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Posted: Thursday February 19, 2009 5:49PM; Updated: Friday February 20, 2009 12:55PM
Don Banks Don Banks >
INSIDE THE NFL

Combine Snaps (cont.)

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Head coach Sean Payton and the Saints have the 14th overall pick in April's draft.
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• Both Stafford and Sanchez aren't thought of as the most accurate of quarterbacks -- at least not when measured against last year's two first-round QBs, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. I loved what Saints head coach Sean Payton had to say about the accuracy issue when it comes to grading quarterback prospects. It means everything.

"It's a very simple statement, but the quarterback needs to be accurate,'' said Payton, who has one of the NFL's most accurate passers in Drew Brees. "I don't want to hear about how he's going to become more accurate. Generally he's got to be someone who can target and find his throws and you don't want to be holding your breath in your 7 on 7's, with some guy throwing 50 percent. He needs to complete every ball (in those drills), with maybe one or two on the ground, that's it.''

Let's just say Stafford and Sanchez have some ground to make up in that department.

• Give Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith the master of the obvious award in the early going of this combine. Smith was asked Thursday if he would embrace being part of the solution in Detroit, if the Lions took him first overall?

"I would look forward to going there and competing, have a great atmosphere in the locker room, and not be a cancer to the team,'' Smith said.

Good to know he has no intention of being a locker room cancer. That's a positive on every team's scouting report.

• I'll say this much for this year's crop of highly rated offensive tackles, they don't lack for confidence. Baylor's Jason Smith, not to be confused with Alabama's Andre Smith, was asked if his goal is to prove himself the best "Smith'' at the combine?

"Not the best Smith -- the best offensive tackle,'' he said. "I'd say first of all, put on my film from Baylor and you'll see that I'm the best. That's it.''

Any flaws, or bad habits?

"I can't think of any.''

Virginia's Eugene Monroe isn't the shy type either. When asked why he should be the draft's first tackle selected, he didn't hesitate.

"I think over my career at Virginia I've proven I can block anybody,'' Monroe said.

Monroe also had this unintentional beaut -- at least I think it was unintentional -- when asked why Virginia has had so many NFL draftees in recent years?

"I believe that (Cavaliers head coach) Al Groh runs our program with a level of professionalism second to none,'' Monroe said.

Oh, really? Someone call the NCAA's compliance office.

• I'm told that Baylor's Smith is an absolute monster when it comes to power blocking, and the converted tight end loves the part of his job that allows him to manhandle his opponents. He didn't waste much time speaking to that reputation at the combine.

"When I'm on the field, I take a lot of pride in physically assaulting somebody,'' Smith said. "As far as finishing them off, that's just a part of the block. So you don't really think too much of it, because that's what you go on the field to do. It's something I practice real hard at, and I practice real hard at practicing. And when it's game time, it just happens.''

• Nothing about franchise-tag day really surprised me -- with the exception of Pittsburgh once again lavishing offensive tackle Max Starks with a salary equal to the average of the top five highest paid offensive linemen in the league last year.

I get that Pittsburgh had to protect itself, given that its top three tackles were all free-agent eligible this year, and that tackle Marvel Smith's back problems have rendered him a question mark the past two years. But $8.451 million for a guy who has been considered a backup in each of the past two seasons? Last year, Starks was given the Steelers' transition tag, at $6.985 million.

Suffice to say there's no sign of any economic downturn in the Starks household.

• You know who's happy about Julius Peppers playing the game he's playing in Carolina? Jordan Gross, that's who. Because the Panthers were being backed into a corner by Peppers, who wants out of Carolina in the worst way, they were almost forced to get a deal done with Gross at any cost. That way Carolina had the franchise tag available to slap on Peppers, in order to either try and trade him, or somehow coax him to camp later this year.

Don't get me wrong. Gross is a very good player. But until last year, he was hardly considered to be the kind of dominant left tackle who had played his way into the elite echelon of the league. Has he now? Maybe. But there's little doubt that's what he's being paid like at this point, thanks to a six-year deal that includes a record-for-offensive-lineman $30.5 million guaranteed in the first three years.

• Quote of the day: From Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, when asked if he was surprised at the widespread use of the Dolphins' Wildcat formation last season:

"I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you. At the end of this, I wish I had a dollar for every person who ran it.''

 
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