Soup to nuts on the 'Cam Newton: Phony' story

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Soup to nuts on the 'Cam Newton: Phony' story

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
It's been a helluva week for Nolan Nawrocki. The reserved, respected draft analyzer for Pro Football Weekly and the author of their annual draft preview skewered the "intangibles" of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in this year's edition. I read it and wrote about it. Internet strongman Mike Florio of PFT linked to it. And away we went. First,Newton's quarterbacks coach George Whitfield weighed in with a failed Twitter takedown of Nawrocki in which he alleges Nawrocki has a rooting interest in seeing Newton fail and is trying toadvance his career with a negative review of the quarterback. That Whitfield is unaware of who Nawrocki is, the work Nawrocki's been doing for 10 years at PFW and, frankly, thatWhitfield didn't know before me what Nawrocki had written shows the quality of pre-draft advice Newton is getting. When Whitfield was done, Hall of Famer Warren Moon -- who's mentoring Newton -- stepped in. Moon embarrassed himself by alleging that criticism of Newton was rooted in racial bias. We're willing to give Moon a pass if he's oversensitive about how black quarterbacks are treated. He was a capable college quarterback at Washington that NFL teams wanted to convert into a tight end. Moon refused, went undrafted, fled to the CFL and became a legend. But he spoke ignorantly when saying to Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, "I dont see other quarterbacks in the draft being criticized by the media or fans about their smile or called a phony. Hes being held to different standards from white quarterbacks. I thought we were past all this stuff about African-American quarterbacks, but I guess were not.Of course there is racism in every walk of society. Weve made a lot of progress in this country. But racism is still there. I just thought in the sports arena we were beyond it. I think the way Cam is being treated shows were not. . . . "As Florio points out, Moon need only recall all the way back to 2010 when Tim Tebow was getting mocked on the regular for being too pious, his convictions and motivations being constantly under scrutiny. Newton would need a month straight of that kind of treatment to even get close to what Tebow got. And Jimmy Clausen got devoured as well by Nawrocki on the same charges of being a phony. Moon went on to allege that neither Sam Bradford nor Colt McCoy got challengedlast year on their ability to run an NFL offense.Because they're white. "The thing that makes me laugh is the question of can he Newton come out of the spread offense? Can he run a pro offense? Colt McCoy came out of the spread offense and very few people raised that issue about him. So did Sam Bradford. Same thing. Very few questions asking if Bradford could run a pro offense. Some of these questions about Cam are more about his intellect. It's blatant racism, some of it."From Nawrocki's 2010 evaluation of Bradford: "Has not played much under center, operating heavily out of the shotgun, nor has made pro-style, NFL reads in OU's simplified offense."

From Nawrocki's 2010 evaluation of McCoy: "Played in an overly simplified offense that did not force the QB to learn the position and needs to be trained in the mechanics of dropping back from under center."One guideline for alleging racism is being sure you're right. Otherwise, it's obvious you're merely assuming the guy has it out for you because he's a different color than you which is . . . ta-dahhhh! racist. (Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett must be relieved he's white, otherwise Nawrocki might have written something nastier than "immature, is not a respected leader and character must be evaluated very closely" -- to say nothing of what others have alleged about Mallett). One last thing on this, it's amazing to me how news moves in 2011. A blogger named Lance Zierlein wrote, "(I)believe that the editors of PFW leaked Nolan's evaluation in order to draw attention to their product. I'm certain that was the case. And it worked. That wouldn't have been Nolan Nawrocki's call."Since the snowball started rolling with my blog, I can tell you it was the weakest "leak" you could imagine. After getting a complimentary copy on Monday of the PFW Draft Guide, I texted Eric Edholm, one of their writers and a pretty good friend to thank him for sending it because it's the best.He didn't seem to know it was sent to me, but said thanks. He told me to check out the Cam Newton evaluation. I did. My jaw dropped. I blogged. Then I e-mailed the link to PFT because we have a corporate relationship there and I'm personally friends with those guys. I knew a Cam Newton story was bigger news than just with my audience in New England. So Florio blogged it and the fire was lit. So, while Edholm told me to check it out, he didn't even know I'd been sent the copy. And had I not texted him, Edholm may not have alerted me to the scathing Newton review which, after I found on my own, I may have blogged on anyway. Or may not have. Interesting times we're in. Hope Nawrocki's wrong and Cam Newton has a wondrous career. But Nawrocki isn't wrong very often.
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

NFL combine preview: Tight ends

With the NFL combine about to begin -- and the NFL Draft just about two months away -- we'll take a daily look at the collegiate talent available at positions where the Patriots might be looking for help. We start today with: Tight ends.

