Justin Jones Jersey

When Justin Jones joined the Chargers in 2018, he was two classes and an internship shy of finishing his bachelor’s degree at NC State.

Fast forward a year, and his work is officially done.

Jones completed his remaining requirements and graduated with a degree in sport management, marking the occasion by walking in the school’s commencement ceremony.

There was no doubt Jones would finish his degree, but the road to the walk at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C. almost didn’t happen.

Just ask him and his mom, Jamela Jones.

Justin made it a point this offseason to officially complete his degree. He knew he wanted to do it sooner rather than later.

But what he didn’t want to do was walk.

“I didn’t want to walk in the first place,” Justin reflected. “My mom wanted me to walk. I made sure I did it.”

Cross-reference the story with his mom and it matches.

“I knew he would graduate, because he told me he would even though I was bugging him,” Jamela mentioned. “But he didn’t want to walk. He asked if it was serious and I said, ‘Yes, it is that serious!’ Every parent wants to see their child walk across the stage.”

Although they agreed that he’d walk, Justin still wasn’t too keen on the idea. Mainly because he felt awkward not knowing the people he’d be walking with.

Uchenna Nwosu Jersey

He grew up in Carson and played collegiately at USC.

So, it’s only fitting that the Los Angeles Chargers drafted Uchenna Nwosu last year, allowing the edge rusher to remain in L.A. as he plays pro ball.

However, Nwosu had no idea that would be the case when he attended the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine. The edge rusher was simply hoping to impress enough to be picked in the top two rounds of the draft.

Nwosu did just that, proving worthy of being the 48th overall selection as he quickly earned a role in the Bolts’ defensive rotation. He finished his rookie year with 28 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in the regular season. The 22-year old also proved to be a force in the postseason, sealing the team’s Wild Card win over the Baltimore Ravens with a strip-sack of Lamar Jackson in the final seconds.

So, it’s crazy to think how it was only a year ago that Nwosu was heading into Indianapolis looking to prove his worth.

However, when asked to reflect back on his Combine experience, Nwosu couldn’t help but talk about his alma mater. In fact, he doubts he’d be where he is right now if not for his time suiting up for the Trojans.

“They prepared me a lot, especially mentally,” he explained. “At USC, you know you’re at a very prestigious program. When I was there, we had a great coaching staff and they were able to teach me a lot. A lot of great former NFL players came from there, and they would come back (to visit) and teach me what to expect. It really prepared me for what to expect in the NFL.”

Meanwhile, as Nwosu met with team after team at the Combine, everyone was quick to praise his standout career at USC.

“Everyone said they loved what they saw,” he recalled. “They said they were impressed with what I was able to do. By how hard I played, and how I was able to make (big) plays.”

It’s easy to see why that’s the case.

Nwosu turned heads over his four-year stint with the Trojans, totaling 168 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 20 passes defensed and 12.5 sacks in 53 career games. However, it was his dynamic 2017 season that really caught scouts’ eyes as he dominated to the tune of 75 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 14 passes defensed and 9.5 sacks.

Nonetheless, despite those impressive stats, Nwosu knew he had to ace the Combine to cement his case as a top draft prospect.

He wasn’t alone.

As Nwosu puts it, the Combine was a true pressure cooker as every prospect knew their life-long NFL dream was on the line.

Antonio Gates Jersey

Kroft, of course, re-broke his foot during OTAs this week and is expected to miss around 3-4 months. Clearly, his status for Week 1 is up in the air. It’s possible Kroft, who had seven touchdown catches in 2017, will start the year on the PUP list and be out for the first six games of the year. That seems like the worst-case scenario at this point.

Where do the Bills go from here?

Well, there aren’t really a ton of better options for them absent of convincing Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement and play for his hometown team (yeah, right).

If you take a look at the current crop of free agent tight ends available, you’ll see some names you might recognize (Antonio Gates, Lance Kendricks and Jermaine Gresham), but no one really worth taking a serious look at.

Obviously a lot depends on Kroft’s recovery, but right now it looks like there will be a healthy competition at tight end if Kroft isn’t able to suit up for the first six weeks. That competition will be between third-round pick Dawson Knox, free agent signing Lee Smith, returning tight end Jason Croom and seventh-round pick Tommy Sweeney.

Jay Skurski wrote about that and answered a question about trading for tight end Kyle Rudolph (a long shot) in his latest NFL mailbag this week.

Kellen Winslow Jersey

VISTA, Calif. – Former NFL star Kellen Winslow II cheated on his wife “numerous times” and even had consensual sex with a 54-year-old hitchhiker last year, but he is not guilty of raping that woman or two others, his attorney told a jury here Monday.

“It’s wrong, immoral, but it’s not illegal,” said Brian Watkins, Winslow’s attorney.

Watkins made these remarks during his nine-minute opening statement to a jury that will decide if Winslow, 35, spends the rest of his life in prison — a stunning set of circumstances for a brash and gifted athlete who once described himself as The Chosen One.

Since March of 2018, Winslow has been accused of several sex-related crimes involving women over 53. Besides the hitchhiker, San Diego County prosecutor Dan Owens told the jury that Winslow also raped a homeless woman last May, pulled down his pants to expose himself to a neighbor who was gardening in her yard and then masturbated next to a 77-year-old woman in a hot tub in February while he was free on bail for the other cases.

In a separate incident, a fifth woman came forward last year after seeing Winslow’s case in the news and said Winslow had raped her at a party in 2003 when she was 17 and Winslow was 19.

All cases are part of the same trial, which started Monday and is expected to last until June 21. Winslow has pleaded not guilty and appeared in this San Diego County courtroom dressed in glasses and a dark suit, seated a few feet in front of his famous father, a pro football Hall of Famer who played for the San Diego Chargers.

To win his freedom, his attorneys are employing a risky defense. They are hoping to convince the jury of nine men and three women that Winslow had consensual sex with some of the alleged victims and that others were mistaken or not telling the whole story. Last year, Winslow told a detective that he had consensual sex with the hitchhiker and homeless woman, according to court documents.

“He admitted it, a year ago,” Watkins said.

Watkins said he had consensual sex with other women even though Winslow is married with children and has known his wife since he was 13.

“There has been infidelity in this relationship,” Watkins said. “Kellen’s not proud of it, but he’s never denied it. He’s been unfaithful, not once, not twice, but numerous times.”

Watkins said he wouldn’t even dignify these relationships as “affairs” but rather as no-strings-attached sex.

The jury will now have to weigh that argument against the evidence and testimony of the five alleged victims, each of whom is expected to appear at trial.

Junior Seau Jersey

In 2012, a professional football player named Junior Seau was found dead, as a result of a suicide. The story of his death has brought an under the radar issue to the forefront, and since then has led to a number of changes in the way the game of football is played.

It has been reported that Seau may have experienced concussions numbering in the hundreds during his playing days – one report has that number at 1,500 – and reports add those traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are what led to his death.

What started out as TBI led to a bigger issue for those experiencing multiple injuries known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and a post mortem diagnosis determined that Seau had CTE.

It is in CTE where brain injuries turn into something much more serious as mental illness begins to manifest itself in the life of the individual.

While much research is still needed, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is beginning to recognize that symptoms of depression and anxiety have been found in those who face CTE, as have mood swings, personality changes, memory loss and, in cases like Seau’s, suicide. However, the CDC officially states the link between CTE and suicide is unclear.

What is clear is that studies are showing the link between mental health symptoms and TBI, which indicates just how important it is for people who think they may have suffered a concussion to get checked out and if a concussion has been diagnosed to go through the proper follow-up care.

While it is in sports that concussions have garnered the most attention, the reality is that they can happen in a number of different settings, including many types of TBI. In fact, statistics show one of the population groups that often find themselves facing concussions and TBI more often are those who have served in the military.

According to the National Institutes of Health, many of the studies related to TBI have been conducted amongst those in the military, as some have begun too conclude there may be a direct link between TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While facing a head injury is a common occurrence, most do not rise to the level of a concussion, but there are symptoms that will show up that might indicate the injury has risen to that level.

The Minnesota State High School League has implemented a number of rules in recent years to address concussions. Studies have shown a concussion can have a much more serious impact on the brain of a youth as their brains are still developing. The high school league offered a list of signs and symptoms for coaches, sports officials and parents to look for in dealing with an athlete who might have sustained a concussion.

Lance Alworth Jersey

It was the single trait Bill Nunn valued most in wide receivers he was scouting: speed going into and coming out of the breaks. Beyond the actual catching-of-the-football aspect, that ability to make cuts at top speed, Nunn believed, was the most accurate predictor of a college receiver being able to make a successful transition to the NFL.

Today, players with that skill are praised as good route-runners, or are said to possess good short-area quickness, and because the sport at the NFL level is played largely from sideline-to-sideline and in a 20-yard area beyond the line of scrimmage, those kinds of receivers are typically the best kinds of receivers.

