Redskins

O'Brien builds on NFL ties, experience, at Penn St

201210061316477878274-p2.jpeg

O'Brien builds on NFL ties, experience, at Penn St

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) One of the biggest selling points first-year Penn State coach Bill O'Brien can make to potential recruits relates to his previous job.

Those NFL connections he made as offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots are already coming in handy in Happy Valley. NFL scouts are regulars at Nittany Lions practices - another one of the bevy of changes in the new era of Penn State football.

``It's a little different because if you did something wrong, they're writing stuff down the whole time,'' said senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, of the team's top NFL prospects. ``You just think, `What are they writing?' But you have to get over it the best that you can.''

Having scouts at a college practice isn't unusual. But under the late coach Joe Paterno's watch at Penn State, it was an infrequent occurrence at best - maybe during a bye week, or before a low-pressure nonconference game.

Paterno, for sure, had NFL connections. It's hard not to after 46 years on the job. And he's had plenty of players drafted.

It's just that Paterno just wasn't one to have scouts over much.

Contrast that to Wednesday's low-key, off-week practice for the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten). Eleven NFL teams showed up, including the Broncos, Browns, Jets, Steelers and Vikings. O'Brien made it a point to talk to at a few of the scouts before practice.

``Having coached in the NFL, knowing a lot of these guys coming to practice and having relationships with them, I don't really see any problem with helping our players advance to the next level by opening up practice and giving these scouts another chance to evaluate our kids,'' O'Brien said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.

It may also make for a positive picture on the recruiting trail for a program beset with NCAA sanctions.

``It helps. It doesn't even everything out, but it's just another pitch that you can make (to recruits) that you are on the same level as any Top 25 team,'' said Sean Fitz, the editor for the website Lions247, which follows Penn State recruiting.

O'Brien kept the NFL ties in mind when he put together his coaching staff after being hired in January. Perhaps not coincidentally, O'Brien hired assistants with NFL experience for the skill positions of receiver (ex-Buffalo Bills assistant Stan Hixon) and running back (ex-Tennessee Titan assistant Charles London).

Besides being offensive coordinator, O'Brien himself was the quarterback coach for Patriots star Tom Brady. For a day or two, that was the only thing that the Nittany Lions knew about O'Brien, especially his well-publicized sideline spat with Brady on national television after the quarterback threw an interception in the end zone last December in a 34-27 win over Washington.

Lately, the pro-style offense has been humming with senior Matt McGloin at quarterback. O'Brien's play-calling is bold and entertaining, and shows flashes of the high-octane offense he used to run in New England.

The strength program, too, was overhauled. One wall at the team's revamped weight room is devoted to team leaders in various events in offseason workouts similar to those studied by scouts at the combine, like the side-to-side ``football shuttle'' or the 40-yard dash.

Every Monday in the offseason is devoted to combine prep. The program includes combine-like contests at the end of each winter conditioning and summer workouts. ``By the time they've left here in four years, they've gone through their own combines four times,'' strength coach Craig Fitzgerald said.

The offseason program under Paterno favored a ``high-intensity'' training program with an emphasis on endurance. Players hit the exercise machines, hard.

Those machines are gone from the weight room, replaced by free weight stations, Olympic-style lifting and squats. Fitzgerald has called his philosophy ``all-inclusive,'' and features speed, agility, explosiveness and ``football-related flexibility.''

Again, it's a change in Happy Valley. The workout philosophy itself is fairly common, but the effervescent Fitzgerald boasts that Penn State is cutting-edge.

``We always tell them, `The No. 1 thing is very few of you guys will actually play in the NFL.' That's the reality of it,'' O' Brien said Tuesday. ``So the No. 1 goal should be to earn your degree and play as good as football as you can for us.''

O'Brien said he feels he owes it to his seniors. After all, he wants to show gratitude for sticking with the team after the offseason scrum that resulted when the NCAA allowed any Penn State player to leave following the sanctions. In the end, more than 90 percent the team stayed.

He also hopes that having NFL teams scouting at practice adds a buzz for a potential recruit.

``If you play well and produce on the field,'' O'Brien said, ``you're going to be seen at practice, games, and you're going to have a chance.''

Penn State next plays Oct. 20 at Iowa.

