Calvin Johnson, John Fox, LeGarrette Blount
When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed LeGarrette Blount as a free agent last March, they saw him forming one of the NFL’s better running back combinations along with incumbent Le’Veon Bell.
It appears, however, that not everyone shares that view.
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks, for one, did not include Blount and Bell among the top five backfield duos in the league, which Brooks listed as follows: Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, Detroit’s Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, the New York Jets’ Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory, and San Diego’s trio of Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown.
Blount took exception to the snub.
As a rookie last season, Bell rushed for 860 yards and scored eight touchdowns. As a member of the New England Patriots in 2013, Blount ran for 772 yards and had seven touchdowns, although he didn’t become their featured back until late in the season.
“In all honesty, I believe they’re downgrading the skill level that we have in our backfield by not thinking that we have one of the best running back groups,” Blount was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “So I think that’s kind of disrespectful.
“We’re not going to go out here and go on about how we’re not in that group, but we’re going to go out and show that we belong there. I think we have a really good mix of running backs. Our group is good. We have the ability to do a lot of good things.”
COLTS’ COACH SEES D’QWELL JACKSON BRINGING ‘A TON TO THE TABLE’
Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano is convinced that former Cleveland Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson can play a huge role in helping the Colts to improve the NFL’s 26th-ranked run defense in 2013.
“He’s a three-down ’backer,” Pagano was quoted as saying in the Indianapolis Star. “He brings a ton to the table that way – a great leader and great football intelligence. His play speaks for itself; a ton of tackles. He’s going to be great. Just a great mentor, great leader.”
Jackson, 30, said he is excited about starting a “new chapter” in his career.
“If anything, this sparks that youth bug in me, that Fountain of Youth,” he said. “I’m definitely energized to be in this building, playing for this organization.”
Colts running back Trent Richardson, another former Brown, had this to say about being reunited with Jackson: “When it comes down to it, you can always count on D’Qwell. He’s going to give his best and he’s going to get the best out of everybody. They brought him in because they know he can be that guy. Leadership is his best quality. He’s not going to BS you.”
DENVER BRONCOS USING WORKOUTS TO CUT DOWN ON FUMBLES
So much was made, and rightfully so, about the Denver Broncos’ record-setting offensive attack, which carried the team all the way to the Super Bowl.
But lost in all of the hype about what Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ offense did right is something they also did wrong: lose the ball. The Broncos led the NFL with 16 fumbles last season.
In an effort to make certain that everyone on the team is ultra-aware of the problem, two of the more prominent Broncos – Manning and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas – were each seen on the first day of OTAs Wednesday carrying a football wrapped in the green Lycra used to cover the helmets of scout-team players.
“We’re making an emphasis from Day One on ball security,” Broncos coach John Fox was quoted as saying in the Denver Post. “We started with two of our better players in Demaryius and Peyton. What better guys to start with?”
CALVIN JOHNSON FEELS ‘PRETTY GOOD’ AFTER KNEE, FINGER SURGERIES
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson overcame an injured knee that sidelined him for two games and numerous practices, and a severely injured finger last season to catch 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had a career-best average of 17.8 yards a catch, and was a first-team All-Pro selection.
Still, both issues needed to be addressed, and they were, through offseason surgery.
By all indications, Johnson is recovering nicely. He told FOX Sports Detroit he “feels pretty good right now,” and is able to take part in the Lions’ OTAs.
“I’m out here working, taking all my reps for the most part,” Johnson said. “Knee’s feeling good, hand’s feeling good. I can’t complain.
“(The knee) was bad enough where I had to get it drained every week. The finger, it was stuck at 90 degrees. It’s good to have those things freed up right now.”
JETS’ QUARTERBACK ‘COMPETITION’ HAS COMPETING VIEWS
If you ask New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, he will tell you that Geno Smith and Michael Vick are in a legitimate competition for the team’s starting quarterback job.
For the record, Smith and Vick took first-team reps during practice in OTAs.
If you ask Vick, however, he will say, as he did to ESPNNewYork.com, “Nah, it’s not an open competition.”
Smith? So far, he isn’t saying much of anything on the subject.>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com. We take your questions at 216-578-0850 and via Twitter @Browns_Daily.