Monthly Archives: July 2017

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INDIANAPOLIS — Defense has been the theme of the Indianapolis Colts’ offseason so far, as they’ve signed six outside free agents and kept cornerback Darius Butler.

The Colts could have as many as four new starting linebackers by Week 1 of next season. And while getting help in the pass-rush department continues to be a need, finding a second cornerback is up there on the list, too.

2017 NFL DRAFT
Round 1: April 27, 8 p.m. ET
Rds. 2-3: April 28, 7 p.m. ET
Rds. 4-7: April 29, noon ET
Where: Philadelphia

NFL draft home page »

• 2017 NFL draft order »
• Mel Kiper Jr.: Mock 3.0 »
• Todd McShay: Mock 3.0 »
• Todd McShay’s Top 32 »
• Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board »
• McShay: Top prospects by position »
• Mel Kiper Jr.: Top 10 by position »
• Pro day schedule for prospects »
• Underclassmen who have declared »
• NFL draft player rankings »
It’s high enough that you can’t completely rule out the possibility of Indianapolis using its first-round pick — No. 15 overall — on a cornerback in an attempt to find a starter to go alongside two-time Pro Bowler Vontae Davis from Day 1.

“You look at the draft, this is a really deep draft when it comes to the secondary,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “You’re going to get a good player, maybe a couple of them. Then it’ll be up to us how quick we can develop those guys and get them on the field. There’s going to be growing pains. Great speed, guys with ball skills, guys that have skill set you’re looking for.”

The Colts have long searched for the right player to go with Davis on the outside. Greg Toler was talented, but he missed 14 games with injuries during his three seasons with the Colts. Indianapolis replaced Toler with Patrick Robinson last season and, well, Robinson was basically Toler Part II, playing only seven games due to an assortment of injuries. The Colts released Robinson last month.

The Colts started five different players at cornerback in 2016. They even had veteran Antonio Cromartie on the roster before he was released after their Week 4 game in London.

Indianapolis has Rashaan Melvin, Darryl Morris, Charles James II, Tevin Mitchel, Christopher Milton and Frankie Williams as other cornerbacks currently on the roster. That group combined for just one interception last season.

If — and it’s just an if at this point — the Colts decided to select a cornerback in the first round, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, Washington’s Kevin King and Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey as first-rounders in their latest mock draft.

Butler likely isn’t an option to start on the outside because not only has he been more comfortable playing in the slot, but the plan is for the Colts to move him to safety.

“He’s been back there and he’s been effective at the nickel spot,” Pagano said. “He’s effective as a blitzer, he’s been effective in coverage. If he’s got to go back there and be a full-time safety, he’ll playing football. It’ll be good for us.”

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Today’s question: Is the New York Giants’ receiving corps of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard the best in the league?

Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys reporter: I like what the Atlanta Falcons have with Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel. I like what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did in adding DeSean Jackson to Mike Evans. I like what the Pittsburgh Steelers have with Antonio Brown and a good group that will be better if Martavis Bryant returns to form. But from Nos. 1-3, it’s hard to quibble with the Giants. Beckham might be the most dynamic receiver in the league. Having joined a new team — if not in a new stadium — Marshall will be motivated to show what he has left. Shepard had a productive rookie season and should be better. We know the Giants will throw the ball a lot, and the trio will get plenty of looks from Eli Manning. Quick aside: I’m surprised Dwayne Harris hasn’t done more as a receiver with New York. I thought he would have been better after seeing him with the Cowboys earlier in his career.
At age 33, and coming off a down year, Brandon Marshall is the X factor in the Giants’ receiving corps. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Tim McManus, Philadelphia Eagles reporter: I’m a fan of Atlanta’s corps of Jones, Sanu and Gabriel, and have respect for the receivers in Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay as well, but the Giants’ receivers absolutely deserve to be in the conversation. It’s difficult to envision how the Eagles’ secondary will handle this group. Jalen Mills on Beckham? Patrick Robinson on Marshall? Ron Brooks, coming off a ruptured quad tendon, trying to keep up with Shepard in the slot? Could be trouble. More times than not, the Giants will enter a game holding a matchup advantage in that department, which is a beautiful thing to have going for you. Marshall is coming off a down year (788 yards, 3 TDs in 15 games). I’m curious to see whether at age 33, he can still reach lofty heights. That’s the X factor for me. If he can be the type of imposing presence we’ve become accustomed to, this just might be the best receiving corps in the NFL.

John Keim, Washington Redskins reporter: If we’re talking about the entire receiving corps, then no. If we’re talking just the trio of Beckham, Marshall and Shepard, it would be hard to top this group, though entering the season I’d put Green Bay ahead of the Giants. Beckham is clearly a top receiver, and Marshall is one year removed from a 109-catch season (the sixth time he reached triple digits). He’ll provide a major boost in the red zone in particular. But he’s 33. How much of last season’s dropoff was due to personal attrition versus the Jets’ quarterback situation? We’ll soon find out, though I have a strong hunch it was the latter. Shepard caught 65 passes, eight for touchdowns, as a rookie. So this trio should be strong and, by season’s end, possibly the best. But if we’re looking at overall depth for the top spot — and players beyond the top three — there are questions, and that could be a problem. I’m curious to see more of Tavarres King because of his speed.

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INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to suspense surrounding the Indianapolis Colts offense, there really isn’t anything major outside of when quarterback Andrew Luck will start throwing the football following his right shoulder surgery back in January.

