Packers assistants feel good about their contracts

Win or lose on Sunday, the future is looking good for Green Bay Packers assistant coaches.

That is because the organization has put together what cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said is a better plan than any other team for the coaching staff in the event a lockout takes place.

It’s a hot-button topic around the league with teams preparing to slash salaries for assistant coaches in the event a lockout takes place. Some teams even have provisions in contracts to terminate employment if the lockout becomes lengthy. Other teams are simply reducing pay, some by substantial margins.

“I don't want to get into numbers, but what we're getting is superior to anybody else,” Whitt told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It's not even close. This organization has taken care of us. They run this place the right way.”

Whitt has compared policies with colleagues in other cities and feels very strongly about what the Packers have put in place in the event there is a lockout beginning March 4, a day after the collective bargaining agreement expires.

Per the report, the Packers coaches could make up for lost wages after the season starts.

“I can't speak on what other clubs are doing, because I don't know,” coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday. “I know our assistant coaches, in communication with their colleagues, everybody feels great about what we've put together for them.”

Follow me on Twitter: BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Vick and the Eagles: worth a long-term deal?

With the reports that the Eagles are expectecd to franchise QB Michael Vick for the 2011 NFL season, I am starting to wonder how long until we hear talk of a new long term deal—complete with that big bonus check.

Granted, we are all waiting for a new CBA, along with threats of a lockout from both the NFLPA and the owners. That will ultimately be the holdup for Vick and any other impending free agent, but the idea that Philadelphia is willing to shop backup QB Kevin Kolb speaks highly of their future plans with Vick.

Michael Vick ICONThere is some risk with signing Vick to a long-term deal in Philadelphia.

I played against a young Vick during my career. But his comeback after spending time in federal prison has produced an even more dynamic and explosive player at the quarterback position. We should all agree with that, because there isn’t another player like him in the league from a game plan or production standpoint. People talk all the time about QBs developing their overall talents in the league. We saw that from Vick in 2010. Still showed us that athletic ability, but also played like a true pro QB in the pocket.

You pay for that in this league with big money.

However, what are the risks to a long-term deal under Andy Reid and the Eagles? Despite the highlight reel Vick can put together—and the problems he can cause opposing defensive coordinators—there are some issues at play to discuss.

The first, from my perspective, is his durability. Vick missed time this past season and did seem to tire out towards the end of the schedule. That’s going to happen with his style of play and I guarantee you every defensive coach in this league will instruct their players to put a helmet on him when he breaks the pocket. That’s football—clean football—but it adds up over sixteen games.

Can he last? Can he absorb those hits? Because you can’t take that out of his game. His ability to run the football makes him unique, dangerous. It forces opposing coaches to sleep in the office and carry on post practice meetings in the film room that last well into the evening hours. Script a game plan to limit his talents.

There is also the idea of investing in a player with previous off the field issues. Vick isn’t going to receive a pass from the league office if he finds trouble moving forward. Step out of line and he will be looking at severe discipline from Roger Goodell. There is no question about that. I give credit to Vick for altering his lifestyle, but there is still that risk involved—different from investing in a player that hasn’t had to be reinstated into the NFL.

Vick and the Eagles are an interesting discussion. All of this talent, playmaking ability, etc. “Unique” as I said above. Yes, we will most likely see the Philly QB given the franchise tag (which could be around $20 million for the season), but long-term talks should begin once a new CBA is put into place.

Would I sign him up and make Vick my QB for years to come? Yes, because talent like this isn’t easy to find. I take that risk. What about you? What’s your call? Let me know…

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Want to work in the NFL? Click here to sign up for the NFP’s “Chalk Talk” seminar in Indianapolis at the Combine on February 25th.

Prop bet of the day

DALLAS— For each of the next seven days, the NFP will be rolling out a variety of articles dedicated to discussing some of the more interesting prop bets that can be found around the internet.

Why? How about why not? Just be sure to leave you picks in the comments section below.

Today's prop bet comes to us from the good folks at Oddsmaker.com.

Prop Bet of the day: Monday, January 31, 2011

Which will be mentioned FIRST by Joe Buck or Troy Aikman (after kickoff):

TERRIBLE TOWELS: -115

CHEESEHEADS: -115

I’m taking the Terrible Towels. Is there a single Steelers fan on the planet that doesn’t own one of these things? Hell, even I own a Terrible Towel and I'm not even a Pittsburgh fan.

Steelers fans travel extremely well and can be seen waving Myron Cope’s 1975 creation from all over the stadium. The Cheesehead is popular (and very fashionable), but I’m betting Buck or Aikman mentions the towel first.

