The NFL’s 2010 offseason is in full swing this week as the scouting combine reached a conclusion Tuesday in Indianapolis, college pro days began today and the free agency period/uncapped year will commence Friday at 12:01 a.m. Everything ties together for the Jets as they begin to shape their roster for the fall.
While the Jets haven’t made their intentions public, the prevailing notion is the Green & White will release CB Lito Sheppard from his contact on Friday. Sheppard, who had an injury-plagued season and was limited to just nine starts, is reportedly due a large roster bonus and the Jets are expected to part ways with the veteran corner.
If that transaction occurs, then there will be a starting vacancy across the way from Darrelle Revis. The Jets own the No. 29 selection in April’s draft and they’ll have a great shot at a quality cornerback if they choose to hold firm. The consensus heading into Tuesday was Florida’s Joe Haden was the best corner prospect in the class and he’d probably be a top-10 selection in April.
But then Haden raised a few eyebrows in Indy, posting a pair of 40 times that averaged just 4.57. While he’ll have his chance for redemption at UF’s pro day on March 17, let’s not forget that the 5’11”, 193-pounder is a pretty good football player who didn’t let many receivers behind him in SEC play. He registered four interceptions last season and added 10 PDs and 68 tackles.
"I haven’t nearly reached my peak at all," Haden said at the combine. "I just feel like whatever team I go to, they’re going to get a person they can mold into a way better corner than I was in college. I’ve been doing this for three years and I feel like I’m getting pretty good at it. But I want to learn more. You’re getting someone who really wants to learn the game and really wants to be the best they can be at corner."
Before anyone drops Haden too far down on their big boards, let’s see how he runs in Gainesville in a couple of weeks.
Wake Forest’s Brandon Ghee, a 6’0”, 192-pounder who led all corners with a 4.45 time in the 40, is an excellent athlete and he performed well in most of the tests in Indy. But Ghee didn’t have a great week at the Senior Bowl and is said to sometimes react slow to plays. Ghee had just one career interception and some scouts think he might be better suited to play safety eventually.
Rutgers standout Devin McCourty’s stock is on the rise. His recorded a 40 time of 4.48 and whoever picks him up is getting a two-for-one deal because this 5’11”, 186-pounder is a special-teams stud.
"He might be the best special-teams value in the draft in addition to being a potential starting corner," said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock of McCourty, who had six career picks for the Scarlet Knights. "He’s a gunner and a jammer, he’s a return guy. I think he could fit in quickly in the nickel package. He’s a very, very physical defensive back. Most people have him in the second round but he could be a legitimate late ‘one’.”
You have to feel a little bit for Alabama’s Javier Arenas. He tweaked his right hamstring on his first 40-yard dash and was forced to miss the rest of the drills. Alabama is schedule to host its pro day next Wednesday and it will be interesting to see if Arenas will be able to go by then.
Kareem Jackson, who played with Arenas for the national-champion Crimson Tide, posted a solid 4.48 40 time. The NFL Advisory Committee projected the 5’10”, 196-pound Jackson as a second-round pick, but it might be a surprise if he doesn’t go in the opening round. Virginia’s Chris Cook also raced to a 4.46 time and we haven’t even mentioned Boise State’s Kyle Wilson (a dangerous returner who benched 225 pounds 25 times) and Florida State’s Patrick Robinson.
At safety, Tennessee’s Eric Berry is just a stud and it would be a stunner if he got out of the top 10. But Taylor Mays, a 6’3”, 231-pounder from Southern Cal, ran the fastest of all the defensive backs with an official 4.43. Playing predominantly in the box in 2009, Mays racked up a career-high 96 tackles, but will he be able to cover wideouts at the next level?
“I take pride in being a big DB and being able to move. I’ve never really heard from NFL people about playing linebacker,” he told NFL Network. “They’ve asked me about playing linebacker maybe in nickel and covering the tight end but never really moving to linebacker. If that’s what they want to do, I’m a football player, I love football and I’m going to try to be the best linebacker I can be. Playing linebacker sometimes is just like being a safety and playing the box every play, so I guess it’s not that much of a difference.”
The Jets’ offensive backfield will look much different in 2010 without Thomas Jones. Numerous media outlets have reported that the Jets asked Jones to restructure his deal and they’ve decided to move on after he declined the offer.
“It’s tough. You lose a great leader — not only on the field but also in the locker room,” said WLB Bart Scott this week on an appearance on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio program. “He’s a guy that came in and worked hard and was an example, and I think Shonn Greene took a lot from him. With that being said, it’s the nature of the business right now.“
It was the drafting of Greene last year that eventually helped pave the way for Jones’ departure. Scott, who inked a lucrative free agent deal with the Green & White last spring, knows time is short in an ever-changing, violent, win-now profession.
“We all know some guy is going to come in and push me out and it will be time for the Jets to say goodbye to me. It’s just the nature of the business,” he said of the draft. “I don’t worry about that. If they bring somebody in my position, I’m going to tell them everything I know because I’m a competitor and if I feel like I can’t compete for my job and win it honestly, then I don’t deserve to play and I can accept that and move on.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis, Joe Haden, Kareem Jackson, NFL Combine, Thomas Jones
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