2011 NFL Cut Day Brings Some Surprises by Lloyd Vance

 

The Miami Dolphins’ Turk had to tell running back Larry Johnson, “Coach needs to see you and bring your playbook”

Every team has that member of their coaching staff that no one wants to see on Cut Down Day.  The Turk came around the NFL at 6:00 PM on Saturday September 3rd reducing rosters to the regular season limit of 53 players – Approximately 700 players were given their walking papers. The last cuts are always the toughest for NFL teams as many had to let go as many as 22 players getting to the regular season limit from the earlier  limit of seventy-five.

Some of the bigger players getting their walking papers were Patriots RB Sammy Morris, Dolphins RB Larry Johnson, Eagles TE Donald Lee, Raiders CB Lito Sheppard, Patriots former first-rounder safety Brandon Meriweather, Bears RB Chester Taylor, NY Giants QB Ryan Perrilloux, Giants punter Matt Dodge, Steelers DB Victor “Macho” Harris, Niners QB Josh McCown, and Eagles DB Joselio Hanson.  Also promising Jacksonville Jaguars RB Rashard Jennings and Chiefs TE Tony Moeaki were placed on injured reserve for the year after injuring their knees near the end of preseason.

Some younger players that were cut still could be added to NFL practice squads as teams can name up to 8 players after12 PM EST (after waivers) on Sunday September 4.  By the way a practice squad is not that bad of a gig.  Players can be paid a minimum of $5700 dollars a week while learning in meetings and practices.

However for other cut players their next steps could be limited.  The Arena Football League (AFL) is over for another year and the Canadian Football League (CFL) is well underway, so the United Football League (UFL) — will starting its 3rd season this fall — maybe their only option left.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

NFL’s best feel good story from Cut-Down Day – With all the players whose NFL dreams were shattered on Saturday, there was one great story to talk about in league circles.  As former Boston College LB Mark Herzlich, a former cancer survivor made the New York Giants regular season linebacker.  The 23-year-old fromWayne,Pa., had played inspired the entire preseason and made it very tough for the G-Men’s coaches to cut him.  He six tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble during the preseason, plus played very well on special teams.  “Well it is6:03pm an I am still a Giant God Is Good,” Herzlich tweeted Saturday.

Trades?? – Usually the NFL only has trades around the draft, but cutdown day there was one noteworthy move.

  • Jets ship-off veteran – Head Coach Rex Ryan sent veteran defensive back Dwight Lowery to the Jacksonville Jaguars for an undisclosed conditional draft pick. Lowery was a versatile DB, who spent three seasons with the J-E-T-S, after being drafted in the fourth round out ofSan JoseState.  Ryan said of the trade “It was an opportunity for Dwight to go to a place where he’s really going to be used and compete for that starting nickel job. I think it was kind of good for Dwight to go toJacksonville and get more playing time, and for us, we just felt we had the depth we needed in the back end.”  The New York Jets now have 10 defensive backs on its roster for the regular season — five cornerbacks and five safeties.

 You can also view the full list of transactions from NFL Cut Day here.

 

Lloyd Vance is an  NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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Johnson is trying to “Tweet” his way out of KC

Larry_Johnson

LJ is trying to aggravate beleaguered Chiefs head coach Todd Haley even further with his recent comments on  Twitter

Things just went from bad to worse for volatile running back Larry Johnson in Kansas City.  The one time NFL rushing leader and workhorse has definitely slowed down since his heyday of about 4 to 5 years ago.  Time, off the field problems, and injuries have definitely caught up with Johnson (30 on Nov. 19th). 

The former Penn State power back only had 874 yards on 193 carries with a 4.5 ypr average and 5 TDs in 2008, but you know he would be more than happy with those mediocre type numbers this year.   After another pedestrian effort (16 rushes for 49 yards with a long of 9 yards) on Sunday in a 37-7 loss to the Chargers, Johnson got on the offensive via Twitter against Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. 

Though Tweeting is sometimes unconfirmed for some athletes, I am pretty sure it was Johnson pulling his Blackberry on Haley.  Just read the following excerpts and you will see what I mean.

“my father got more credentials than most these pro coaches….google my father!!!”

“My father played for the coach from “remember the titans”. Our coach played golf. My father played for redskins briefly. Our coach. Nuthn”

It is never a good idea to jump-on your head coach, but doing so in a public form only fans the flames even more.  Johnson’s alleged tweets are pretty inflammatory stuff and you can only expect things to get more heated between Haley, Johnson, and overall Chiefs organization.    