Which way are you betting?

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Odds to win Super Bowl XLV MVP

DALLAS—In a Super Bowl matchup that features two of the NFL’s top defensive units, oddsmakers still believe that the quarterback position will produce this year’s Most Valuable Player.

It’s a smart play when you think about. Quarterbacks have taken home the MVP award a record 23 times in 44 Super Bowls. In fact, only eight players have been named MVP from the defensive side of the football, with Tampa Bay’s Dexter Jackson (2003) being the most recent to do so.

Below you will find the current odds to win this year’s Super Bowl MVP Award, according to Bodog.com. But before we get to that, here’s a historical breakdown on the MVP by position:

QUARTERBACK: 23
RUNNING BACK: 7
WIDE RECEIVER: 6
DEFENSIVE END: 2
LINEBACKER: 2
SAFETY: 2
CORNERBACK: 1
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: 1
1

*Note: Harvey Martin and Randy White were co-MVPs of Super Bowl XII.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers: 3/2
James Starks: 14/1
Brandon Jackson: 50/1
Greg Jennings: 14/1
Donald Driver: 25/1
James Jones: 30/1
Jordy Nelson: 35/1
A.J. Hawk: 30/1
Clay Matthews: 18/1
B.J. Raji: 30/1
Cullen Jenkins: 50/1
Tramon Williams: 25/1
Charles Woodson: 16/1
Sam Shields: 35/1

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger: 7/2
Rashard Mendenhall: 15/2
Mike Wallace: 16/1
Hines Ward: 25/1
Emmanuel Sanders: 35/1
Heath Miller: 28/1
Troy Polamalu: 15/1
James Harrison: 22/1
James Farrior: 40/1
Lawrence Timmons: 40/1

Field: 15/1

Clay Matthews at 18/1 looks like a good value pick in my opinion. Who do you guys like?

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

CLICK HERE to play the NFP’s Super Bowl Prop Bet Challenge!

NFLPA Bowl Preview

A look at five of the more intriguing prospects playing in this week’s NFLPA Bowl.

1. OT Willie Smith: East Carolina
Smith was one of my favorite offensive tackle prospects in the entire country based off my tape study during the 2010 season. The guy is a gifted athlete, possesses good range to the edge, redirects well in space and looks natural on the move. Now, he’s raw from a technical standpoint coming from the Texas Tech-style spread offense where he was simply asked to back pedal off the line and create a deep cup in the pocket because of their quick passing attack. He might not be as NFL-ready as some of the other prospects we saw last week in Mobile, but the guy has some good movement skills, can bend with natural flexibility and if he has a big week, he could be the one guy to really catapult himself up draft boards from this group in San Antonio.

Ryan JonesNorthwest Missouri State CB Ryan Jones could vault up draft boards.

2. CB Ryan Jones: Northwest Missouri State
At the end of the season when I wrapped up my school tape study I dubbed Richmond CB Justin Rogers as the most NFL-ready small-school corner in the draft. However, I also thought Ryan Jones was the guy who had the most upside of the group and could end up going just as high with a good week at the NFLPA Bowl. Jones is a strong, well-put-together corner with natural ball skills, a good first step and the straight-line speed to consistently track the football. He’s more of an athlete than cornerback at this stage and relies more so on his God-given abilities than technique. However, he’s a fluid corner with some natural turn and run ability. And it will be interesting to see just where he’s at this week in terms of his back-pedal/technique in determining just how much of a project he will be for the NFL team and how quickly he’ll be able to get on the field.

3. WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos: Iowa
Remember the name? After getting suspended by the Iowa football team for their 2011 bowl game following his arrest on drug possession, DJK is back and trying to repair his image in front of NFL scouts this week. Johnson-Koulianos is a talented wideout who possesses a solid first step, has some natural balance/fluidity to his game as a route runner and can be physical after the catch. However, he isn’t a real dynamic athlete in any area of the game and when you add that in with his character concerns, it’s going to be tough for him to convince an NFL team that he’s worth a draft pick. However, I thought he was worth about a mid-round grade before the suspension and if he shows well for himself this week, the guy should be able to get himself into a camp as at worst a free agent.

4. OC Tim Barnes: Missouri
In what looks like a pretty poor center class, Barnes has the ability to be the one guy to make his move toward the top of that second-tier of centers this week. Penn State’s Stefen Wisniewski and Florida’s Mike Pouncey are far and away the best pivots in the 2011 draft. However, after that the class dries up pretty quickly. There are some intriguing small-school talents and decent later-round guys, but no one has really stepped up and secured that top spot after the aforementioned two. Therefore, with a guy like Barnes who has some natural bend, is a good athlete and can get out and pull in the second level, with a strong week I think he could end up being that guy, as he’s someone who I have liked on tape for the past two seasons.

