John Harbaugh And Bill Belichick Cozy Up At Ohio State Pro Day
It's not out of the question for three Ohio State Buckeye defensive backs to be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Let me repeat that: THREE players from one team in one secondary are considered first-round talent, including safety Malik Hooker and cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley.
So, it's no surprise that Head Coach John Harbaugh, who is looking to bolster his secondary via the draft, took the short trip to Columbus to scout the team that advanced to the college football semifinals.
What threw both Baltimore and New England fans for a loop, however, was that Harbaugh and – GASP! – Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick were seen cozied up on the sideline as they watched the prospects work out.
According to reports, an eye-popping 122 NFL scouts were in attendance, including other head coaches such as Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions), Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns), Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints) and Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers).
While it's strange to see the rival head coaches together, Harbaugh and Belichick do have a history outside of their clashes on the field for the past nine years.
Belichick called Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti to recommend Harbaugh as the Ravens' new head coach in 2008. Both coaches love a good game of lacrosse and joked about watching May's Final Four in Foxboro together, and getting dinner on a boat ride afterward.
"I have a ton of respect for him, and I really like him as a person," Harbaugh said of Belichick in December. "I think he's a great coach – greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title. And I study him. I've always studied him. All of that goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."
Now, about those Ohio State defensive backs …
S Malik Hooker Daniel Jeremiah's top overall prospect ranking: No. 3 Mike Mayock's positional ranking: No. 3 **Hooker didn't participate in the pro day drills because of hip and core muscle surgeries in January, but he made some news by announcing that he's started to run again and is "on schedule" to participate in training camp with whichever NFL team drafts him.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Hooker has been compared to Ravens legend Ed Reed for his centerfield and ball-hawking skills.
"It's definitely a blessing and shocking thing for me because to be in the same category as a Hall of Fame legendary football player like Ed Reed … not too many people get to be brought up in a conversation like that," Hooker said in the video to the right.
CB Marshon LattimoreJeremiah's overall prospect ranking: No. 8Mayock's positional ranking: No. 1
Lattimore needed a strong day after the 6-foot-0, 193-pounder missed the positional drills at the NFL Scouting Combine with a minor hip flexor injury. Prior to pulling out, Lattimore posted impressive numbers during drills, including a 4.36-second time in the 40-yard dash, 38.5-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump.
CB Gareon ConleyJeremiah's overall prospect ranking: No. 18Mayock's positional ranking: No. 4
"The reviews were good for cornerbacks Lattimore and Conley, with each demonstrating the fluidity and acceleration to project as early NFL starters," wrote CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rank. "Lattimore, according to a source who attended the workout, was the smoother of the two in drills, including catching would-be interceptions."
Justin Tucker Loves New Rule Proposal Rewarding Teams For Blasting Kickoff Through Uprights
Kickoffs in the NFL have become perhaps the most boring play in the game.
In an effort to reduce head injuries, the league moved up kickoffs to the 35-yard line, and now kickers often blast balls through the back of the end zone for a touchback. With no high-speed collisions on a touchback, that's great for player safety, but it takes excitement out of the game.
Well, the Washington Redskins are proposing a new rule change that would try to keep players safe while also making the play more exciting. CBSSports.com's Will Brinson calls the idea "fantastic."
Rule proposal No. 6 suggests moving "the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights." Right now, the touchbacks are placed at the 25-yard line.
That means kickers have an opportunity to help their defense by pushing the opposing offense back 5 yards.
"Over the course of a game, that makes a big difference. Over the course of a season, the difference could be enormous," wrote Brinson. "[C]learly this rule would benefit kickers with big legs who are able to blast the ball down a long line and through the uprights."
Is it any surprise that big-legged kicker Justin Tucker likes the idea?
Tucker and Harbaugh lobbied to give a team one point for splitting the uprights on a kickoff last season. We debated on "Ravens Unscripted" in the video to the right (16:16 mark) whether that should be a serious consideration due to the amount of weight a point would give a kickoff when a defense has no chance of defending the play. Giving an extra 5 yards may be a happy medium.
League Could Close Rule Loophole Ravens Used Twice To Win, Including In Super Bowl
The Ravens have twice used a loophole in the rulebook to help seal victories, including last year against the Cincinnati Bengals and in Super Bowl XLVII.
In both games, Baltimore intentionally committed multiple holding penalties to drain precious seconds off the game clock.
Against the Bengals in Week 12, nine Ravens players were flagged for holding to protect punter Sam Koch while he ran out the last 11 seconds on the clock. With the game clock hitting zero, the penalties couldn't be implemented. In the Super Bowl, the Ravens didn't quite get all the time off, but they came close.
A rule proposed by the competition committee, of which General Manager Ozzie Newsome is a member, "makes it unsportsmanlike conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock."
If approved, it would draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and prompt the game clock to be reset to where it was at the snap. The reason for the rule change is to achieve "competitive fairness."
"Eliminating cleverness of coaches that are well versed in the NFL rule book should not be the approach of the of rule adaptations," wrote CSNMidAtlantic.com's Tyler Byrum. "There is no impact on player safety nor does it make the game 'more watchable' (like the extra-point rule).
"Not only that, but the new proposed rule just leaves another set of loopholes for coaches to take advantage of at the end of a game. What if [the] team trying to score on the last play commits two offensive penalties just to get another shot at the end zone?"