There is really no annual event that gives me access to so many owners, general managers and coaches like the NFL Annual Meeting in March.
This year is no exception, as I got a chance to spend some time with many of the NFL decision makers, whether it was at the Monday evening reception, in the lobby of the hotel, on the golf course, or as guests on my Sirius radio show, my broadcast partner Tim Ryan and I are able to broadcast right in the hallway of the meeting rooms.
Here are some points from the conversations I've had this week.
Dealing with personnel
I've had an opportunity to sit down and talk with a number of coaches and general managers about their respective rosters. Here are some of the highlights:
» New Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said there's still a place for Ty Law on his team's roster. Seahawks general manager John Schneider said that Aaron Curry has to play better than he did as a rookie. A new scheme should return Curry to the attacking role the linebacker enjoyed at Wake Forest.
» Arizona Cardinals general manager Rod Graves suggested that the replacement for left tackle Mike Gandy may be a player currently on the team's roster, rather than a player selected in the draft. The Cardinals are considering moving Levi Brown to left tackle and suggested that 2008 seventh-round pick Brandon Keith -- a backup at right guard -- may be ready to step into the starting lineup.
» Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress was comfortable talking about replacing departed running back Chester Taylor with third-stringer Albert Young. I posed the idea of using Percy Harvin more frequently out of the backfield, particularly in third-down situations. Childress made it sound as though Harvin will be used in the backfield more, which could cause real matchup problems for opponents.
» Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio spent some time talking about his young team. Del Rio did not think there would be anywhere near as many rookie starts as his team had in 2009, when the Jaguars led the NFL with 71 rookie starts. Del Rio is excited about the potential impact that newly acquired defensive end Aaron Kampman could have, not only on defense, but the whole team when it comes to preparation and professionalism. Del Rio does not believe the Jaguars are that far from being a contender again, especially after defeating the New York Jets and suffering two close losses to the Indianapolis Colts.
» Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis discussed how his team effectively used the unbalanced line on offense last season. The Bengals would bring in an extra tackle as a tight end and force defenses to shift over based on how the Bengals constructed formations. Lewis said that the various ways that unbalanced line was used made opponents prepare for a lot of extra things. The Bengals plan on using that strategy again in 2010.
» New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese discussed the work out of Australian rules football player Jy Bond at punter. When Bond finished bombing some punts, the team asked him to pooch punt. Bond switched kicking from his right foot to his left foot.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Carl Johnson, who will replace the retiring Mike Pereira as the NFL's Vice President of Officiating in April. Johnson comes into this position in a time when officials have never been more scrutinized and the ability to convey the issues surrounding game calls has become a media event every week.
Johnson knows that there are challenges ahead and that he will be in front of the NFL Network camera each week during the season explaining calls, justifying calls and, ultimately, also criticizing calls made by his peers. In talking with Johnson, I get the impression that he is up for the task.
Johnson touched on the new placement of the umpire behind the line of scrimmage, rather than behind the middle linebacker. This is being done for the safety of officials. However, many of the umpires do not want to move from their spot behind the defensive line. Now it appears that the umpire will have to be quicker on his feet than before, having to position himself after the snap. The umpire will not have a good vantage point to see defensive holding on the line of scrimmage. The umpire may also get in the way of a pass rusher or a scrambling quarterback. With this change, all those West Coast offenses that loved to run a pick route using the umpire will not have the opportunity anymore. Pay close attention to this change when the preseason rolls around.
Here are some noteworthy comments from people not wishing to be named:
» A well-respected evaluator of quarterbacks said, "(Sam) Bradford is the only guy I would take in this draft if I was looking for a starter, and the Rams have no choice but to select him."
» Is Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy going to drop in the draft? According to one personnel director, who said "Watch and see McCoy fall out of the top three and maybe all the way down to No. 6 in Seattle."
» A general manager said, "The more tape of (Georgia Tech defensive end) Derrick Morgan I watch, the more questions I have about him as an elite pass rusher."
» A coach said, "(Tennessee safety) Eric Berry is a top-three player on our board at this time, but there is still work to do."
» Another coach said, "(Penn State defensive tackle) Jared Odrick is a guy that fits any scheme and just about any position, a solid pick anywhere in the first round."