5. DT Jerrell Powe: Mississippi
A former five-star recruit, Powe has had a real rollercoaster of a ride during his time at Ole Miss. Struggled with weight and academic problems during the early part of his career, only to recommit himself in 2009 and develop into one of the more dominant defensive linemen in the SEC. However, he lost a lot of weight this past year getting himself down to around 315 pounds and tried to play like more of a finesse style three-technique, but he lacked the kind of initial burst, lateral quickness and hand usage to consistently disengage on contact. But he is a powerful nose tackle who has a good first step for the position. He’s tough to move off the ball inside, can push the pocket on third down and as a junior I did see some B.J. Raji to his game. Now again there are some character, weight and age concerns with this guy, but he’s a thick-bodied defender who can anchor inside and is certainly worth a draft pick. But this week could go a long way in determining how high you take a shot on this boom or bust prospect.

Follow me on Twitter: @WesBunting

Two recruiting services have FSU's class at No. 1

Jimbo Fisher should just go ahead and play the Lottery, because the Florida State head coach just can't lose these days.

With four-star lineman Josue Matias from New Jersey recently switching his verbal commitment from in-state favorite Rutgers to Florida State, the Seminoles are now atop the Class of 2011 rankings according to two recruiting services — Scout.com and ESPN.com. FSU currently sits at No. 3 on Rivals.com's rankings.

As we head into National Signing Day on Wednesday, Matias’ selection gives the Seminoles 25 verbal commitments with room for a few more in Jimbo Fisher's second full season as head coach.

The future of FSU in the post-Bobby Bowden era certainly looks bright, as Fisher has the Seminoles trending in the right direction as in-state rivals Florida and Miami undergo their transitions under new staffs.

Be sure to check back with the NFP, as I'll have my Top 25 classes post-National Signing Day later in the week.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

Want to work in the NFL? Click here to sign up for the NFP's “Chalk Talk at the Combine” Seminar February 25 in Indianapolis.

ESPN to provide live National Signing Day coverage

National Signing Day is one of college football's most important days of the offseason. Of course, recruiting is similar to drafting in the pro ranks because it certainly isn't an exact science. But the programs that land the best high school players in the nation ultimately are able to win consistently on Saturday.

Isaiah CrowellICONWill Isaiah Crowell complete Georgia's Dream Team?

Because of the day's importance, ESPN will have expansive and in-depth television coverage, as the network will air a record 10 hours of programming revolving around the nation's top prospects and top teams. ESPNU's National Signing Day Special will run from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and the analysts will have all of the news and breakdowns on recruiting's biggest day. The show will also be on ESPN3.com.

Among the players making their college choices known on national television are: offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, running back Isaiah Crowell and safety Erique Florence.

The network will also interview South Carolina high school defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is deciding between Alabama and South Carolina. The nation's top recruit will reportedly make his announcement on Feb. 14, his birthday.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

Want to work in the NFL? Click here to sign up for the NFP's “Chalk Talk at the Combine” Seminar February 25 in Indianapolis.

Game planning Big Ben

Let’s talk some X’s and O’s of Super Bowl XLV and focus on Ben Roethlisberger from the perspective of the Green Bay defense. The Steelers’ QB causes matchup issues because of his unique ability to extend the play, step up in the pocket and break contain. Today, let’s play defensive coordinator and discuss five things that can limit Roethlisberger this Sunday.

1. Bring inside pressure: We should see some edge pressure from the Packers on Sunday, but my main goal would be to send A and B gap pressure vs. Roethlisberger. Rush with contain principles on the outside, however force the Steelers’ QB to step up into the face of pressure. This cuts off his ability to slide in the pocket, set his feet and wait for routes to develop down the field. Add in the fact that center Maurkice Pouncey is likely out, and there is no question that I would challenge the interior of the Pittsburgh O-Line early.

Ben RoethlisbergerICONSteelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger.

2. Play combination man coverages: What do you do vs. a very aggressive secondary that can play man coverage? Run routes out of the bunch and stack looks that give your receivers a quick, free release at the line of scrimmage. To eliminate that, play what I call Cover 7 (man coverage with combination schemes). The “box” (4 on 3), “triangle” (3 on 2) and “slice” calls (2 on 1). Give yourself an advantage as a DB. Eliminate “pick” routes and simple route schemes that are designed to beat both press and off-man coverage. Green Bay doesn’t want to get caught chasing an underneath crossing route out of a stack look that gives Roethlisberger a short, easy read.

