Help has arrived for Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Coach Ron Rivera is excited about the overall depth and competition at wide receiver, saying it is ”much better” than it was a year ago when Carolina was in the midst of a major overhaul after cutting ties with its top four wideouts. The Panthers brought back veteran Ted Ginn Jr. and drafted Devin Funchess from Michigan in the second round this offseason to go along with returners Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Pro Bowl tight Greg Olsen, potentially bulking up a passing game that finished 19th in the NFL in 2014.
Bills general manager Doug Whaley says re-signing Marcell Dareus is his team’s top priority, and he’s already had preliminary contract talks in a bid to lock up the two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle before the start of training camp next month. Who knows,” Whaley told The Associated Press following the team’s voluntary minicamp practice Wednesday. ”We’d like to get it out of the way so everybody can go into the season just concentrating on the season,” said Whaley, who said Dareus has the potential to be one of the best at his position.
This offseason, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end George Johnson has been engrossed in film study. It isn’t film from last season, when he had six sacks with the Detroit Lions, or even clips from other defensive ends around the NFL. Johnson has his DVR set for something entirely different than football. He watches dog shows. It may be the most unusual off-the-field interest for any player currently in the NFL. Johnson, who is entering his sixth NFL season and first with Tampa Bay, loves competing on the dog show circuit. He is involved in a local kennel club near his home in Florida and he spends time in the offseason watching dog shows such as the Westminster Kennel Club and other videos online to pick up some tips. Johnson has two American bullies — like a pit bull, he says, but with more density. His girl, Pepper, has competed in and won several shows and his voice speeds up when talking about her accomplishments. Mambo is a boy and will start competing this summer. Johnson has high hopes for Mambo, and people at the kennel club have begun asking when Mambo will compete. The dogs are judged on how they walk and present themselves and hold their posture during the line-up. Training is involved and Johnson spends 15, perhaps 20 minutes a day on routines and other training with Pepper and Mambo. “ It’s basically a beauty pageant, they look to see how graceful the dog is,” Johnson told Yahoo Sports. “ It’s walking the dog around but the walking around is not as simple as people think. You have to walk around in a certain way, stay in a certain position. When they stack-up, they have to look a certain way like they are at attention. You have to train him from a pup.” In honor of #NationalPuppyDay here is my 2 furry friends http://pic.twitter.com/ha59X0a8an — George Johnson (@GeoJohns92) March 24, 2015 He loves it and says it is tremendous stress relief during the NFL season. He has always had a love for dogs and his growth into this sport followed a natural path from pet owner to professional showman. As a junior in college at Rutgers, Johnson began the process of getting to know the ins and outs of competing with a dog. He got involved in local groups and a kennel club, practicing certain aspects to ready a dog for a show. In college he couldn’t afford the upkeep and resources to compete, a commitment he couldn’t make until he made the NFL. But even in college he would attend meetings and practice so that someday he could compete. Back then he worked with his dog, an American pit bull named Lupe, on weight-pulling. That’s when a harness is attached to the dog. Lupe would pull weight “like the Iditarod,” Johnson said. At the kennel club Johnson stood out a bit — “seemed like everyone there was petite” — but he was determined to fit in. And he consistently attended classes at the club and took advantage of any opportunity to work with Lupe. He took the time to listen and learn from others who had been in the field for decades. Here he was, an All-Big East selection and an upperclassmen in college, trying to blend into this genteel and slightly snooty sport. “ I was big and tall, sometimes my dog was out of control and theirs were very well handled. I did it for fun and for my dog, it was something for him to do,” Johnson said. “ Some people, when they get into it, it is about their name and stuff like that. But for me and my dog, it was fun. I just wanted to learn. “ I went to my first show with Lupe and he was completely over-matched. I thought to myself ‘This might not be the best fit for us.’ I was in college, didn’t have the resources to keep up with it.” Lupe may not have been cut out for shows but now he lives with a trainer in Florida, where he is used for demonstrations when visitors come to a kennel club near Johnson’s hometown. Johnson is back at it with with Pepper and Mambo, and he sees them both growing and developing.
The Chicago Bears released defensive end Ray McDonald after he was arrested on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment in Santa Clara, Calif., on Monday. Police said in a news release that McDonald was arrested after officers said he “physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby.” – – Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson plans to skip this week’s organized team activities and possibly send a message that he still wants to be traded. A source close to Peterson told Yahoo Sports on Sunday night that Peterson has not wavered privately about his wish to continue his career with another franchise.
You can make an argument that Jameis Winston is a similar player to Matt Ryan. That’s theoretical, of course, because Winston hasn’t played in the NFL yet. But physically and stylistically there are similarities, especially to Ryan when he was coming out of Boston College. And that’s good, because we can get a better idea how Winston will transition to the pros seeing as how he’ll be with the same offensive coordinator Ryan had the past three years. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today! ] This offseason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hired Dirk Koetter to be their offensive coordinator. I like that fit between him and Winston, because I think Koetter is a very good offensive coach. When Koetter coached in college he ran the spread offense, and those offenses put up huge numbers. Then he came to the NFL and adapted. He’ll spread you out on occasion, but he had Ryan under center with two backs a lot of times. Koetter is not like a Chip Kelly, where he’ll coach a guy to put him in the shotgun. Koetter has run multiple offenses and been successful running all of them. I think he’ll do whatever his personnel, including Winston, is best at. One thing about Atlanta is they did a lot of max protection with deeper routes, and I think Winston could do that as a rookie. Ryan was successful with Koetter. He had the classic NFL quarterback development and got better every year (his numbers may have fluctuated a bit as his supporting cast got better or worse, but as a quarterback he has steadily improved). Coming out of college Ryan was a bit of a strider as he threw, not a great quick-twitch athlete, but a natural thrower who can also make firm touch throws that are required in the NFL. You can say these same things about Winston. Ryan had good years with Mike Mularkey as his offensive coordinator early on, and then fit Koetter’s system well. I think Winston will fit Koetter’s offense well too. I also really like the marriage of Winston and the receivers he’ll have, particularly because of Winston’s aggressive style. You could argue that Roddy White-Julio Jones and Mike Evans-Vincent Jackson are similar receivers. Jones is the most explosive of the four (a healthy Jones is a top three or four receiver in the NFL because he’s very explosive for a man that big), but Evans is a similar style receiver. And they’re all big receivers who can make tough catches and run every route. They can run vertical routes because of their size. They don’t have T.Y. Hilton speed, but they’re vertical threats because of their long strides. And the one thing about Winston is he’s willing to pull the trigger on throws. That’s a positive. And that makes it important that Winston has big targets to throw to. When you have size out there, those receivers can theoretically be open even when it looks like they’re covered. Winston will throw a pick every once in a while because he’s a rookie, but you don’t want to pull back on his conviction to pull the trigger. That’s who he is and that’s what his game is. Having Jackson and Evans will help. One thing Koetter will have to determine is how good the offensive line is, because that will dictate how many deep drops he can call for Winston. You can argue the Buccaneers had one of the worst lines in the NFL last season, and they addressed that a bit in the offseason. But the one thing you don’t want to do with Winston, particularly because he’s not a naturally quick-twitch athlete, is get him in a situation where he gets hit a lot. If you get hit a lot early in your career you might start to see ghosts. The last thing you want a quarterback to do is anticipate and perceive pressure that isn’t there, so Koetter will have to keep that in mind with Winston. Another thing the Buccaneers need is a running game. Going back to the Ryan example, he had Michael Turner piling up a lot of carries early in his career. Winston will need similar help from the running game. The Buccaneers don’t have an obvious lead back, but that’s a question they can answer in training camp. One way or another though, it’s critical the Buccaneers have a running game to help Winston. But right now, everything seems to be on the table for Koetter as he figures out what Winston does best. It seems like a good fit for both of them. – – – – – – – NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league .
Orlando Scandrick has the raise he sought by skipping the first two weeks of voluntary offseason workouts with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the second time in three years the Cowboys have reworked contract terms for Scandrick, who showed up last week to talk to team executives and has been working out with the team this week. Dallas’ best cornerback last year, Scandrick was to make just $1.5 million this season, which was set to be fourth among the team’s cornerbacks once first-round pick Byron Jones of Connecticut signed.
It seems like our list of “Hard Knocks” candidates is down to three, and no, the Cleveland Browns aren’t on the list. The Browns did not want to be on the HBO reality show that follows a team through training camp, because quarterback Johnny Manziel is returning from a stint in rehab and he doesn’t need that kind of spotlight on him. That’s fair. But ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi seemed to come up with our list of three candidates: Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today! ] Grossi pointed out that those three teams were the willing participants, so that apparently isn’t the official list of finalists (though, the Houston Chronicle confirmed that the Texans are one of three finalists). So perhaps we could get a surprise pick from one of the other forced candidates , based on the NFL’s criteria: Cleveland, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, St. Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings. But it seems unlikely because the producers want to feature a team that actually wants to be on the show. So let’s rank the three teams that appear to be the real candidates: 3. Houston Texans It’s a strong field if the Texans are third. We’d get to see Arian Foster’s wit, J.J. Watt’s mega personality ( “Sno-Caps, perhaps?” ) and the seemingly always irritated ways of coach Bill O’Brien. There would also be a quarterback controversy, Jadeveon Clowney trying to return from knee surgery, DeAndre Hopkins announcing himself to a bigger audience … a lot to like here. But as a whole, there’s just a little more to like with the other two. 2. Buffalo Bills I mean, it’s Rex Ryan. Come on, that’s enough. Not like anyone wasn’t entertained when the Jets were on “Hard Knocks.” There’s also a quarterback controversy here, LeSean McCoy with a new team, future star Sammy Watkins and a peek inside pass rusher Mario Williams’ world. And, again, Rex. It would not be bad. Yet … 1. Washington Redskins We all want a peek behind this curtain, right? Forget DeSean Jackson, the much-discussed Jay Gruden-Robert Griffin III relationship and Griffin himself. Those are all interesting story lines. But a chance for expanded access to Daniel Snyder’s kingdom? This is widely considered the most dysfunctional NFL team, even by many of its own fans. A lot of that comes from Snyder, the owner who seems to have the thinnest skin in the entire league. How would an owner who has spent so much time and effort trying to manipulate the media in Washington (another less complicated way to get positive media coverage: actually winning games) react to NFL Films having so much access? What would we get to see? Would we get an honest look at Snyder? Even if it turns into the Griffin Show, that’s still not too bad. Sign us up for Washington on HBO this summer. – – – – – – – Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab