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Friday, January 21, 2011

Minnesota Vikings Hire Jeff Davidson To Coach Offensive Line



over 1 year ago: Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox, left, and offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, right, look on during the NFL football team's summer session in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, June 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

By Christopher Gates

January 20, 2011

I missed this move with the Johnson hiring, but the Vikings are continuing to add to their coaching staff.

The Vikings have now added former Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson to the staff as their new offensive line coach, according to 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis. Davidson played his college ball as an offensive guard for the. . .dramatic pause. . .Ohio State University from 1986 to 1989, and was All Big-Ten as a senior. In fact, Jeff and his father Jim who also attended Ohio State and was an All-American tackle in 1964, were the first father-son captain duo in Buckeye history.

He spent five years in the NFL, four with the Denver Broncos, who selected him in the fifth round of the 1990 NFL Draft, and one with the New Orleans Saints. After that, he coached with the Saints as a volunteer assistant in 1995, and an offensive assistant in 1996. He was hired by the New England Patriots as their tight ends coach in 1997, and from 1998 to 2004 also served as an assistant offensive line coach. In 2005, he followed Romeo Crennel to Cleveland as their offensive line coach, and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2006 after then-coordinator Maurice Carthon was fired from that position.

In 2007, he moved on to the Carolina Panthers as the team's offensive coordinator, and has been there until today, when he joined the Minnesota Vikings.

Welcome to Minnesota, Coach Davidson. Now the Vikings have filled out just about their entire staff, and can really start the move towards 2011.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

College programs ponying up big bucks to land NFL coaches



By Steve Berkowitz

January 19, 2011

College football still loses marquee coaches such as Jim Harbaugh to the NFL. But it increasingly is becoming a two-way street.

Following splashy moves in the past two years by other elite programs, Miami (Fla.), Texas, Mississippi and Colorado recently have filled offensive or defensive coordinator jobs from the ranks of NFL assistants. Michigan joined in Tuesday, hiring defensive coordinator Greg Mattison from the Baltimore Ravens.

Florida, which last year attracted its defensive coordinator from the NFL, got both its coordinators from the pros this year when new head coach Will Muschamp revamped part of the staff he inherited from Urban Meyer. The Gators now have Charlie Weis, who had been the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach, and Dan Quinn, who had been the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive line coach.

The schools have not yet released their new contracts. Colorado athletics director Mike Bohn, though, described former Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy’s deal as “clearly a historical high” in term length and compensation for a Buffaloes football assistant. Michigan AD Dave Brandon says he’s “reasonably sure” Mattison’s deal “will surpass anything we’ve done in the past” for a football assistant.

Compensation has been booming for many top assistants in the Bowl Subdivision, USA TODAY studies in 2009 and 2010 found. The increases have been fueled in part by deals such as ones Tennessee made in 2009 with former NFL assistants Monte Kiffin ($1.2 million that year) and Ed Orgeron ($650,000), and one Georgia made last year with former Dallas Cowboys assistant Todd Grantham ($750,000).

Because of huge TV rights deals, especially those made by the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences, “college football has never been more lucrative than it is today,” says Neil Cornrich, who represents many college and pro football coaches.

Cornrich also says that because of the increased sophistication of college football and the speed with which college and pro teams are evolving and innovating, “the best guys are able to go back and forth.”

Former NFL Vikings Player Robert Smith Helps Children Through Charitable Program



Former NFL Vikings player visits Whitefish, helps Park & Rec

January 19, 2011

by Katy Harris

Former NFL Viking player Robert Smith came to Whitefish on Tuesday to meet a family who worships the football team he once played for, as well as to give a local organization $10,000.

The Fleming family of Whitefish has waited patiently for a few weeks when they found out they won a competition sponsored by the NFL and Proctor & Gamble.

They received a phone call from New York City saying that Smith, a former NFL running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was coming to visit them for a day.

Robert flew in to Whitefish to speak at an assembly that will inspire young children and he brought a gift with him.

The Fleming family said that they are happy to have Smith as their guest, but there's a bigger reason why he came to town than just to congratulate them on the competition.

A local boys and girls organization gets chosen to receive a $10,000 as part of the competition and the Flemings and Smith presented the Whitefish Parks and Recreation department with the $10,000 check.

"$10,000 makes a huge dent in our budget for these recreation programs. We kind of run them on a string and a prayer. It's going to make a huge difference in our ability to offer scholarships," commented Parks and Rec Board President Donnie Clapp.

The money will go toward the after school program for kids in the community as well as for summer programs put on by the department.

Some kids need scholarships to be able to participate in the programs that Whitefish Parks and Rec offers and the money will help kids participate who might not have all the funding.


"When I was little I did a lot of after school programs playing basketball and volleyball. It's just a really neat thing to be able to give $10,000 to something I got to participate in, and I know many kids in our community get to participate in it too, and I know they'll use that $10,000 for a good cause," Mandie Fleming said.

Smith says it's important to teach kids at a young age about staying active and being healthy, something they can learn from participating in programs like the ones offered up by Parks and Rec.