3. Take away inside breaking routes: Think of 3rd downs. What are we going to see? Most likely, inside breaking routes that are thrown between the numbers: slant, option, dig, seam, curl, stick, etc. If I am the Packers, I also expect the ball to go to either TE Heath Miller or WR Hines Ward. Because of that, move Woodson around, align him in different looks and allow him to challenge both Miller and Ward. Don’t work hard to get to 3rd down only to see Ward run a basic 5-yard option route and run away from the defender’s leverage for an easy conversion. Instead, force Roethlisberger to throw the ball outside of the numbers and challenge the secondary.

4. Play Cover 2 over 2-Man: The Packers gave up some plays to the Bears and QB Caleb Hanie playing 2-Man in the NFC Championship game. 2-Man is just as it sounds: 2 deep safeties with the underneath defenders playing inside (trail) man coverage. Force an outside release and use your safeties as protection. The issue vs. Roethlisberger, however, is playing that man technique when he extends the play. That is tough on any DB to sit hard and to the inside when the QB can get out of the pocket. Receivers break off routes, come back to the football and turn the play into playground football. Yes, keep 2-Man in the game plan, but lean on basic Cover 2. This allows you to drop seven into coverage with the ability to see the QB. That can save you from giving up a big play vs. Roethlisberger.

5. Tackle: Sounds elementary, right? Of course it does, but it always applies vs. the Steelers’ QB. How often have we seen free runners or blitz pressure (that gets home) come up with zero against Pittsburgh? Game planning coverages and pressure schemes for Roethlisberger play a big role, but you have to get the QB on the ground to be successful. When rushing a QB that is strong in the pocket, rake down the throwing arm—because we have all watched Roethlisberger deliver the ball with defenders hanging all over him in the pocket. And that makes him one of the toughest matchups in the NFL.

Follow me on Twitter: MattBowen41

Want to work in the NFL? Click here to sign up for the NFP’s “Chalk Talk” seminar in Indianapolis at the Combine on February 25th.

Pat Angerer supports Iowa football staff

The following statement was emailed to me by my client, Pat Angerer, linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. Pat asked me to release this statement publicly in support of the Iowa strength and conditioning coaches:

As a former Hawkeye I am tired of all the negative attention the Iowa strength staff is getting. However, the people who are bringing the negative attention to the Iowa program have never stepped under the weight bar as Iowa strength coach, Chris Doyle, gets you fired up to do a lift.

No matter how tired I was, having Coach Doyle spot and encourage me gave me strength that I couldn't get on my own. Every time I stepped into the weight room I knew I was going to be pushed hard, but I also knew I was going to be a better man when I was finished. I was never pushed beyond my means, but Coach Doyle pushed me places that I couldn't have gone on my own.

I have done the “100 squats” workout more than once and it is a very tough workout. After the workout, your legs are going to be sore for a couple days and you're going to be tired. No matter how hard it was, after I was done my teammates and I felt like we had accomplished something great together. It helped us grow closer as a team and helped us get the edge on the rest of the teams in the country.

The workout made us mentally tough and helped us look at challenges as great opportunities. The workout DID NOT push us too far, it just pushed us places where most people couldn't have gone on their own. Without Coach Doyle and the Iowa strength staff, the Iowa football program would not be anywhere near as talented as they are today. Coach Doyle showed me how to work hard and be a man, on and off the field.

I am very blessed and thankful that I got the privilege to workout under Coach Doyle. He took an undersized Iowa kid, that wasn't ready to play college football, and turned him into the 63rd pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Coach Doyle changed my life.

Bears vice president Tim McCaskey dies

Tim McCaskey, a vice president for the Chicago Bears, died Sunday following an extended battle with cancer.

He is the second oldest of Virginia McCaskey’s 11 children. Tim McCaskey was named a vice president in 1993 and was well liked in the front office by employees, players and media. He had been very ill during the 2010 season.

“Tim, first and foremost , was a fan – as passionate, loyal, critical, analytical, committed and devoted a Bears fan as there ever was,” the McCaskey family said in a statement released by the team. “The tenacity and dignity with which he fought this dreaded disease is an inspiration to all of us.”

Tim McCaskey, a Notre Dame graduate, is survived by his four children, eight grandchildren, 10 siblings and mother.

Follow me on Twitter: BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune