In the post-2013 NFL draft world plenty of stories are unfolding in pro football.
Great veteran talent remains within the free-agent market and rookie minicamps are in full force. Next up are the OTAs and other minicamps slated to begin later this month and in June.
So, what's going on across the NFL spectrum? Let's dive in and check out the latest from this week.
Two Key Free Agents
Josh Cribbs remains a versatile threat to any defense. His quickness as a receiver bodes well in the slot, which then opens up the door to screens, slants, outs and drags at the intermediate level.
And when he has the rock his vision will get yards after the catch. Factor Cribbs' return skills and he becomes a field position advantage for any team. According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Cribbs is back visiting teams:
The Oakland Raiders can definitely use him, especially with the rest of the AFC West improving defensively. Here, Cribbs' ability to put the offense in solid field position will make an immediate impact. As previously mentioned, though, he'll be a great add to anyone.
Next is veteran pass-rusher John Abraham.
His situation compared to Cribbs', however, is a bit clearer. As reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Abraham may have his team this week:
Coming off one of his best seasons—10 sacks, six forced fumbles, seven defended passes—Abraham is a great fit for the Tennessee Titans. The AFC South is evolving as a physical division and the Titans have to get more from their front seven.
Having an experienced player in Abraham simply presents a more all-encompassed pass rush and run defense.
Rookie Darius Slay
The Detroit Lions needed to spruce up their defense during the draft. Well, after taking BYU's Ezekiel Ansah in Round 1 to address the pass rush, the Lions snagged Darius Slay from Mississippi State in Round 2.
During his tenure for the Bulldogs, Slay defended 16 passes and collected 173 return yards on six picks (two touchdowns). Unfortunately, Slay reportedly had knee surgery, according to Adam Schefter:
For his and the Lions' sake let's hope Slay is ready for training camp and the regular season. A year ago Detroit allowed a 63.6 completion percentage and 26 passing touchdowns, not to mention it recorded only 34 sacks.
A healthy Slay simply calls for more consistent man coverage. That will give the pass rush more time to apply pressure, which in turn provides Slay with additional turnover opportunities.
Include the NFC North seeing great improvement from each team, and the Lions can't afford to remain vulnerable in coverage this fall.
Texans LB Brian Cushing
Last season Brian Cushing's campaign abruptly ended when he suffered a torn ACL, per Robert Klemko of USA Today last October. But there appears to be good news.
In an article by Nick Scurfield of the Texans' official website, coach Gary Kubiak provided some optimism:
“I'm watching him today, he sure looks like he's ready to go,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Monday. “I know that it's not time to turn him loose yet, but he's come a long way. What'd he miss, 11 games last year plus two playoff games? You don’t get that time back in this league, so I know he’s chomping at the bit and ready to go.”
Whenever Cushing gets back on the field, expect him to produce because that's what the guy does. As a rookie he amassed 134 tackles, 10 defended passes and recorded five sacks. In 2011 he racked up 114 tackles and four sacks with two forced fumbles.
Houston's pass defense gradually became more vulnerable in 2012 after Cushing was out. And the more explosive passing offenses were able to take advantage. On the bright side, J.J. Watt rolled to 20.5 sacks and defended 16 passes.
Presenting Cushing back in the middle and we'll see Watt's impact increase. Not by the numbers, though, as it's about fielding a complete defense. The Texans have that with Cushing patrolling inside and will enhance their status as AFC title contenders.
Giants WR Victor Cruz
Victor Cruz took pro football by storm in 2011 as he caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards including nine scores for Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
The following campaign was also solid, as Cruz gained 1,092 yards on 86 receptions and reached the zone 10 times. That said, Cruz and the Giants have yet to find common ground on a contract, but team co-owner John Mara is not concerned as he stated on NFL AM via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post:
“I’m pretty confident that we’ll end up reaching a deal,’’ Mara said on the NFL Network’s NFL AM. “This is not that atypical a situation. Player contracts, particularly with star players like Victor, can tend to drag on from time to time. I think we’ll get it done.’’
Fear not, Giants fans, because this is a common trend among key players as evidenced by Drew Brees and Matt Forte in 2012. The Giants need Cruz as well, because other NFC East opponents do field high-powered offenses.
In short, Big Blue must have the luxurious ability to keep pace whenever needed.
New York did not opt to draft a receiver in 2013 either. So, failing to have Cruz lined up come Week 1 will make contesting for the postseason increasingly difficult.