Eagles interview Jon Hoke for defensive coordinator job

The prevailing thought has been the Philadelphia Eagles are waiting to talk to assistant coaches working for the Super Bowl teams before hiring a defensive coordinator.

The Eagles looked in a different direction today when they interviewed Jon Hoke, the defensive backs coach for the Chicago Bears, for the position.

Philadelphia likely still has interest in speaking to an assistant or two with the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, but Hoke is now in the picture. The news was first reported by Adam Caplan of FoxSports.com.

Hoke has been with the Bears for the past two seasons after spending the previous seven coaching the secondary for the Houston Texans. He has experience as a defensive coordinator at the college ranks, running that side of the ball for Steve Spurrier at Florida.

While Hoke and Eagles coach Andy Reid have not worked together previously, both have worked at the University of Missouri previously.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Panthers add two more assistant coaches

At this pace, the Carolina Panthers will have Ron Rivera’s first coaching staff filled out quickly.

Less than an hour after the team announced Eric Washington had been hired as defensive line coach, two more assistants were named. Pete Hoener has been hired as tight ends coach and Fred Graves will be the wide receivers coach.

Hoener comes to the Panthers after spending the last six seasons in San Francisco where he helped develop Pro Bowl performer Vernon Davis. Hoener and Rivera worked together in Chicago in 2004 when Hoener served as the Bears offensive line coach. Previously, he worked with the Arizona Cardinals and Hoener worked with legendary offensive line coach Jim Hanifan with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1985-86. Hoener had interviewed with the Washington Redskins and at the University of Texas.

Graves comes from the Tennessee Titans where he helped bring along Kenny Britt. He also made NFL stops in Buffalo, Cleveland and Detroit. Both new hires also have extensive histories coaching in the college ranks.

“We are very pleased to have Fred and Pete join our staff,” Rivera said in a statement. “They
bring an extensive coaching background and have developed a number of young receivers in the NFL.
They are both highly regarded and will make a strong contribution to our offense.”

They will work under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Panic! Dallas could be facing stripper shortage

DALLAS—Come on, Dallas. You’ve had years to prepare for this!

Strip joints in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex are scrambling to find an additional 10,000 girls for Super Bowl week in an effort to accommodate the demand that comes with hosting the NFL’s premiere game, per TMZ.com.

BarneyI don't think this is what they had in mind.

Apparently, the owners of the 60 strip clubs in the areas surrounding Cowboys Stadium recently realized that their current rosters weren’t deep enough to handle the estimated 300,000 visitors expected to descend upon the city.

According to FoxSports.com, the following advertisement was recently placed in an attempt to bring in some more talent:

“We Want You!! Ladies, are you coming to [Dallas-Fort Worth] for the big game week? Want a safe, clean club to make the big $$$ in?”

Define “clean.”

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Eric Washington hired as Panthers D-line coach

The Carolina Panthers added another coach to their staff today when Eric Washington was named defensive line coach.

Washington spent the last three seasons with the Chicago Bears and while he arrived after Panthers coach Ron Rivera left, Washington had a minority coaching internship with the team when Rivera was the defensive coordinator in Chicago.

“Eric brings youth and experience to our staff and is a good fit to work with our young defensive
line,” Rivera said in a statement released by the team. “He has coached on all levels of football and we are pleased to have him on our staff.”

Prior to joining the Bears, Washington spent four seasons at Northwestern where he helped coach Luis Castillo, Barry Cofield and Corey Wootton. Washington joins coordinator Sean McDermott, secondary coach Ron Meeks and quality control assistant Sam Mills III on the defensive staff in Carolina.

With Washington gone, Bears coach Lovie Smith will have to hire his sixth line coach in eight seasons.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Tomlin hasn't ruled out Pouncey

DALLAS—Despite recent reports that Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey would not play in Sunday’s Super Bowl due to a high ankle sprain, head coach Mike Tomlin didn’t seem ready to stick a fork in the rookie Pro Bowler just yet.

Maurkice PounceyICONTomlin didn't close the book on Pouncey Monday afternoon.

Tomlin addressed the media at the Steelers’ team hotel in Fort Worth Monday afternoon and was quickly asked about the status of his star center for Sunday’s game against Green Bay.

Per Tomlin, the team has been “very aggressive” in regards to Pouncey’s rehab and they don’t plan to put him on a “running clock” until Wednesday, the first day of practice. Tomlin also made it clear that Pouncey has not yet been ruled out for the Super Bowl.

The 21-year-old from Florida suffered the ankle injury on the Steelers’ first drive against the Jets during the AFC Championship game.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has already reported that Pouncey will not play in the Super Bowl.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Pro Bowl TV numbers nearly match World Series

The game itself was awful.

Unless you had money on the NFC or the over.

But the Pro Bowl on Sunday worked for the NFL. Maybe having the game the week before the Super Bowl, even though it precludes players from the Super Bowl teams participating, is a good idea after all.

According to Adam Caplan of FoxSports.com, the game which was televised on Fox, was watched by 13.4 million viewers, the best number for the NFL’s all-star game since 1997 when 13.5 million viewers tuned into Fox.

The game didn’t add up to much when the AFC played giveaway in the first half and the NFC bolted out to a 42-0 lead in its 55-41 victory. But people watched and so that’s a victory for the league and the network.

What does the number mean in the grand scheme? Well, consider the World Series last fall between the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers averaged 14.3 million viewers. Yes, it’s yet another sign football is king and the owners and players really ought to rally to prevent something stupid from happening.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Five best remaining uncommitted players

With National Signing Day just two days away, we are getting closer to finding out where the country’s top remaining uncommitted prospects will land.

Out of all of the available highly skilled players in the country, these performers stand out the most. And coaches from some of the top college programs are making last-ditch efforts to land their services.

Be sure to stay with the NFP for all of the latest recruiting news as Feb. 2 approaches. But for now, here are the five to watch…

1. DE Jadeveon Clowney: 6-6, 240-pounder from Rock Hill, SC

Simply put, Jadeveon Clowney is the best high school prospect in the Class of 2011. And no matter where he signs, he will have an impact next fall.

The defensive end from South Carolina, who was the 2010 USA TODAY Defensive Player of the Year, has been the most targeted player by major-college coaches on the recruiting trail. However, we won't find out which college Clowney plans to attend on National Signing Day. The 6-6, 240-pounder will wait until his birthday, Feb. 14, to sign with the college of his choice. He did, however, narrow his list of finalists to South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, North Carolina and Clemson. Most experts agree that the decision has come down to the Gamecocks and Crimson Tide, with the edge going to Steve Spurrier and Co.

Clowney, who recorded three sacks in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, possesses a 36-inch vertical leap and 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash — freakishly good intangibles that have led him to be compared to the original “freak,” former Florida star Jevon Kearse. The most intriguing aspect about Clowney as a prospect is that he has room to add much more bulk as he continues to physically develop. If he maintains his straight-line game speed and great overall athleticism after adding weight, he should develop into the next great SEC defender.

Check out the best of Clowney from his senior year at South Pointe. The highlights include play from the regular season and playoffs, including the 3A state title game.

2010: Recorded 162 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and scored five touchdowns. Was South Carolina Mr. Football
2009: Registered 24 sacks

2. OL Cyrus Kouandijo: 6-7 325-pounder from Hyattsville, MD

Cyrus Kouandjio can easily sign with Alabama. After all, Nick Saban runs one of the most elite programs in the nation, and Kouandjio’s brother, Arie, is a fellow lineman who redshirted in 2010. But the five-star offensive tackle from Maryland could also choose to go to Iowa and play under Kirk Ferentz, who knows a thing or two about developing quality offensive linemen. Kouandjio would also be able to block for old high school teammate Marcus Coker, who will enter the 2011 campaign atop Iowa’s depth chart at running back.

Kouandjio excels as a run blocker, as he has excellent athleticism that is rare for a player his size. Because of his frame, he projects well at the tackle position against the highest level of FBS competition. He’s tough, is athletic in pass protection and also displays a mean streak when necessary.

The 6-7, 325-pounder, who had a strong week of practice in preparation for the Under Armour All-American Game, visited Auburn this past weekend and has also visited New Mexico. It sounds crazy, but the Lobos may not be as big of a long shot as some would think. Alabama remains the odds-on favorite in the minds of most recruiting analysts, but he really enjoyed his visit to Iowa City. Miami and USC are also finalists for his services.

2010: Played with a sprained knee but was still named to the Consensus All-State Team in Maryland.

Isaiah CrowellICONRB Isaiah Crowell will choose between in-state Georgia and Alabama.

3. RB Isaiah Crowell: 5-11, 210-pounder from Columbus, GA

All the eyes of Georgia Bulldogs fans will be on stud running back Isaiah Crowell of Georgia on Wednesday. Will he join the Bulldogs’ “Dream Team,” which also features Damian Swann, Malcolm Mitchell, Jay Rome and Ray Drew, or will Alabama land his services? With the Bulldogs receiving a commitment from his best friend, safety Quintavious Harrow, many believe Crowell will stay in-state and play for Mark Richt. In addition, Alabama already has four-star running back Dee Hart in the fold.

