Senior Bowl practice report, Day 4: NFL buzz isn't limited to the field
Some pundits believe Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez will go in Top 10
Falcons punter Michael Koenen could be hot property on open market
Eric Mangini's poor communication skills leave assistants in the dark
Although NFL general mangers, coaches, scouts and even a few owners converged on Mobile, Ala., this week to get a look at the nation's top senior players, there was also plenty of action in the walkways of the Alabama Convention Center. Here's some of what was discussed that little to do with the players on the field.
Matthew Stafford of Georgia and Mark Sanchez of USC elevated the available talent at quarterback in April's draft the minute they decided to enter the process. The question is how high will they be selected? Some prognosticators think both will be top 10 selections, but officials in Mobile felt otherwise. According to scouts, Stafford lacks top pocket passer size and makes several questionable decisions throwing the ball. Sanchez has limited experience behind center and only spent one full season as a starter. Sources from USC who came to Mobile said they fear Sanchez may turn out to be nothing more than a "one year wonder."
Free agency in the NFL officially begins on Feb. 27 but don't be fooled, the process has already begun. The Senior Bowl is the first of two large postseason gatherings where player agents and general managers are together in a social setting (the combine is the other). As a result, the talk between agents and general managers and coaches eventually turns to the free agents who'll potentially be available.
Some of the names being thrown around include Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Khalif Barnes and Houston Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson. One of the hottest names is Atlanta Falcons punter Michael Koenen. With a dearth of good punters in the league, Koenen will be a hot property if he hits the open market. Sources in Mobile expect him to ink a contract that will pay him at least $2.5 million per season, almost twice what Mike Scifres of the San Diego Chargers makes.
Eric Mangini had a reputation for poor communication skills when he coached the New York Jets. Evidently, he hasn't changed. Several holdovers from Romeo Crennel's staff in Cleveland said they have not heard a word from Mangini since he was hired on Jan. 7 and are wondering what their future holds.
It's surprising to a number of league insiders at the Senior Bowl that Scott Pioli has not yet made a coaching decision for the Kansas City Chiefs. The belief is the longer Pioli waits to make a decision, the better the odds he'll retain Herm Edwards or, at the very least, name a member of the staff as the team's head coach for the '09 season.
Besides offering future NFL players the opportunity to showcase their talents on the field, the Senior Bowl is also one big job fair for unemployed coaches. A large number who received pink slips were in town looking for work.
Sources from Tampa Bay said from the start that Jon Gruden wouldn't take over at Notre Dame this year. The consensus of those who cover the team is that Gruden is more tailored towards the pro game and would struggle as a college coach.
The odyssey of Connor Barwin's trip to the Senior Bowl is interesting,, to say the least. Barwin played tight end his first three years with the Cincinnati Bearcats before switching to defensive end last season. As a senior he turned into one of the top pass rushers in the Big East Conference and improved his draft stock from undrafted free agent to potential top 100 choice. So why was Barwin invited to the Senior Bowl as a tight end? It was the only way to get him on a roster as the North squad was in need of bodies to play the position. Throughout the week of practice Barwin took reps at both tight end and defensive end.
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