As Steelers wide receivers coach Darryl Drake pointed out, there are maybe only a few pure speed receivers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – he cited James Lofton and Randy Moss, plus there’s also Olympic gold medalist Bob Hayes – while most of the others with busts in Canton would be considered by scouts as “4.5 guys.” That list includes Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, Cris Carter, Fred Biletnikoff, Lance Alworth, Paul Warfield, and you get the idea.

That’s why when Drake faced questions about Diontae Johnson, the Toledo receiver the Steelers selected with their first pick of the third round, he dismissed concerns about the 4.53 he posted in the 40-yard dash.

“To me speed is overrated, and I’m going to say this because if you look at the greatest receivers who have played the game, those guys who are in the Hall of Fame … those guys are 4.5, 4.55 guys,” said Drake. “I had a guy in Arizona (Larry Fitzgerald) and he’s going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, and he was not a 4.4 guy, but he’s a 4.4 player. Don’t get me wrong, you like to have that guy who can run really fast and run all of the routes and make all of the plays, but it’s very rare to have that. A guy who played here, the Steelers all-time leading receiver, what did he run? I’m talking about Hines Ward. He wasn’t really fast, but he had the native ability to learn how to get open. So to me, yes, speed is overrated, but we make such a big deal about it. We want that blazer but normally that package, with that dynamic speed, very seldom do you get the total package. Most of those guys who are 4.5 guys, they are total package guys. This guy has the ability to be a total package guy.”

LaDainian Tomlinson Jersey

For the majority of LaDainian Tomlinson’s NFL career, he gave the Oakland Raiders big problems.

All that is over and the Hall of Fame running back is giving advice about what the Raiders should do with rookie running back Josh Jacobs.

“Get him out in space,” Tomlinson said on NFL Network this week. “At Alabama he ran in space a lot; caught the ball in space, and he’s very dynamic guy in space.”

The Raiders selected the 5-foot-10 Jacobs with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.

For the majority of LaDainian Tomlinson’s NFL career, he gave the Oakland Raiders big problems.

All that is over and the Hall of Fame running back is giving advice about what the Raiders should do with rookie running back Josh Jacobs.

“Get him out in space,” Tomlinson said on NFL Network this week. “At Alabama he ran in space a lot; caught the ball in space, and he’s very dynamic guy in space.”

The Raiders selected the 5-foot-10 Jacobs with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft.

“I believe he has to develop into a being a three-down back,” Tomlinson said. “He’s never been the guy (at Alabama), so you’re going to have to have somebody else to help him out, especially early on in the season.”

Dan Fouts Jersey

Consider that in college he outperformed all those in this draft other than Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and when you consider that in his junior year he was injured and missed the last two and three-quarter games and that in his senior year he sat out the bowl game to prepare for the draft, his stats might have matched theirs.

Even in defeat, Grier was a force to be reckoned with. In losing six college games in which he started and played all the way through at WVU, his Mountaineers averaged 33 points per game while he completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 329 yards per contest and 2.5 TDs per game.

Now consider this. Missouri’s Drew Lock, whom many place before Grier in the draft, over his entire final two years in college completed 60 percent of his passes — a lower percentage than Grier IN THE GAMES HE LOST — averaged 287 yards per game, a good bit below Grier’s average of 329 in the games he lost, and averaged 2.8 TDs per game, slightly better than Grier.

The point is that no one stands head and shoulders above Grier in a quarterback class that some say is among the weakest of the milennium.

The weakest, NFL.com judges, was the 2007 class which had two first-round picks with JaMarcus Russell the overall No. 1 selection and Brady Quinn taken at No 22.

Here’s something that Grier has to keep in mind whether he goes in the first or second round or somehow slips lower — it doesn’t matter where you are taken.

You make your own future and that has been proven over and over.

Consider it this way. In 2000, the first quarterback taken was Marshall’s Chad Pennington at No. 18 in the first round.

These NFL scouts and GMs are hardly foolproof.

Look at this way, Green Bay Hall of Fame great Bart Starr was a 17th round pick, the 200th player selected, Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas was a ninth round pick at No. 102, both Warren Moon and Kurt Warner went undrafted.

Among those you might have thought would be first-round selections were Joe Montana, who went in the third round, Brett Favre, who went in the second, and Dan Fouts, who went in the third round.

It’s generally agreed that Murray will go first to Arizona as new coach Kliff Kingsbury seems determined to try to push his Texas Tech offense on the NFL even though it barely won half its games on the college level.

Doug Flutie Jersey

NORMAN — The day before he won the Heisman Trophy in December, Kyler Murray had a sit-down with Doug Flutie.