"Honestly it's the greatest thing about becoming an athlete is that people, they respect your opinion and listen to what you have to say. "If a few kids get the message...maybe it gets them on a path that they'll stay on for the rest of their lives. It's an incredible power," Smith concluded.

The money will be deposited into the general fund for Parks and Rec and the Fleming family is already looking forward to next football season so they can cheer on the Vikings.

Spaeth makes key block in Steelers win over Ravens




By Mike Prisuta

January 18, 2011

In looking at the last game, Mike Prisuta learned that Matt Spaeth has taken a big step toward redeeming himself from the last Jets game.

When the Jets last visited Heinz Field back in December Matt Spaeth dropped a touchdown pass when he wasn’t even the intended target, then lamented afterward that he’d “let my teammates down and the team down and the city down.”

As devastated as he was back on Dec. 19, Spaeth vowed not to be deterred.

“I’ll be back,” he insisted. “I’ll bounce back from this and I’m gonna make plays for this team down the road.”

True to his word, Spaeth made one last Saturday against the Ravens.

He didn’t catch a touchdown pass, but for the Steelers the block Spaeth threw on Baltimore monster Haloti Ngata on third-and-goal from the Ravens’ 2-yard line with 1:39 remaining in regulation was the next best thing.

It allowed Rashard Mendenhall to cut back into the end zone and score the touchdown that got the Steelers into their fifth AFC Championship Game in the last 10 seasons.


“It was actually kind of an outside run to the left side and it kind of got turned back,” Spaeth explained. “I was on the back side of the play and I had to get Haloti Ngata cut off, which isn’t always an easy thing to do.”

The play got turned back because Chris Kemoeatu was thrown aside by Ravens defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, a development that rendered useless the blocks that had been thrown on the left side by fullback Doug Legursky (on safety Haruki Nakamura) and Heath Miller (who blasted linebacker Terrell Suggs off the TV screen).

A cutback lane was available for Mendenhall because Spaeth was able to get in front of Ngata – who was chipped initially by Trai Essex – and hold on.

“I got down inside of him and walled him off and (Mendenhall) kind of came back inside of me and was able to get in,” Spaeth said. “Haloti Ngata is just an unbelievable player and athlete. He’s a freak, he really is, to be as big as he is and move the way he does. Trai did a good job in giving me a little help and buying me just enough time to get inside of him.

“I had to kind of lose a little ground just to get in front of him. Then, as soon as you get in front of him you have to try to turn him back and keep him wide while he has all of his 350 pounds of momentum going forward.”

Mendenhall still had to fight his way through a muddle of bodies at the goal line (Essex helped there, too, pushing the pile). But had it not been for Spaeth’s block on Ngata the Steelers would have been kicking a field goal from the 4. And who knows what would have happened then?

Spaeth said he’s thinking more about what the Jets game means than his contribution toward helping to get them this far. But if he really believed that he had “let my teammates down and the team down and the city down,” the last time, he can at least enter the Jets rematch with a clean slate thanks to his block on Ngata, who -- this just in -- isn’t often blocked.

“It helps,” Spaeth said. “We’re in the playoffs. We won. We get to play the Jets in a game to go to the Super Bowl. I’m not really thinking about that (last) game.

“Looking back and looking at the film and meeting with the coaches, I played really well; I just kinda came up short in the end for my team. I’m not going to let that weigh me down. We get another shot at them this weekend.”

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marshal Yanda named to Sports Illustrated's All-Pro Team





MMQB Mailbag: Revealing 2010 NFL awards ballot and all-pro team

That's the headline of my awards. Here's my ballot. Keep in mind that the playoffs mean nothing; the balloting is for regular-season play only.

Awards

All-Pro Offense

WR: Calvin Johnson, Detroit; Roddy White, Atlanta. Sorry, Brandon Lloyd and Reggie Wayne. You're both deserving. I just loved the year Johnson had in scraping together 77 catches and 12 touchdowns with subpar quarterbacks throwing to him.

TE: Marcedes Lewis, Jax. Over Antonio Gates because Gates missed so much time.

T: Jake Long, Miami; Marshal Yanda, Baltimore. I went tough at tackle. Two warriors here, particularly Long, who played so much of the year with a torn labrum.

G: Ryan Lilja, K.C.; Rich Seubert, Giants. Seubert's here, edging Brandon Moore of the Jets, because I thought he had a superb year of versatility. Seubert started 7 games at center, so it is difficult for me to exclude someone who played 16 games at the guard position, but he was such a versatile fireman for the Giants, he definitely deserved a place on this team.

C: Alex Mack, Cleveland. Doubt this? Watch the job Mack did on Vince Wilfork in the Browns' beatdown of the Patriots.

QB: Tom Brady, New England.

RB: Arian Foster, Houston. Won the rushing title and caught the ball well out of the backfield. Even so, I thought long and hard about Jamaal Charles here.

FB: Ovie Mughelli, Atlanta. Blocks as well as any fullback in the game. Huge edge for Michael Turner.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yanda playing at all-pro level as Ravens prep for Steelers





By JARED PATTERSON

January 13, 2011

When the season is over and Marshal Yanda kicks his feet up he’ll be able to put things in perspective.

