take time to find their way in this 3-4 defense. So Jones needing some time to get himself going shouldn’t be a total shocker.
When drafted, he looked like a perfect fit for this scheme, though he too came in with injury concerns. He has been a sporadic contributor at best and his pass rush has yet to really flash at the NFL level.
On the bright side, he did start 15 games last season, more than his first two seasons combined. He also produced his first career interception in 2015 and forced a fumble. Yes, this is modest production … but at least he was regularly on the field, a necessary first step. Some of the other outside linebackers need work, too. James Harrison is like 40 by now (actually, he’s 38) and mulled retirement. Bud Dupree, a 2015 first-round pick, didn’t exactly have a scintillating rookie campaign.
I believe this defense will start to make strides again, and in this scheme Jones should be in position to make more plays, with no fifth-year option a motivating factor for him as well.
He’s No. 21 in your program, No. 4 in the 2016 NFL Draft and No. 1 among rookies in jersey sales through one week. That’s running back Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys, folks.
No. 21 is No. 1 when it comes to jersey sales through the first full week after the draft. https://t.co/oGTJColOd3 pic.twitter.com/6rmowm2NIK
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) May 5, 2016
Is this all that surprising? Not really. There’s a reason they call the Cowboys “America’s Team.” If they don’t have the largest fan base of any team in the NFL, it’s pretty close. And when a team with a fan base of that size not only has a high draft pick, but uses it on an exciting skill position player, they’re going to sell a lot of jerseys. (These are presumably full jerseys and not the kind that cut off just below the shoulder pads so everyone can see your abs.)
Elliott is followed on the rookie jerseys sales list by the No. 2 and then No. 1 picks in the 2016 draft. Division rival Carson Wentz, the future quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, is in second place for his No. 11 jersey. Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick and new QB of the Los Angeles Rams, saw his No. 16 uni sell the third-most among rookies during the first week of his career.
No word on whether Elliott’s jersey sales have helped the Cowboys defense in any way.
Shaq Lawson has a big fan, possible endorsement due to Google alerts
It’s not hard to figure out from where new Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson got his name. There’s a very famous Shaq that was taking the basketball world by storm when Lawson was born in June 1994. Shaquille O’Neal had just finished his second NBA season, one in which he had averaged 29.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks when Lawson’s father, Lawrence, chose to name his son Shaq because he was such a long baby, according to the Buffalo News.
“We do think that the way we play will feature some of the physical traits that he has,” Garrett said shortly after his club drafted Tapper. “He plays the right way.”
Other thoughts on the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class:
Critics will argue that running backs are the easiest position to find and thus spending a first-round draft pick on one — especially as high as No. 4 overall — is almost by definition a reach. Dallas may have paid a premium price for Ezekiel Elliott, but make no mistake: he is an elite talent, with the blend of vision, power, speed, hands and competitiveness as a blocker to be a three-down difference-maker immediately for the Cowboys. Drafted into an optimum situation with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and a terrific offensive line aiding his transition into the NFL, Elliott is the odds-on-favorite at this early point to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year this season.
Perhaps in part because Elliott offers immediate impact potential for a team built to win now, the Cowboys’ decision a round later to select injured linebacker Jaylon Smith was a surprising one. Like Elliott, Smith’s talent is undeniable. Prior to tearing multiple knee ligaments in his knee on New Year’s Day in a Fiesta Bowl loss to Elliott and the Buckeyes, Smith looked like a strong candidate to be the Cowboys’ choice at No. 4 overall. Therefore, it is difficult to question the Cowboys for gambling on Smith 30 picks later. Last week Jerry Jones stated that the Cowboys will not place Smith on Injured Reserve this season, hoping instead that he will be ready in time for a potential playoff run.
With all due respect to Smith, it was a different post-draft declaration by Jones which created even more buzz, with the always opinionated Cowboys’ owner expressing regret that he didn’t push harder for a trade up to land former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. The Denver Broncos ultimately offered more, trading up with the Seattle Seahawks to land the 6-foot-7, 240 pound Lynch at No. 26 overall.