The well-built runner, who had a great week of practice in preparation for the Under Armour All-American Game, is explosive out of the backfield and is deceptively powerful with the ability to hit the hole fast and reach top-end speed instantly. He has great natural ability as runner and has the body to emerge as an every-down back early in his career.

Crowell has reminded some of South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, the SEC’s reigning freshman of the year last season. If Crowell ends up in Athens, this will be the best class of Richt’s tenure. Then the Georgia head coach just has to win enough to be able to stay around and see all this talent develop.

2010: Was a Class AA first-team all-state selection after rushing for 1,627 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing four games with injuries and rarely playing past halftime in the other 10 contests.
2009: Rushed for 1,907 yards on 175 carries (10.9 yards per carry) and 22 touchdowns and added 241 yards on 18 catches and three more scores.

These linebackers are all very good, so I could not choose just one between the three of them. They should make a major impact at the college level.

4. LB Curtis Grant: 6-3, 220-pounder from Richmond, VA

Curtis Grant was the leading tackler for the East squad in 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which isn’t surprising considering he has very good athleticism. He excels both against the run and pass and possesses good size for the outside linebacker position.

His athleticism will help him get on the field on special teams, and his ability as a coverage defender should get him on the field in third-down situations early in his career.

His finalists include Florida, North Carolina, Ohio State and Virginia.

2010: Was named the district’s defensive player of the year.

Tony StewardICONLB Tony Steward has the instincts to make plays all over the field.

4. LB Tony Steward: 6-1, 225-pounder from St. Augustine, FL

Tony Steward possesses excellent athleticism and playing speed along with the perfect size to be an excellent outside linebacker. Very good against both the run and pass, he shows the instincts necessary to make plays all over the field.

A U.S. Army All-American Bowl participant, he will choose between Florida State and Clemson.

2010: Despite missing time with a shin injury, he was the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker
2009: Recorded 142 tackles, five sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.

4. LB Stephone Anthony: 6-2, 220-pounder from Wadesboro, NC

Stephone Anthony was chosen for both the Shrine Bowl and Under Armour All-American Game this season after having a monster senior campaign. He creates turnovers because of his elite athleticism and ball-hawking skills. He’s so dynamic of a football player that he excelled as a running back, but he will be able to hone his craft in college as an outside linebacker.

He runs very well from sideline to sideline and excels in pass coverage. No matter where he signs, he should get the opportunity to play early and will be an every-down player sooner than later because of his potential to make game-changing plays.

He visited North Carolina over the weekend and is considering Clemson, Virginia Tech and Florida in addition to the Tar Heels.

2010: Registered 123 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and six pass breakups. As a running back, he carried the ball 50 times for 302 yards and seven touchdowns. He also posted 500 return yards and was named the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year.

Timmy JerniganICONDT Timmy Jernigan is the cousin of former Florida State stars Tamarick Vanover and Brian Allen.

5. DT Timmy Jernigan: 6-2, 275-pounder from Lake City, FL

The cousin of former Florida State stars Tamarick Vanover and Brian Allen, Timmy Jernigan had an outstanding performance during one-on-one drills for the East squad during U.S. Army All-American Bowl week.

Jernigan is a force in the trenches despite not resembling your prototypical defensive tackle. He doesn’t have the best of measurables, but that hasn’t stopped him from proving to be a load to handle inside. He is a sound tackler and a disruptive pass rusher, but he will take some chances and can get caught out of position at times. Still, his presence is always felt by opposing linemen.

He is considering Florida State, LSU, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

2010: Recorded 77 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 14 sacks and one interception
2009: Registered 131 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Was an all-state selection

Also watch out for:

DB Erique Florence: 6-2, 185-pounder from Valley, AL

Enrique Florence seemingly played every position in high school, but he has the ideal strong safety mentality. He loves to hit, is tough and physical. He also has the frame to add bulk.

After recording two tackles and two pass breakups in AL-MS All-Star Classic, he is considering Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas and USC.

Email <strong>dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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Vilma's 180 cost Henderson chance to play in Pro Bowl

Jonathan Vilma was in, then he was out and then he was back in.

Through all that, E.J. Henderson earned a trip to the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Honolulu but he was not allowed to play.

As Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, Henderson was called on as a replacement for Vilma when the New Orleans Saints linebacker backed out of the game for personal reasons. Henderson traveled to Hawaii and then Vilma made the determination that he would be able to play after all. At that point, Henderson became an “emergency replacement.”

Per the report, Henderson will still receive $45,000, the winner’s share, and he likely leaves with some other nice parting gifts like a Pro Bowl jersey. The paid vacation isn’t bad either.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

Is Pittsburgh the new TitleTown?

Through four games, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch could only be described as competent. And when you’re talking about your second- and third-string quarterbacks, that’s not a bad adjective to be using.

Truthfully, Dixon and Batch — who were replacing the suspended Ben Roethlisberger — didn’t need to be great. When Dick LeBeau coaches the defense and Troy Polamalu patrols the secondary, average quarterback play will suffice.

Charlie BatchICONCharlie Batch played in three of the Steelers' first four games at quarterback.

In those four games, Dixon and Batch tossed only three touchdowns. The season-opener saw the Steelers win by a final score of 15-9 over the Atlanta Falcons, who turned out to be the top-seed in the NFC. Heck, the backup duo combined for only 21 passing yards in a game and Pittsburgh still won; Roethlisberger had 257 yards in his first contest back in Week 6.

With Dixon and Batch under center, the Steelers were somewhat vulnerable, but they marched on to a 3-1 record anyway. It’s easy to say it now: That was when Pittsburgh became a true Super Bowl contender.
In the middle of the 2009 season, Mike Tomlin’s team dropped five consecutive games, including two to the 5-11 Browns and 4-12 Chiefs. This was very unlike the Steelers. Polamalu missed four of those five losses with an MCL injury. Coming off a Super Bowl victory and playing much of the season without Polamalu, the Steelers were underwhelming and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

But now, for a host of reasons, Tomlin has his team one win away from its second Super Bowl victory in three years.

The Steelers have had Polamalu for 16 of their 18 games this season, but other injuries have ravaged the roster. Stud defensive end Aaron Smith has been out since Week 8 with a torn tricep. Left tackle Max Starks suffered a neck injury in Week 9 against the Bengals, and was placed on injured reserve shortly thereafter.

Ziggy Hood has played admirably in place of Smith, but I have no idea how the Steelers made it this far without Starks. Their offensive line was already below average. They ended up allowing 43 sacks in the regular season, eighth-worst in the NFL. Roethlisberger has gotten plenty of chances to show his ability elude pressure in the postseason, too, getting sacked eight times in two games.

So how did the Steelers survive Starks’ injury? How did they go 12-4? How did they make it down to Dallas, one win away from another Super Bowl?

Mike TomlinICONMike Tomlin is going for his second Super Bowl win in three years on Sunday.

Tomlin, Roethlisberger, and Polamalu certainly had something to do with it, but the reasoning is far more complicated than that. There’s a culture of winning in Pittsburgh, and it goes beyond the franchise’s record six Super Bowl victories.

Sustainability of success is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Look no further than Pittsburgh’s counterpart on Sunday as evidence of that. Green Bay’s nickname is TitleTown, but the team hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 14 years — and the Packers had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time for much of that period.

In this millennium, the Steelers have had one season below .500, and seven seasons at 10-6 or better. That’s truly incredible. On Sunday, Pittsburgh will go for its third Super Bowl in six years — something that hasn’t been done since the Dallas Cowboys’ three-championship run from 1992-95 and New England’s similar streak from 2001-04.

Perhaps even more impressive: Pittsburgh’s record in Super Bowls is 6-1. TitleTown, you’ve been warned.

Scott Miller is a senior at The University of Iowa and a contributor to the National Football Post. Follow him on Twitter: @stmillr.

Want to work in the NFL? Click here to sign up for the NFP’s Chalk Talk session at the Combine in Indianapolis on February 25th.

Father of Lions QB Shaun Hill dies in accidental fall

Ted Hill, the father of Shaun Hill, died after an accidental fall at the home of the Detroit Lions quarterback.

The accident happened late Saturday afternoon while Ted was helping his son on a barn at his home at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.

Ted Hill coaches his son in football and basketball at Parsons (Kan.) High School and they won back-to-back state championships in basketball.

“Just a very humble and generous man, that's the best way to describe him,” Steve Lardy, play-by-play voice of Parsons, told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “And it's reflected in his son. Shaun's his dad's kid. They're identical.

“Very humble, very active in the community. Shaun comes back here every year and gives a lot of his time to kids in the community, and Ted was that way, too.”

The National Football Post sends it condolences to the friends and family of Ted Hill.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune