Neil's NFL Daily: June 21, 2013
No prizes for guessing the hottest topic of yesterday, but don’t expect any piling on from PFF regarding the Aaron Hernandez situation. Look, I’ve seen enough episodes of The Good Wife to know not everything is always as it seems, and if reality matched perception Maurkice Pouncey would be the best center in the NFL. Instead, we’ll leave the law enforcement agencies to determine the truth and concentrate on things we are far more qualified to comment on.
Friday, June 21st
Dan Koppen Signed by Broncos to Replace J.D.Walton
After a disastrous 2011, when he was our lowest graded center, J.D.Walton was starting to look the part last year before he unfortunately fractured his ankle in Week 4. With no other sensible option, Denver signed nine-year NFL veteran Dan Koppen to replace him and he did a good, if not great, job. Expecting Walton back, Koppen was released but it was déjà vu yesterday as complications with Walton’s ankle saw Koppen brought back.
Last season it took him some time to get warmed up, grading -6.0 over his first seven games before finishing off with +8.8 over the final seven, so maybe the silver lining is this happened now.
On a completely tangential note, I saw something I wasn’t aware of when I was checking who had been at center for Denver during OTA’s (it was Manny Ramierez) that blew me away — right guard, Chris Kuper got a Pro Bowl invite last year. Look, it wasn’t just the fact that we graded him negatively that shocked me (most of that came because of his awful showing for the Divisional Playoff, long after the squads were selected), but that anyone could consider a broadly average player after only 316 snaps and five games. That means Kuper was selected before Brandon Moore, Andy Levitre, Jon Asamoah, Kevin Zeitler and his now replacement Louis Vasquez, every one of whom played significantly better and were on the field for over 1,000 plays.
If ever you are looking for examples of why the Pro Bowl voting is currently a debacle, here’s another great one.
With Seattle setting the trend for big, press-cover corners by utilizing Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman it wasn’t a surprise to see the Jaguars follow suit. Clearly Gus Bradley was always likely to want the Seahawks’ defensive scheme in his new home (although the choice of Bears Cover 2 exponent Bob Babich as his DC was mildly surprising), and Tony Khan talked with me about how that played into the Jacksonville draft in this edition.
However, it now seems the Titans possibly may be following suit as well, as Tommie Campbell is playing opposite Jason McCourty in mini-camp with last year’s starter, Alterraun Verner, relegated to backup free safety. Whether this is a proactive strategy, an overzealous response to Verner’s lackluster end to 2012 (he graded out -7.1 over the final five games after starting +14.2) or simply a bit of harmless tinkering is unclear.
If Campbell does start though, watch out for his work in run support. The past two years Verner has been fine in that regard, but in his single game of substantial action — Week 17 against Jacksonville — Campbell did struggle in that phase. Now, 52 plays is hardly a big enough sample size to predict a trend, but his -2.4 grade did stand out. To be fair to Campbell he was playing more of a safety role on this occasion, but watch the three consecutive runs from 9:23 in the first quarter and let me know if you see a pattern?
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