NFL Hot Press

Manziel Squeezes in Gruden Tutoring Before Camp

Updated July 24, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The 2015 season is a critical year for Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel to get his career straightened out. After a nightmare rookie campaign, Manziel checked into a rehab facility to start the offseason. After returning to OTAs, Manziel has continued to try and get his career back on track during the vacation time players have before training camp. Sources have told us that Manziel spent a few days of the week of July 20 in Tampa, working with former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden.

Gruden took a liking to Manziel before the 2014 NFL Draft and was effusive in his praise of Manziel. Thus, Gruden is also motivated to help Manziel to get straightened out.

Aside from Manziel, Gruden has worked with other quarterbacks in need of help. Last year, veteran quarterback Josh Freeman was out of the NFL, and he spent time with Gruden. With Freeman, Gruden mostly worked in the film room, and Freeman did some work with other coaches like Terry Shea on throwing mechanics. By the sound of it, Manziel had some combination of that as well with the ESPN Monday Night Football analyst.

While the Browns don't know how Manziel will pan out in the NFL, at least they can be happy that he spent some his final days before training camp working on getting better with a quarterback guru instead of partying like he did before his rookie season.

Go here for our Cleveland Browns NFL Season Preview.

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Cardale Jones Seen As First-Round Prospect

Updated July 21, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The Ohio State quarterback competition is the most anticipated story of the 2015 college football preseason. While college football fans are eagerly awaiting a starter to be named, the NFL scouting community is also on the edge of its seat, hoping that their preferred candidate wins the job. That player is junior Cardale Jones. The NFL wants to see Jones play because it really liked what it saw in the small sample size from the end of last season.

Jones completed 61 percent of his passes for 860 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He came up with some clutch passes in crunch time to lead Ohio State in those wins. Adding in that he has a firehose for an arm at 6-foot-5, 250-pounds, the traits are there to get NFL evaluators excited for his potential as a pocket passer. We spoke with college scouts from numerous teams about what they saw in Jones.

Sources from some teams said they did some preliminary work on Jones because he could have declared for the 2015 NFL Draft. They said that from that initial work, there is a lot they really like about Jones. They said that Jones has rare physical talent and ability to do anything an NFL team could ask of their quarterbacks.

One source said that Jones reminds them of a less-mobile and athletic version of Cam Newton. Both are massive quarterbacks who are hard to get down and also possess the power to run over defenders. They also have devastating cannons for right arms. Jones has rare arm strength, and it makes sense why Jones' nickname is "12 gauge." His shotgun can make any throw to any location on the field that the NFL asks of quarterbacks. From the small sample size, Jones showed the ability to function as a pocket passer and distribute the ball downfield.

While Jones isn't a runner like Newton, league contacts say that they like what he can do with his feet. He can pick up yards on the ground when plays break down. He has more quickness and athleticism than one would think. He is tough to bring down in the pocket and when he takes off downfield. His mobility and running only add to how he can hurt defenses.

A few sources said they have questions about Jones' maturity and football I.Q. They hope those concerns will be put to rest by him winning the starting quarterback job and handling that role without any off-the-field issues. Sources did say they've heard that Jones is a good teammate and players gravitate towards him. They believe he has leadership potential.

One scouting director said they like Jones. He described him as, "Big, strong-armed kid, but has enough athletic ability and strength in the pocket. Vertical type passer ... Cardale, is immature as a person, but if he checks out and wins the job, he has a chance to go high. Probably better than [Blake] Bortles if he plays like he did in the last three games."

Bortles was the third-overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2014 NFL Draft. Sources from two other teams agreed that Jones would be a better prospect than Bortles if he played an entire season like he did in the final three games. Thus, sources from around the league see Jones as a first-round talent with the potential to go high on Thursday night in 2016, and they hope to see him get the opportunity to prove that.

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Doug Marrone Believed He Had Jets' Head-Coaching Job

Updated July 15, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Many around the league were surprised when Doug Marrone opted out of his contract as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. It was seen as an embarrassing moment for a Bills franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since the Music City Miracle at the end of the 1999 season. It seemed like an even more head-scratching decision for Marrone, as he ended up taking the Jaguars' vacant position for an offensive line coach. He interviewed for other head coaching positions, but it is a serious step-down for Marrone to not even land an offensive coordinator job.

According to multiple sources, Marrone resigned from the Bills because he believed that he would be named the New York Jets' head coach to replace Rex Ryan, who ironically took Marrone's former position as the Bills' head coach.

Sources say Marrone thought he was a shoe-in for the Jets' job because of a close relationship with new Jets' general manager Mike Maccagnan, dating back to the early 1990s. Marrone was said to want the Jets' job more than the Bills' job because of a more certain organizational direction with stable ownership and a new front office in New York that would have some time to work on the team. He also is from the Bronx and had familiarity with New York's roster from going against the Jets the past two years. When Marrone was passed over by the Jets, he tried unsuccessfully to land the Falcons and Bears' head-coaching positions before taking the job with the Jaguars to avoid being out of the NFL in 2015.

Some league sources think Marrone is aiming for Gus Bradley's job as the Jaguars' head coach and is hoping to be the choice to replace Bradley if there is a change during or after the 2015 season. According to sources, Bradley seems to be on more firm footing in Jacksonville, but needs to show improvement with the Jaguars, though he isn't expected to make a push into the post-season. Thus, it wouldn't be surprising if Marrone is jockeying to land a different head-coaching job next offseason.

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Jaguars Considered Drafting Jaelen Strong

Updated July 10, 2015
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

After taking Dante Fowler in the first round, the emphasis of the Jacksonville Jaguars' draft became adding talent around second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. Jacksonville general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are entering a critical year in their tenure, with everything riding on Bortles panning out. The Jaguars drafted two receivers with Bortles in the 2014 draft, but despite having those young wideouts, sources say the Jaguars came close to pulling the trigger on Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong with their third-round pick.

Ultimately, sources said the Jaguars felt that the offensive line needed more talent and competition. Thus, they took South Carolina guard A.J. Cann. Former Bronco Zane Beadles was a disappointment in his first season in Jacksonville, and the front office felt that Cann could push Beadles. Judging by the sounds of it, Jacksonville had Strong graded higher than Cann, but after Bortles took a beating in his first year, the offensive line need won out over taking another receiver.

Strong was a major possibility despite the fact that the Jaguars took Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in the second round of the 2014 draft. Sources say the team is very excited about Robinson and envision him being their No. 1 receiver. They say that the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder Robinson has the chance to be a special player in the NFL. They also told us that Lee has flashed at times, but injuries have held him back along with some homesickness for Los Angeles. Jacksonville also found a steal with undrafted free agent Allen Hurns who had 51 receptions for 677 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. Jacksonville envisions that trio being their top three receivers in 2015.

Jacksonville liked Strong a lot, and it came close to adding him to its mix. The team would have preferred not to see Strong land with a division rival as he did with the Texans, but sources say the Jaguars like how Cann practiced and they feel that their offense got a lot better this offseason with additions to the offensive line and running backs, as well as the development of their young receivers.

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