Bowers bothered by knee problem
WED, MAR 23
7:28 PM CST
DE Da'Quan Bowers
Considered a threat to go No. 1 overall not too long ago, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers now appears to be tumbling down some draft boards.
It's not like Bowers is going to slide into the second round or anything, as it would take a miracle for him to make it out of the top 10 selections, but the player that professed he wanted to be the next Julius Peppers at the Scouting Combine last month appears to have lingering effects from a knee injury. Despite telling teams in Indianapolis that he was 100 percent and couldn't wait for his Pro Day, first he postponed the workout and then didn't even so much as show up for it.
At 6-4 and 280 pounds, Bowers is arguably the best pure pass rusher available and coming off a 2010 campaign in which he recorded 16 sacks. Nevertheless, he certainly has some one-year-wonder stink surrounding him, as he only had four sacks total his first two years for the Tigers -- he declared for the draft following his breakout junior performance. His mentor, the late Gaines Adams, was the fourth pick of the 2007 draft by the Buccaneers but didn't accomplish very much in Tampa Bay, and little more than two seasons later he was dealt to Chicago for a second rounder.
In a draft loaded with as many as a dozen defensive linemen worthy of a first-round grade, some GMs may pass on Bowers for fear of his knee becoming something serious down the road and instead opt for a less talented -- but more healthy -- prospect. Of course, Bowers can still knock his April 1 session out of the park, which should put him comfortably in the top five once again.
No. 1 to defensive line-challenged Carolina, however, may no longer be in the mix.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Panthers, visit PantherInsider.com
Modified kickoff rule gets passed
TUE, MAR 22
1:02 PM CST
WR Devin Hester
Move over, Devin Hester. The most dangerous player in the league on kickoffs next season may be Billy Cundiff. That's right, not Chicago's record-setting return man but Baltimore's strong-legged kicker.
At the owners meetings in New Orleans, Tuesday the NFL passed a new rule that moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35, although it's a change that has been modified from its original version. The initial pitch included touchbacks being moved from the 20-yard line to the 25 and wedges of any kind totally eliminated, but touchbacks will still go to the 20 and two-man wedges remain permissible.
Hester, who averaged 35.6 yards on 12 kickoff returns in 2010 -- not enough to qualify for the league lead -- and set an all-time record with his 14th kick-return touchdown this past season, is widely regarded as the best returner in history and one of the most exciting players in football regardless of position. His bread and butter is punt returns, as he's led the league in punt-return TDs three times in his five seasons, so his game won't be affected there. But Bears coach Lovie Smith still throws him out there to return a kickoff every now and then because of his mesmerizing ability in the open field.
But Smith can probably eliminate that thinking altogether now, especially if the Bears face a kicker like Cundiff, who had a league-leading 40 of his 79 kickoffs last year result in touchbacks. And that was kicking from his 30-yard line, so imagine how much his touchback percentage will jump getting an extra head start out to the 35. On top of that, a premium will be placed on kickers that can angle the football as high as possible and still force it to be returned, increasing the likelihood of the coverage team tackling the return man even deeper inside his own territory.
While safety was the genesis of the rule change, higher kicks plus shorter distances for tacklers to run plus less open space for returners to operate could actually equal an uptick in injuries, not the intended downtick.
Needless to say, Smith isn't pleased.
"You just wonder, How did we get to this point?" Smith said before the vote. "First off, I can't believe we're really talking about it, the most exciting play in football. You would think we would want to keep that in. We would work as hard as we could to try to make it safer, but to eliminate that to me is just kind of tearing up the fiber of the game a little bit. Yeah, we have a great returner. But that's a big part of the game. Our fans are probably more interested in coming there to see Devin Hester running a ball back as opposed to seeing a kicker kick it out of the end zone with no action."
What's also interesting is that Smith consulted with his training staff and said his team suffered a grand total of one sprained ankle the last two seasons on both kickoffs and kickoff returns, making the rule change all the more head-scratching.
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Bears, visit BearReport.com
Floyd arrest explains draft decision
MON, MAR 21
2:07 PM CST
WR Michael Floyd
Coming as a bit of a surprise, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd decided to return to South Bend for his senior season instead of entering the NFL Draft, but now it's possible the superstar pass catcher won't be available for the entirety of the upcoming 2011 campaign.
Floyd was arrested by campus police in the early hours of Sunday morning and charged with DUI, just three days prior to the Irish starting spring practice for second-year coach Brian Kelly. This isn't a one-time incident for the Minnesota native, as he was cited for underage drinking Jan. 8, 2010, in Minneapolis and allegedly involved in a fight before the arrest.
On the field, Floyd is just a tremendous weapon in the passing game and was credited with 79 receptions for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns this past season. While the 6-3, 227-pounder has ideal size to be a dominant receiver in the NFL and could have been a first-round pick next month, he reportedly did not like what he heard from scouts when originally considering an early exit from school. Since his physical tools are as impressive as his game-day production, it's fair to suggest that teams considered him a risk because of character concerns and deflated his value as a result.
Floyd's initial run-in with the law was handled internally, but he may not be so lucky this time. With two alcohol-related strikes against him in the span of 14 months, he could be staring a suspension in the face to start the season -- Notre Dame opens at home with South Florida on Sept. 3 before traveling to rival Michigan on Sept. 10.
Second in Notre Dame history with 171 career catches, Floyd is the program's all-time leader in touchdown grabs with 28.
UPDATE: Floyd was suspended indefinitely Monday by Kelly, with Kelly saying Floyd needs to focus "on maturing and developing more as a person while working to improve his decision-making processes."
For all the news, notes and quotes on the Fighting Irish, visit IrishEyes.com
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|