On Tuesday, players will arrive in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, with on-field workouts beginning Friday. 

The second group to take the field is the tight end group, which should be worth watching for a number of reasons. For starters, Todd McShay says that this is “a good year to need a tight end” given that there could be three first-rounders in O.J. Howard, David Njoku and Jake Butt.

Furthermore, Martellus Bennett’s potential departure and Rob Gronkowski’s durability questions make tight end a position the Patriots could target early come April 27. 

Here’s a quick look at each of the 19 tight ends invited to the combine: 

O.J. Howard, Alabama, 6-foot-6, 249 pounds

- NFL.com describes him as an “exceptionally gifted athlete” and says that his “play speed resembles a wide receiver’s when the ball is in the air.” They add he “appears passive” as a blocker and “need more muscle and mass to be an in-line blocker as a pro.”

David Njoku, Miami, 6-foot-4, 245 pounds

- Not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, but is considered a top-end athlete. NFL.com says he “should annihilate the combine with monster numbers in speed and explosion.”

Jake Butt, Michigan, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds 

- Does everything well, but could stand to fill out his frame a bit more. 

Jordan Leggett, Clemson, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds

- Not considered a great blocker and has admitted that he’s played lazily. Could the Pats fix his motor? 

Gerald Everett, South Alabama, 6-foot-3, 227 pounds

- Very interesting prospect. Primarily a basketball player in high school who played just one year of football (insert Antonio Gates basketball reference), Everett played at Alabama-Birmingham before the school cut its football program. Upon transferring to South Alabama, Everett showed his skills as a pass-catching tight end. 

Evan Engram, Mississippi, 6-foot-3, 236 pounds

- Itty bitty for a tight end, and he doesn’t have the greatest hands either. Described as a “move tight end only who lacks dependability as a blocker.”   

He was one of five who for second in the nation among tight ends with eight touchdowns last season. Other guys in that group were Njoku, Hayden Plinke,  Cole Hikutini and UMass’ Adam Breneman.

Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds

- Just your average quarterback-turned-tight-end. The lanky Hodges would be a good fit for the Patriots simply because it would give Julian Edelman a break from the constant mention during broadcasts that he used to be a QB. 

Cole Hikutini, Louisville, 6-foot-5, 248 pounds

- A good athlete who isn’t much of a blocker.

Adam Shaheen, Ashland, 6-foot-6, 277 pounds

- Former college basketball player transferred from Pittsburgh-Johnstown to Ashland to focus on football and eventually established himself as a dominant player at the Division II level. He’s certainly got the size and strength, but questions will persist about just how similarly he holds up going from Division II to the NFL. 

Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 265 pounds

- Big, physical tight end with a solid stiff arm. Sprinkle was suspended by Arkansas for the Belk Bowl because he stole from a Belk department store after each player had been given $450 to spend there. He was arrested for the incident, as he stole $260 worth of extra items.

Pharoh Brown, Oregon, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds

- Not considered the athlete he was prior to a 2014 injury that nearly resulted in his leg being amputated. 

Michael Roberts, Toledo, 6-foot-4, 261 pounds

- Huge hands, which he uses to catch better than block. He led all FBS tight ends with 16 touchdowns last season. 

Jonnu Smith, Florida International, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds

- College career was ended prematurely when his pregnant girlfriend poured boiling water on him, resulting in severe burns throughout his upper body, including his head. He has good speed, but drops were an issue in college. 

Scott Orndoff, Pittsburgh, 6-foot-5, 256 pounds

- Figures to be a solid blocking tight end, but he also had five receiving touchdowns as a senior. 

Eric Saubert, Drake, 6-foot-5, 251 pounds

- Every draft pick is a gamble, but Saubert might be more so than others. An AFC regional scout says that Saubert is “body beautiful but he can’t catch. I don’t think it’s correctable, either.”

Cethan Carter, Nebraska, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds

- Elbow injuries figure to be a topic at the combine, and he had various injuries throughout his college career. 

Darrell Daniels, Washington, 6-foot-4, 246 pounds

- A scout told NFL.com that Daniels is "going to test through the roof and he's going to get overdrafted on the traits.” The Patriots don’t typically fall into such traps. 

George Kittle, Iowa, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds

- Only had one drop as a senior, but then again being believed to have had no drops in college doesn’t make a guy an NFL stud. 

Hayden Plinke, UTEP, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds

- Transferred twice in his college career, starting at Boise State, then Portland State and finally UTEP. Is considered a good blocker who grabbed eight touchdowns as a senior. 
 

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."