Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will determine the success of the Dallas Cowboys' new 4-3 defense. Even though the Cowboys have switched to a scheme featuring an extra defensive linemen, their two young linebackers will determine its success.
Wily old coordinator Monte Kiffin places a lot of coverage responsibility on his linebackers. They are charged with covering short, underneath areas and deep zones.
Kiffin demands superior athletes at the position. Fortunately that's exactly what he has in Lee and Carter.
If the pair stay healthy they are arguably the best tandem of young linebackers in the NFL. Both possess sideline-to-sideline speed and a knack for making plays in pass defense.
Kiffin's scheme will rely on their playmaking talents. Carter will have one of the most important roles as the weak-side linebacker.
In Kiffin's 'under' fronts, two defensive linemen are usually stacked over on the weakside. That keeps the weak-side 'backer covered up and free to make plays.
The Tennessee Titans are close to signing veteran defensive end John Abraham. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reports the Titans hope to complete the signing this week. The Titans need the experienced and skilled pass-rusher to improve their ability to pressure quarterbacks.
The Titans have struggled getting to the passer during the last two seasons. Coordinator Jerry Gray has been forced to mix and match a variety of fronts and personnel combinations to try and scheme some pressure.
Gray has resorted to three-man lines and various defensive back blitzes with little success. The main problem has been the lack of a stud pass-rusher up front.
Ends Kamerion Wimbley and Derrick Morgan have led the way in the sacks department. However, both managed less than seven sacks apiece in 2012.
Signing Abraham would at last give Gray the premium rush end he needs to make his schemes work. He may be 34, but Abraham remains as dangerous off the edge as any pass-rusher in the NFL.
Washington Redskins News: Can Mike Shanahan Turn Late-Round Picks Chris Thompson And Jawan Jamison Into 1,000-Yard NFL Running Backs?
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has a great history of turning late-round draft picks into 1,000-yard running backs in the NFL. However, can he do the same for 2013 rookies Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison?
The answer is yes. Both fit his famous zone scheme and are versatile enough to push for playing time as rookies.
Shanahan just loves to select a running back in the late rounds of the NFL draft. So it shouldn't have surprised anyone when he used the Redskins' fifth-round pick this year on Thompson. He followed that by using a seventh-round selection on Jamison.
This is despite the presence of Alfred Morris, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. All three were taken in the late rounds of the last two drafts and all have shown considerable promise.
Shanahan traded up to select Helu Jr. in the fourth round in 2011 and still took Royster in the sixth round of the same draft.
Despite solid rookie outings, both were upstaged last season by 2012 sixth-rounder Morris. He won the starting job and finished second in the league in rushing.
The New York Giants are meeting with free agent running back Tim Hightower today, according to Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News. Big Blue would be smart to sign the veteran runner.
Hightower was out of football in 2012 and last played for the Giants' fierce NFC East rivals the Washington Redskins. Hightower was putting together a fine season for the Redskins in 2011.
He had carried the ball 84 times and gained 321 yards on the ground, before tearing his ACL during a Week 7 clash on the road against the Carolina Panthers. He tried to recover, but was deemed surplus to requirements in a crowded backfield rotation prior to the start of last season.
The Redskins decided to go with rookie Alfred Morris as their workhorse and penciled in youthful duo Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr as his primary backups. Washington didn't need Hightower, but the Giants do.
Justin Blackmon was once again suspended for violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy on Tuesday, a four game suspension at the start of the 2013 season stemming from a failed drug test for an unknown substance. This is Blackmon's second violation in less than a year and his third in less than three years. The gifted but troubled receiver now appears to be at a crossroads in his relatively short career and indeed his life. Therefore the question must be asked..
Where do all parties involved in this situation go from here?