The Chiefs are pretty downtrodden right now with a record of 1-6 and Johnson isn’t doing much better (132 rushes for 358 yards, 2.7 ypc, and 0 TDs).   Also remember it was the fiery Haley who was the coach that got into it verbally with Anquan Boldin last year on the sidelines during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run. 

 So expect some kind of fine, suspension, or some other disciplinary action to be coming Johnson’s way.  If I were backups Kolby Smith and Jamaal Charles, I would be getting my legs ready for more running after the Chiefs’ bye week.

2009 NFL Training Camp Questions – AFC West

Denver Broncos

How will the Broncos many offseason pick-ups including 14 unrestricted free agents fit together?

Is young 32-year old head coach Josh McDaniels already on the hot seat for his flare-up and trade of former franchise quarterback Jay Cutler?

Are there enough backfield carries to go around in the Broncos’ crowded backfield (Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, first round pick Knowshon Moreno, and RB/FB Peyton Hillis?)

Will the Broncos be able to workout a new contract for malcontent Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall and if he doesn’t get his new contract how much of a distraction will he be this season?

Will the addition of Pro Bowl S Brian Dawkins and four defensive draft picks helps a defense that allowed 448 points during the 2008 season?

Kansas City Chiefs

Is new head coach Todd Haley ready to lead a Chiefs team that only won two games during the 2008 season?

Will high-priced running back Larry Johnson continue being a good soldier or is there a flare-up waiting to happen when he doesn’t get his carries?

Was new Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell a one-year wonder for the Patriots or is he ready to make the leap to the Pro Bowl after being traded to the Chiefs?

Is there a tight end on the Chiefs current roster that can replace future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez?

Will the addition of LB Mike Vrabel and first round pick DE Tyson Jackson help a defense that allowed 440 points during the 2008 season?

Oakland Raiders

How secure is head coach Tom Cable’s job even though Al Davis removed the “interim” from his title this offseason and can he turn around a Raiders team that has gone 24-72 since the 2003 season?

How will the addition of veteran quarterback Jeff Garcia affect developing former first overall pick QB JaMarcus Russell and is the 3rd year pro mature enough to lead the Raiders?

Are there enough backfield carries to go around in the Raiders’ crowded backfield (Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, Darren McFadden and Gary Russell)?

Did the Raiders reach for rookies WR Darius Heyward-Bey and SS Mike Mitchell and how will the youngsters reach to the high expectations placed on them?

Will new Raiders defensive coordinator John Marshall be able to replace fiery departed DC Rob Ryan (Cleveland Browns) and will the Raiders defense be better than the 388 points they allowed in 2008?

San Diego Chargers

After a great run at the end of the 2008 season where the Chargers won a playoff game can head coach Norv Turner now relax about losing his job?

How healthy is now 30-year old RB LaDanian Tomlinson and does he have a rebound season left in him after barely getting 1,000 rushing yards in 2008?

Will the return of Pro Bowl LB Shawn Merriman from injury and the drafting of first round pick LB Larry English help to bring the Chargers defense back to their high standards of 2006?

Is Pro Bowl Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers ready to take his career to the next and get his team to the AFC Championship game and beyond?

Will there be enough balls to go around for an offense that features L.T, Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates, emerging WR Vincent Jackson, WR Chris Chambers, and newly franchised RB Darren Sproles? 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Top Players that have Something to Prove in ‘08

Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb – I don’t know if it is injuries or questions by “loyal” Eagles fans, but McNabb seems to be on the prove something list every year.  Though he looked good in the team’s last four games (3-1 with passing numbers of 96-147, 995 yards, 65%, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 96.2 QB rating with an additional 101 yards rushing).  McNabb needs to prove that he can stay healthy and lead this team back to the playoffs for the first time under him since going to the Super Bowl in 2004.  Some experts that I have talked to are saying if things don’t go right in ’08, it could be McNabb’s last year in Philly.  Unfortunately for the 10-year veteran, we now know the “playmakers” that he was asking for in February have not arrived other than tight end LJ Smith returning from injury and trading for running back Lorenzo Booker.  I can tell you from watching mini-camps that quarterback in waiting Kevin Kolb is very confident and seems poised to make a move after being elevated to the number two quarterback slot.

New Orleans Saints RB Reggie Bush – Needs to prove that he can be more of a complete running back while understanding that a homerun is not needed on every single play.  Bush showed during the time that Deuce McAllister (knee) was out that he couldn’t handle the load of being an every down back.  The second overall player selected in the 2006 draft had his numbers in ’07 drop in receiving yardage (742 to 581), total touchdowns (9 to 6), and punt return yardage (261 to 12) with a slightly better number of yards in rushing 581 to 565, but only 3.7 yards per carry.  Now in his third season, Bush needs to live up to his commercial hype by grasping the fact that in the NFL you need to have more than pure speed.

