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NFL.COM: Minicamp missions: Cut time, add speed


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Minicamp missions: Cut time, add speed

By Vic Carucci

National Editor, NFL.com


(May 3, 2004) -- A full weekend of NFL minicamp action provided some interesting snapshots that could be worth keeping for future reference as we get closer to the 2004 season.

The New York Jets working to improve their offense's clock management

This has been a significant problem the past few seasons, and coach Herman Edwards finally is taking significant steps to correct it. One is having Dick Curl, senior offensive assistant/special projects, standing with him on the sidelines to help provide additional awareness and reminders of clock-related issues, such as when to call timeouts. As a standard rule, Edwards wants timeouts called only in the second and fourth quarters with five minutes or less to play. In 2003, the Jets called a half-dozen timeouts in the first and third quarters and several before the five-minute mark of the fourth.

Another step is putting together charts for coaches and players that detail a variety of game scenarios, with corresponding personnel groupings. The idea is to cut down the confusion that sometimes arose as plays were relayed from the sidelines, thus prompting unnecessary timeouts. In addition, quarterback Chad Pennington will have more freedom to change calls at the line, which should further improve clock management because he shouldn't need to use as many timeouts to resolve adjustments caused by certain defensive alignments.

The Detroit Lions' infusion of speed

Oklahoma's Teddy Lehman should add some much-needed speed to Detroit's linebacker corps.

We're a long way from knowing whether the Lions' universally high marks for their draft are warranted. Workouts minus pads and contact don't reveal much evidence to validate or refute the praise heaped upon team president Matt Millen and his scouting staff.

However, they do provide some clues about the sort of athletes who have joined the Lions' fold. Participants and spectators at the weekend workouts were immediately impressed with how much faster the team suddenly seems to be at receiver and running back -- thanks to the additions of first-rounders Roy Williams of Texas and Kevin Jones of Virginia Tech -- and linebacker, thanks to the addition of second-rounder Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma.

"We are definitely a younger, faster team right now, and it showed," quarterback Joey Harrington told reporters. "There were a couple balls I threw out there where I kind of did a double-take -- just looking across the board how much faster we were moving."

Buffalo Bills first-round draft pick Lee Evans

One of the major draft trends was the record seven receivers selected in the first round. But dominating the headlines in that group were the three chosen among the top 10 picks -- Larry Fitzgerald by Arizona, Roy Williams by Detroit, and Reggie Williams by Jacksonville.

When all is said and done, however, the biggest headline-maker could very well be Evans, whom the Bills picked in the 13th spot. He showed remarkable explosiveness and caught practically everything thrown his way during drills, including an amazing one-handed hook grab on a deep out pattern.

Although Drew Bledsoe has been around long enough to know that impressive work in the leisurely pitch-and-catch sessions of May can easily be forgotten during the grueling two-a-days of July and August. But that didn't stop him from paying Evans a lofty compliment by mentioning him in the same sentence as Eric Moulds, the Bills' top receiver and one of the best the club has ever had.

"He really catches the ball with his hands, which is something that I always look for," Bledsoe said. "You watch Eric Moulds catch the ball and he goes strong with his hands to catch the ball. From what I see from Lee Evans, he has that same type of ability. He's a very sure-handed guy to go with his explosiveness."

At 5-foot-11, Evans is considered the "runt" of a class of mostly taller wideouts. Yet Evans packs plenty of muscle, especially in his upper body, so he figures to have a decent chance to fight through the jamming at the line of scrimmage that is one of the first hurdles a young receiver must clear to have success in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys second-round pick Julius Jones being compared with Emmitt Smith

I know, I know. Ridiculous.

That is no knock on Jones. He could very well turn out to be a tremendous talent. But before even remotely suggesting he could reach the heights of one of the greatest running backs in league history, it's probably a good idea to see him play at least one down of a preseason game, let alone a game that counts.

After all, we are talking about the fifth player selected at his position and 43rd player chosen overall. We're also talking about a player whose otherwise impressive football career at Notre Dame was interrupted when he had to sit out the 2002 season because of academic problems.

Yet, in Dallas, anyone who plays running back for the Cowboys is going to be judged by the incredibly high standards Smith established during 13 seasons before joining the Cardinals. Jones, who became only the fourth Irish running back to generate more than 3,000 career yards, heard a lot of those comparisons in the media during weekend drills at Irving, Texas. The most striking similarity is size: Jones is 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, barely an inch taller and only a few pounds heavier than Smith. At Notre Dame, Jones wore No. 22, Smith's number, which the Cowboys did not issue after Smith signed with Arizona. Jones wore No. 21 during minicamp.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells is a master at lending some perspective whenever he perceives that hype surrounding an unproven player is getting out of hand.

"The bus station is full of those guys who were going to be the next this or the next that," Parcells told reporters. "(Jones is) not under any illusions about anything like that. He knows better."

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