C.J. Mosley: The next DeMeco Ryans?

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C.J. Mosley: The next DeMeco Ryans?

DeMeco Ryans is the catalyst of the Eagles’ defense. The heart and soul. The glue that holds it together. He played the most snaps on defense last year -- in the NFL -- so you can easily argue that Ryans is the defense’s most important player.

But he also turns 30 this summer, is slated to make nearly $14 million over the next two seasons and doesn’t have the range in pass coverage that he once had.

If the Eagles are looking in the first round of May’s draft to find Ryans’ successor, they could feasibly pounce at the opportunity to take C.J. Mosley, an inside linebacker who played at Alabama, the same school that produced Ryans.

Daniel Jeremiah, a former Eagles scout who now serves as an analyst for the NFL Network, expects Mosley to be off the board when the Eagles pick at 22. But if he’s there, or if the Eagles trade up to land him, Mosley would fit snugly into the team’s scheme, Jeremiah said.

“C.J. Mosley is somebody who doesn’t get talked about enough,” Jeremiah said during a draft conference call hosted by the NFL Network. “We talk about guys being clean players on tape. I don’t have a lot of negatives when I watch him. I think he’s very good in coverage. I think he’s an excellent blitzer.

“But the most impressive aspect of his game is his instincts. I remember scouting DeMeco Ryans at Alabama, and that’s what set him apart was his instincts. I personally think he’s a better player than DeMeco was coming out, and DeMeco has had a nice career.”

The book on Mosley reads just like Ryans’. He’s considered a film junkie and natural leader, a defensive quarterback with an exceptional football IQ and humble. Mosley is excellent in coverage against both tight ends and pass-catching running backs.

This past season, he won the Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebacker and shared the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award with Missouri linebacker Michael Sam.

With his athletic prowess and high character, Mosley sounds exactly like the kind of guy Chip Kelly wants leading his defense.

But let’s hold off on sending out “Save the Dates” for this potential marriage.

First, several analysts -- including Jeremiah -- believe Mosley will be drafted in the top 15 picks. Some see Mosley as an ideal middle linebacker for a 4-3 defense even though Alabama’s front more resembles the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme.

Second, and more significantly, the Eagles have a known allergy to drafting linebackers in the first round. A familiar refrain every April is the team’s 1979 selection of Jerry Robinson in the first round out of UCLA. Robinson remains the last linebacker drafted by Eagles in the first round.

Thirty four years … and counting.

Third, for whatever reason, although Alabama’s defense is annually among the nation’s best and the foundation of coach Nick Saban’s three championships with the Crimson Tide, several of its players picked in the first round lately haven’t dominated at the NFL level.

Another former Tide linebacker, Rolando McClain, went eighth overall to the Raiders in 2010. Then considered one of the best overall prospects in the entire draft, McClain managed just three seasons with Oakland before getting released.

He tried to latch on with Baltimore last year but retired abruptly after his arrest for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

“I know there’s been recent Alabama big linebackers that haven’t played up to capability perhaps,” said NFL Network draft analyst Charles Davis, who joined Jeremiah on the call. “But I don’t think that C.J. Mosley is one of those guys. I really like him a bunch.”

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much.