Quick Links

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry - what does it mean for the Redskins?

Miami tagged Jarvis Landry - what does it mean for the Redskins?

Everything in the NFL feels like a powder keg, but the reality of Tuesday's opening of the franchise and transition tag period will play out as much more of a slow burn.

Few teams ever actually make moves on the opening day of the tag period, though the Dolphins bucked that conventional wisdom and used the non-exclusive franchise designation on wide receiver Jarvis Landry. 

Astute Redskins fans know the tag system all too well. Landry can now sign a one-year, fully guaranteed contract with the Dolphins worth more than $16 million, the average of the Top  5 paid receivers in the NFL. They can also trade Landry, and the compensation discussion with a non-exclusive tag begins at two first round draft picks, though it can eventually be settled for much less. 

What, if anything, does Miami's move mean for the Redskins? Let's take a look:

  1. Not gonna work here - Landry never really seemed like a great fit for the Redskins as a free agent, and that was before the franchise tag. He's a really good slot WR, but Washington already has that in Jamison Crowder. Whether or not Landry actually gets a deal done with the Dolphins or gets traded, it seems highly unlikely the Redskins are his next team. 
  2. "Spirit of the tag" - Miami putting the tag on Landry so early in the process signals that the team might be trying to trade him instead of actually trying to sign him. If that's the case, and plenty of people are suggesting just that, it would seem to be in contrast with the "spirit of the tag." The idea is that a franchise or transition tag is supposed to be used as a tool by an NFL franchise to get a long-term deal done with one of their own players facing free agency. Using the tag as a mechanism to pull of a trade seems very different. Why does any of this matter for Redskins fans? As reports emerged that Washington might look to use a tag on Kirk Cousins and work to trade him, the Cousins camp has made clear they would file a grievance against that technique. Why? Because it would violate the spirit of the tag. Well, it sure looks like Miami is doing the same thing, and as of now, nobody has complained. The situations aren't identical, few resemble the Redskins long, slow, awkward dance with Cousins, but certainly worth monitoring. 
  3. $$$$Wide Receivers$$$$ - The Redskins could use a veteran wideout to help their young group of Crowder and Josh Doctson. Well, with Landry getting tagged, the price tag just went up. The player that seems to make the most sense in Washington would be Jaguars wideout Allen Robinson. Coming off a knee injury in 2017, some thought Robinson could be signed on a somewhat team-friendly deal. If Landry can get franchised after a season where he didn't even get to 1,000 yards receiving, any thought of a team-friendly deal for Robinson is dead. Make no mistake, Landry and Robinson are good players, but the ever-increasing NFL salary cap will make both young receivers very well paid. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

jerebek-capitals-graphic-hero-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

The Capitals continued to retool their scuffling blue line on Wednesday, acquiring 26-year-old defenseman Jakub Jerabek from Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The move comes a couple of days after GM Brian MacLellan dealt a conditional third-round selection to Chicago for swift skating Michal Kempny.

Both Jerabek and Kempny are left shot, puck-moving defensemen who move well and make crisp outlet passes. Both also hail from the Czech Republic.

RELATED: BRADEN HOLTBY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR TAMPA LOSS

The team sees Jerabek as a No. 5 or 6, I’m told.

On Wednesday, the Caps also officially said goodbye to Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers by Columbus. Chorney will report to the Blue Jackets.

The Caps were off on Wednesday as they made their way Florida for Thursday night’s meeting with the Panthers, so it’s unclear how Coach Barry Trotz intends to deploy his new defensemen.

But it’s probably safe to assume that Kempny will move into a spot within the top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

MORE CAPITALS: GET TO KNOW MICHAL KEMPNY

That figures to leave Brooks Orpik and Jerabek on the third pair, while rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey jockey for position as the next man up.

Kempny is expected to make his Caps’ debut on Thursday night.

Is the Caps’ D corps better? Well, that remains to be seen. But it had become clear to MacLellan and Co. in recent weeks that the status quo was not going to cut it. This month, in fact, the team has allowed 39 goals in 10 games. Only the Rangers (40) have allowed more in the same span.

With the trade deadline looming next Monday, the Caps now have roughly $617,000 in cap space, according to www.capfriendly.com, and are at the roster maximum of 23 players. So they would need to make a move in order to add another body.