Even then, Flutie couldn’t have imagined that the players sitting beside him would’ve been in contention for the No. 1 overall pick. But going into Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft, The 5-foot-10 (and an eighth) Murray is expected to be taken within the first few picks and is considered the most likely choice at No. 1, whether it by by the Arizona Cardinals or through a trade to another team.

Flutie knows all-too-well the prejudices against quarterbacks without prototypical NFL height.

The 1984 Heisman Trophy winner wasn’t drafted until the 285th pick of the NFL Draft the following year and bounced between the USFL, NFL and the Canadian Football League before finding some short-term measure of NFL success nearly a decade and a half after initially being drafted.

Though Flutie didn’t have the baseball option in the mid-80s, he spoke from experience when he advised Murray during that conversation to run, not walk, to the Oakland A’s and leave football behind.

But the NFL has changed plenty since Flutie’s time.

The league’s evolution on short quarterbacks has been a quick one — first with Russell Wilson’s success and then last year as Baker Mayfield’s success made NFL executives even more comfortable without prototypical size under center. Even Flutie’s opinion has changed in the four months since their conversation in New York.

“When you look at Kyler Murray, he grabs that thing and lets it rip like a baseball,” Flutie said recently on the Rich Eisen Show. “He just turns it loose. It’s a natural throwing motion, he’s got plenty of arm strength, can make all the throws.”

That, Flutie said, is the difference between plenty of short quarterbacks and Murray. While many can have success in college without pro-level arm strength, when they get to the NFL, their lack of arm strength is exposed.

Flutie was officially listed at 5-foot-10 but stands a bit shorter than Murray.

“I chuckle and laugh and wish I would’ve been 5-10 1/8th for a day to get my big check,” Flutie said on the show.

Just a few years ago, giving a serious chance to a sub-6-foot quarterback seemed unlikely. The 5-foot-11 Wilson, even with the immense success he had at North Carolina State and Wisconsin, wasn’t picked until the third round.

Joe Barksdale Jersey

Over the course of the offseason, I want to take a look at the Chargers position groups and determine a grade for that group heading into the 2019 season. Today, we’ll start with wide receivers.

The two main guys on this receiving corps are Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, especially following the departure of Tyrell Williams to the Oakland Raiders in free agency. Keenan Allen is still in his prime; his 2018 numbers were nearly identical to his 2017 numbers, and it was a career year again for him. Luckily, despite a career filled with some nasty injuries such as the ACL tear in 2016 or the kidney laceration in 2015, Allen’s been able to stay healthy recently, only having a minor hip pointer come up this year in the Chargers’ comeback win over Kansas City. The team knows what it’s getting with Keenan Allen. He’s unquestionably the Chargers’ No. 1 wideout, and he will be for the foreseeable future.

The next factor here is Mike Williams. Williams had a dynamic 2019 campaign where he broke out, doing so following a rookie season where he struggled to get back onto the field due to various injuries. He’s a guy Philip Rivers wasn’t afraid to sling it deep to, which is a very good sign. Going forward, especially without Tyrell Williams, No. 81 will be the primary deep threat for this team.

After the top two receivers, the corps gets a little murkier; not because it’s necessarily bad past those two guys, but because there will be a lot of work to figure out who the next couple receivers will on the depth chart. Travis Benjamin is back on a one-year deal, and he may end up having a role closer to 2017 than 2018. For comparison, last year Benjamin had 12 receptions for 186 yards, but had 34 catches for 567 yards the previous year. His numbers probably end up falling in the middle of those two seasons, and should go up because of the loss of Tyrell Williams.

As for the last few spots on the depth chart, it’ll all come down to competition. The guy in the best position to take a No. 4 spot or maybe even jump over Travis Benjamin is likely 2018 6th-round pick Dylan Cantrell. In December of last season, Cantrell was added to the team’s active roster following the release of tackle Joe Barksdale. Cantrell never saw the field, however, as he was inactive on most Sundays despite a promotion to the active roster.

Cantrell is not the only guy in the running, however. He’ll almost certainly compete with guys like Artavis Scott and Geremy Davis throughout training camp and the preseason. That’s a smart approach; Lynn letting those guys battle it out for spots can only help.

The top of the Chargers’ receiving corps is incredibly strong, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams arguably the league’s best duo. Benjamin should still be able to be a decent deep threat sometimes, but his 2018 drop-off in production is somewhat concerning. The most crucial part of this corps is guys like Cantrell, Davis, and Scott, who will be competing for playing time this season. Having a solid third or fourth receiver is important, and the Chargers would do well to take advantage of the depth on their roster.