In the midst of a playoff run with the Baltimore Ravens, the starting right tackle and former NIACC and Iowa standout doesn’t have a whole lot of time to deal with things that don’t include a blueprint on how to block Pittsburgh’s fearsome pass rushers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

“It’s one of those things where you keep your head down, keep focused on the things you can control, give great effort and stay out of trouble,” Yanda said Thursday, two days before the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh for an AFC divisional playoff game.

He insists he’s not focused on individual accolades but he’d be lying if he told you he isn’t aware of how well he’s performed this year.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder moved to right tackle this year and at the midway point of the year he was named to Sports Illustrated’s all-pro team. He was one of three Ravens named to the team.

Text messages from buddies around the country commenced.

“As far as that goes, putting all-pro next to my name, midseason or not, is awesome,” Yanda said. “It’s an honor, of course, but it’s like ‘hey, we’ve got 10 games left.’ It will be neat to look back on when the season is over but it was right back to the grindstone.”

Said SI’s Peter King this season, “His opening-day shift from right guard to right tackle has been a godsend for Baltimore; the fourth-year veteran helps keep Joe Flacco clean.”

That is what Yanda takes the most pride in. That, and starting all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Going into this year, Yanda, who could be on the verge of a big payday (he has a one-year, $1.68 million deal), said his objective was to be dependable and to be “counted on to get the job done.”

Thus far he’s done it but he’s reluctant to let his opposition know.

Yanda isn’t a big trash talker. Maybe that comes from his upbringing in Anamosa.

“I kind of was a guy that did a lot of that at Iowa and in junior college,” he said with a laugh. “I‘m a guy that’s locked into the play that is called. We play some teams that won’t shut up. It drives you nuts. Playing the Steelers, those guys shut up and just show you what they got. Except for those DBs (defensive backs). All the DBs are always yapping.”

On Saturday, though, it’s all business in a game that has become one of the best rivalries in the NFL.

He calls Harrison, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and Woodley the best pass-rushing tandem in football.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for those guys,” Yanda said. “They are relentless. You respect them but when the ball is snapped I’m trying to kick their ass.”

And respect is what Yanda has for his past.

He recognizes that his time in Mason City was beneficial. That aided him in getting to the one place he dreamed of playing — the University of Iowa.

Growing up, Yanda didn’t have a favorite NFL team.

He bled black and gold. He still bleeds black, but now there’s some purple in there, too.

“It’s been a journey, and it’s been a great one,” Yanda said. “But it’s not done yet. I’m very fortunate to get this far and I’m having a blast playing football for a living. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Colin Cole makes "big stops" against Saints





January 10, 2011

Ten Things I Think I Think

I think this is what I liked about wild-card weekend:

Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane of the Seahawks. Big stops for four quarters.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Examining the Progression of Mario Manningham




Jacksonville Jaguars Don Carey cant stop New York Giants Mario Manningham from diving into the end zone for a 26 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter at New Meadowlands Stadium in week 12 of the NFL in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 28, 2010. The Giants defeated the Jaguars 24-20. UPI /John Angelillo

By Kyle Langan

January 6, 2011

After a rookie season in which he hardly dressed for games, wide receiver Mario Manningham burst onto the scene in his second season, recording 57 receptions for 822 yards and five touchdowns.

Mannaingham served as one of New York's top two receivers during the 2009 season alongside Steve Smith. Heading into the aforementioned 2009 season, not much was expected of Big Blue's receiving corps. After sub par performances from the passing game after losing Plaxico Burress in 2008, many believed that there was no solution to passing game's problems on the roster.

Merely two weeks into the 2009 season, it was apparent that Steve Smith and Mario Manningham had set out to prove the critics wrong. Both receivers went over 100 yards as the New York Giants ousted the Dallas Cowboys in their first game in Dallas' new digs (better known as Jerry World)

Manningham would move on from a 10 catch, 150 yard performance in Dallas to help the Giants land among the league's leaders in passing plays over 20 yards, but a number of mistakes left many wondering just how high Manningham's ceiling could be in The NFL.

In 2010, Manningham took a massive step in the right direction.

With five of New York's top seven receivers missing significant time, Manningham often found himself as the number one target for quarterback Eli Manning.

Much of the Giants' offense is predicated on option routes and a distinct trust between quarterback and receiver. This, coupled with extra attention from defensive backs, did not prevent Manningham from recording 60 receptions for 944 yards and nine touchdowns.

Perhaps most impressive, is Manningham's ability to consistently get behind defenses. He had a touchdown reception of at least 25 yards in seven games, and recently became the first NFL receiver in 35 years to have touchdown receptions of 85 yards or more in consecutive weeks.

As the Giants evaluate what they do and do not have heading into 2011, the talents of Manningham will surely be counted among the positives and figure to be a prominent part of the team's plans in 2011 (especially bearing in mind the health of Steve Smith).

It would behoove the team to try to take advantage of Manningham's skills even more in the future. He proved a lot in 2011, and he has plenty of room for improvement.

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