Carolina Panthers OT Jeff Otah – When the Carolina Panthers traded up in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by swapping their ’09 first round pick plus two lower level picks in ’08 (3rd and 4th rounds) to the Philadelphia Eagles to select the huge tackle (6’6, 340), the bull’s eye was on Otah.  The former University of Pittsburgh road-grader was a dominant player in the Big East conference (101 knockdowns in ’07), but he will have to face bonafide pass rushers on a weekly basis in the NFL.  Otah will need to answer questions on his conditioning and must protect recovering from injury quarterback Jake Delhomme.

Kansas City Chiefs RB Larry Johnson – After a lengthy holdout that drifted into training camp, Johnson got a new contract with the terms six years, $45 million, and $19 million in guaranteed.  However the big back from Penn State was plagued by nagging injuries ending with a season ending foot injury.  Johnson’s 2007 numbers were not his usual Pro Bowl numbers (8 games played, 158 rushes for 559 yards, 3.5 ypc and 3 touchdowns).  If Johnson wants to live up to his ’07 boasts of pushing toward Eric Dickerson’s single season NFL rushing record (2,109 yards), he will need to prove he can stay healthy for 16 games.

Miami Dolphins DE Jason Taylor – All eyes this off-season have been on Taylor, as he became Mr. Dancing With the Stars.  Everyone was impressed with his dance moves except the Bill Parcells led Miami Dolphins front office.  Whether he plays for  the Dolphins, Jaguars, Saints, Eagles, or any other team, the 6-foot-6, 255-pounder needs to prove he is not done at 34 years old.  Since being drafted in the 3rd Round of 1997 NFL Draft, Taylor has produced 117 sacks including eleven in ’07.

Chicago Bears RB Rex Grossman – Much like Donovan McNabb, Grossman seems to be on this list every year.  Though the former Florida quarterback has led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006 if he is shaky again in ’08, you can say good-bye to Rex in Chicago.  Grossman, who is in the last year of his rookie contract, has great ability but just cannot avoid the mistakes that drive coaches insane as shown by his passing numbers in ’07 (7 starts, 122-225, 54.2%, 1411 yards, 4 TDs, and 7 INTs).  Bears head coach Lovie Smith has been a strong supporter of the Grossman, but he may have seen enough as shown by the stoic coach leaving the quarterback position up for grabs this off-season.  Surprisingly the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback leaving Kyle Orton and Grossman to battle for the starting position.

Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden – The big questions regarding the Raiders first rounder are “Can McFadden be this year’s Rookie of the Year like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson?” and “Did the Raiders really need him?”  The former two-time Heisman runner-up had several off the field red-flags going into the draft process, so he will need to make an impression while holding off Justin Fargas and Michael Bush for playing time.  McFadden (6’2, 210) will also need to answer questions about his durability and fumbling problems while negotiating the Lane Kiffin-Al Davis situation. The former Arkansas star has all of the measurables including blazing speed (4.33 seconds in the forty) and leading the SEC in rushing (school season-record with 1,830 yards).  However in the NFL, McFadden will need to prove that he can succeed outside of Arkansas’ gimmicky “Wildcat” offense. 

Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rogers – Even with head coach Romeo Crennel on a semi-warm seat, the Browns went about rebuilding their team through free agency and trades.  All the off-season moves caused the Browns to not pick until the fourth round in the 2008 NFL Draft.  Pardon the pun, but no off-season move was bigger than bringing in gigantic (6’4, reported 340 probably closer to 355) defensive tackle Rogers from the Detroit Lions for a 3rd round pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden.  The Browns re-negotiated the big defensive tackle’s contract committing six-years and $42 million on him. Though Rogers has flashed legitimate playmaking ability (7 sacks in ’07), he often is said to take plays off at times.

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan – The Falcons announced with authority that they have moved on from the Michael Vick situation by selecting Ryan (6’5. 224) with the third overall pick.  Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank went even further by signing Ryan to a six-year, $72 million contract with $34.5 million guaranteed (the most guaranteed money ever for a rookie).  With his teammates looking for him to live up to his contract and a good majority of the Falcons’ fan base being loyal to Vick, Ryan has much to prove.   The Philadelphia suburbs kid has the credentials as shown by his ’07 college numbers (388-of-654, 59.3%, 4507 yards and 31 TDs), but he better cut down on his 19 interceptions from last year. 