You could say there’s a little uncertainty when it comes to right guard and right tackle. The battle for the third receiver spot between Phillip Dorsett and Kamar Aiken could end up being one of the most competitive competitions – a theme hit home by general manager Chris Ballard – on offense for Indianapolis. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief are in line to be the team’s top two receivers.

Dorsett is the Colts’ 2015 first-round draft pick and Aiken is the former Baltimore Ravens receiver who signed with Indianapolis in free agency. Aiken had 29 receptions for 328 yards and a touchdown last season with the Ravens.
Phillip Dorsett has to prove he can be more than just a deep threat. AP Photo/Matt Dunham
“We already had a lot of talent in the receiving room and then we added Kamar,” Dorsett said. “It just adds competition to the room. I feel like if you’re not a competitor, you’re not cut out for football. It’s competition everywhere, every day.”

There’s more pressure on Dorsett than Aiken.

The good news for Dorsett was that he was a first-round pick. The bad news for Dorsett is that he’s a first-round pick who hasn’t played to his potential so far. The last thing he wants do is flame out like Colts 2013 first-round draft pick Bjoern Werner did. Werner was released following the 2015 season.

It’s time for Dorsett to produce because Ballard has proven in just a few months on the job that he wants production or he’ll look elsewhere to get it. So flashes, something Dorsett has provided in his two seasons, will no longer cut it.

Dorsett has 51 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns in his first two seasons. His speed is what makes him intriguing to watch. His 16 yards a catch last season was good enough for eighth in the NFL. The Colts want Dorsett to do more than just run deep routes. He had a chance to step up and show his value last season when Moncrief missed six games with a shoulder injury. But Dorsett had only 13 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns in those six games.

“I would say every year is a big year for me,” he said. “That’s how I look at it. I’m not really trying to worry about where I got drafted. Put your head down, grind and compete. I love competition.”

Dorsett has spent a significant portion of the offseason working out at the team’s facility. New receivers coach Sanjay Lal has put an emphasis on detailed route running with Dorsett so that he can become a more complete player instead of being one-dimensional.

“Expect a new and improved guy,” Dorsett said. “I took my body to another level this offseason. I’m just going out there to being a better player, trying to go out there every day and figure out any way I can get better in all aspects of the game.”

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INDIANAPOLIS — Clayton Geathers knew something was wrong with his neck after suffering a concussion on the final defensive play against the Tennessee Titans in Week 11 last season. The team eventually placed Geathers on season-ending injured reserve on Dec. 12.

The hope for the Colts safety was that his neck would improve.

Days became weeks. Weeks became months.
The Colts are playing it safe with their hard-hitting safety Clayton Geathers. Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire
So finally Geathers decided to have surgery for a bulging disc in his neck in March.

The projected starting safety is not taking part in the team’s offseason workouts and the Colts can’t give a definitive answer on when he’ll be ready to return to the field.

“There’s no timeline,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “I can’t tell you when Clatyon is going to be available for us. He’s doing everything as far as the rehab and the meetings, just not practicing right now. When the docs say he’s 100 percent and he’s ready to roll, we’ll put him back out there.”

The tone coming from the Colts about Geathers’ health is completely different from what they’ve said about some of their other injured players. Owner Jim Irsay has said he believes quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) will be ready for the start of the regular season. The team has also said safety Malik Hooker (hip) will be on the field when training camp starts in late July.

When asked about his confidence level in returning, Geathers paused briefly before answering.

“Ummm, yes, I feel very confident with what the doctors are saying, and how it’s looking and doing everything I can do on my end,” he said. “I’m feeling positive about it. Listening to the doctors and when I’m ready I’m ready. Just trying to help the team as best as I can.”

Surgery is the last thing Geathers wanted. He had hoped that the bulging disc would shrink. It didn’t shrink to the point of where he felt comfortable.

“Saw multiple doctors, sat down with my family, gave it all the time,” Geathers said. “That was the last resort, surgery. We decided to go through with the surgery and felt like it was in my best interest to have surgery. That’s what happened.”

It’s understandable that Geathers and the Colts are going to extreme measures in protecting him. Not only is a neck injury something not to mess around with, but he’s a hard-hitting safety who doesn’t shy away from contact. He embraces it.
“The neck is something serious,” Geathers said. “You don’t want to play around with the neck. But I believe in the higher power and I pray about it and like I said, everything will work out … I trust the process. I trust the surgery. I know that’s my style of play and once it heals, I’m ready to go. We’ll see how that goes. ”

Veteran Darius Butler and T.J. Green are getting the starting reps at safety while Geathers and Hooker are both out.

This is the second straight year that Geathers, who has 93 tackles in his two-year career, has missed offseason activities. He dealt with a foot injury that carried over into training camp last year.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s adversity. We all go through it at some point in our life, our career. Mine was just back-to-back. It’s going to be alright.”

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ATLANTA — The Hawks have signed guard Lamar Patterson and forward Ryan Kelly to multiyear contracts.

Patterson provides depth across the perimeter, including at point guard. He previously signed two 10-day contracts with the team, most recently on Feb. 8. He has averaged 2.3 points in four games.

The 6-foot-11 Kelly has played in nine games with the Hawks after signing on Oct. 31.

The Hawks now have their maximum 15 players. They traded forward Mike Scott to the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, leaving two vacant roster spots.

Patterson and Kelly are expected to be available when the Hawks play the Miami Heat on Friday night.