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo – Sure he has the celebrity girlfriend (or Maybe not depending if Jessica Simpson’s publicist is answering calls) and the big contract (six-year, $67.5 million contract extension with $30 million guaranteed), but Romo has not yet answered the call in the postseason.  Everyone can forgive him for fumbling the field goal snap against the Seahawks in the ’06 playoffs.  But there is no excuse for Romo’s performance (18-36, 201, 1 TD, 1 INT) in helping his 13-win team lose at home to the Giants.  Romo’s ’07 numbers say he is a player (335 for 520, 4211 yards, 64.4 %, 36 TDs, and 19 INTs), but he needs to prove that after 27 career regular season starts that he is more legit than hype.

Baltimore Ravens QB Troy Smith – With the new Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh putting the starting quarterback position up for grabs, Smith is in the mix with former number one quarterback Kyle Boller and ’08 first round selection Joe Flacco.  Against the two more heralded signal callers, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner will have something to prove to scouts that have questioned his height and ability to play in the NFL.  Smith showed brief flashes at the end of the ’07 season while subbing for an injured Steve McNair, but it is the time for him to either live up to his highlight heisman college career or go by the way side like too many other Heisman winners.

Other Players that will need to answer the bell include:

Dallas Cowboys CB Pacman Jones – First will he be reinstated and simply put can he stay out of trouble  enough to contribute to the Cowboys’ defense.

Cleveland Browns QB Derek Anderson – Was he a one-year wonder or a legitimate Pro Bowl passer plus Brady Quinn is waiting for his chance.

Minnesota Vikings DE Jared Allen – Received a huge contract from the Vikings, but he will need to lead them to the playoffs.

Green Packers RB Ryan Grant- Was he a one-year wonder and can he play without Brett Favre.

Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – After a season of 9 TDs and 17 INTs plus laughable retirement talk, it is time to prove he is more than the hype.

Dallas Cowboys LB Zach Thomas – At 34 is he too old and can he make a difference in the Cowboys middle.

Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson – Has the talkative receiver’s mouth and his agent Drew Rosenhaus’ said too much for Ocho Cinco to back it up.

Kansas City Chiefs OT Branden Albert – Can he play LT in the NFL after being an All-American guard in college?

Denver Broncos Safety John Lynch – At 37 in September, can the tough safety still get it done for the Broncos.

HBO’s Hard Knocks Gets Another Character: Larry Johnson Gets His New Contract

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Just when the Chiefs (0-2 and struggling in pre-season) looked like they were going into the season with Michael Bennett, rookie Kolby Smith, recovering Priest Holmes and others at the running back position, they got a lift. The Chiefs announced that holdout running back Larry Johnson agreed to a six-year deal including a $19 million guarantee and joined the Kansas City Chiefs in front of the Hard Knocks cameras at practice on Tuesday. By ending a holdout that got acrimonious at times between Johnson, Chiefs GM Carl Peterson, and the Hunt Family, the Chiefs assured themselves that their workhorse would be on the field for their opener September 9th at the Houston Texans.

Johnson donning his #27 jersey surprised his teammates 45 minutes into practice and returned to chants of “Lar-ry! Lar-ry”. The dollars that Johnson signed for were not as much as the $21 Million guaranteed that LT got, but the Chiefs star wanted to be back with his teammates. One of the first things that Johnson had to do was sign a check for the 25 days he missed at $19,280 per day, meaning the holdout cost him about $357,000.

I have to give credit to Peterson and the Chiefs for giving Johnson such a large deal at age 27 and coming off an NFL record 416 carries last year while rushing for 1,789 yards. Running backs tend to slow down in their late 20’s and recent history has shown that next seasons have been injury riddled and non-productive for backs that have topped the 380 carry mark (Jamal Lewis in ‘03, Terrell Davis ‘98, and Jamal Anderson ’98).

During his holdout, Johnson was working out at a facility in Arizona and appeared to be in good shape. But you will never know how will respond after being away from the game for most of camp. Coach Herm Edwards said Johnson would not play in Thursday night’s exhibition game against New Orleans but would be fully ready by the season opener. Edwards said “He has about two weeks now (to get ready). We’ll see where we’re at. We’ll see where he’s at”. He added “We talked last night. He knows what I expect out of him. He needs to get his legs up underneath him. He’ll have enough time for that.”

The running game has been anemic to be nice this preseason as Bennett and Smith have not played well enough to make anyone forget Johnson. In their recent 11-10 loss to the Dolphins, the Chiefs rushed for only 61 yards even though the Dolphins held out several of their defensive starters.

After sitting behind Holmes in 2003 and 2004, LJ responded with two 1700 yard plus seasons and 37 TD’s on the ground. In his five year career Johnson has appeared in 48 games with 4205 yards rushing, a 4.7 yards per carry average, and 47 TD’s.