NFL draft expert Mayock hails Villanova's Szczur, multipurpose star
Villanova's two-sport stud, Matt Szczur, is going to have to decide between football and baseball soon. He was a fifth-round pick of the Cubs last June and hit .347 for three of their minor league clubs. But NFL scouts are intrigued by the versatile, 202-pound running back/wide receiver/quarterback/kick returner with 4.4 speed. He's been invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next month along with one of his 'Nova teammates, offensive tackle Ben Ijalana.
"He's the real deal," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "He's a slot receiver who compares favorably to any of those quicker-than-fast receivers you see in the NFL. When you start talking about Danny Woodhead or Davone Bess or Wes Welker, those kind of guys, that's who [Szczur] is.
"He's physical. He's tough. He returns kicks. He covers kicks. In their playoff win over Appalachian State, he was involved in their first five touchdowns. He ran for three, threw one and caught one."
Mayock feels Szczur is a legitimate third- or fourth-round pick, depending on how he performs at the Senior Bowl, and the February scouting combine, if he decides to put off baseball and go there. He has to let the Cubs know his plans after the Senior Bowl.
"If he goes there [to Mobile] and competes against the corners there, if he can line up against those SEC-type guys and compete, I don't see any reason in the world why he can't be a third-round pick," Mayock said.
"If you look at [the Dolphins'] Jordan Shipley, that's what he was. He was coming from a big school [Texas]. But the advantage Szczur has is he covers kicks, he returns kicks. He plays in the Wildcat. He's got some developing to do as a receiver, no question about it. He's not as far along as Shipley as a receiver. But the innate physical skill set is there.
"What I love about him is there's little to no downside [to drafting him]. Worst-case scenario, you're going to get a heckuva special-teams player. But a creative coach [paging Andy Reid, paging Bill Belichick], the sky could be the limit.''
AROUND THE NFC EAST
* Every one has been talking about the possibility of a letdown by the Eagles after Sunday's emotional, come-from-behind win over the Giants. But what about the Giants? What impact will their fourth-quarter collapse have on them as they prepare for what essentially is a must-win game against the Packers on Sunday?
"Even if we had won last week, we'd still have to come in and win this game, too," left guard Rich Seubert said. "So, really, nothing has changed.
"We've lost games before and we've won games before. And if you're going to dwell on what happened last week and let it affect the way you prepare the following week, you're not going to be good – win or lose. The beautiful thing is our destiny is still in our hands. We go win, we're in the playoffs."
* Down in Washington, Mike Shanahan is trying to sell Rex Grossman as the second coming of Jake Plummer.
Sadly, a good portion of the gullible D.C. media is buying it. Shanahan benched Donovan McNabb last week and started Grossman against the Cowboys. Grossman threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns against one of the league's worst pass defenses (28th in passing yards allowed, a league-worst 31 touchdown passes) in a 33-30 loss. Grossman also turned the ball over three times.
This week, Shanahan was doing his did-I-ever-tell-you-about-the-time-I-wrestled-a-12-foot-crocodile routine, harkening back to when he coached Plummer in Denver.
"When I had Jake Plummer, he [came from Arizona] with a winning percentage of 36 percent in 6 years," Shanahan said. "Everybody said we were crazy [for acquiring him]. He had 90 touchdown passes and 114 interceptions [with the Cardinals]. How can you bring a guy to the Denver Broncos that had won only 36 percent of his games? Four years later, he'd won 72 percent of his games, which was the best [in the NFL] in those 4 years."
Anybody who really believes that Shanahan has any intention of going into next season with Grossman as his starting quarterback, give me a call. I can get you a swell deal on the Walt Whitman Bridge.
From the lip:
* "They dialed up the right things at the right time. It's kind of like Tecmo Bowl when you press the same button as your opponent and everything breaks down. They had the right blitzes dialed up against the right runs, and they got lucky." - Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, on how the Eagles held he and Ahmad Bradshaw to 3.2 yards per carry last week
* "He's being his mopey self. Hopefully he can pull himself out of it and move forward. When things don't go Chad's way, that's kind of how it happens." - Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, on WR Chad Ochocinco
* "A blind cat will find a meal every once in a while. My son could've run through the hole that we gave him in Baltimore. We just don't do that." - Ravens LB Ray Lewis, on Browns RB Peyton Hillis' 144-yard rushing performance against the Ravens in Week 3
By the numbers:
* DeSean Jackson has scored a rushing, receiving and punt-return touchdown in each of his first three NFL seasons. The only other player to accomplish that feat was the Redskins' Dick Todd back in 1939-41. It's not known whether Todd received a contract extension after the '41 season.
* The Cowboys' Jason Witten has 605 career receptions after his 10-catch performance last week against the Redskins. He surpassed 600 in his 125th NFL game. No tight end in history has reached 600 faster. He's only the fourth tight end in history to do it. The other 3: Tony Gonzalez (1,061), Shannon Sharpe (815) and Ozzie Newsome (662).
* The Eagles are tied for the second-best December-January regular-season road record in the league since 2005. They are 11-3 on the road during that period. The Patriots also are 11-3. The Chargers are 11-1.
* The Colts are trying to advance to the postseason for the ninth straight year. If they do, they will join the Cowboys (1975-83) as the only teams in league history to make the playoffs 9 straight years.
* The Falcons converted just four of 14 third-down opportunities in their 31-17, Week 6 loss to the Eagles. Since then, they are 64-for-123 (52 percent) on third down.
* Fourth-quarter comebacks aren't that common in the NFL. Teams holding the lead entering the fourth quarter are 180-35 (.837) this season.
* Weird stat alert: With last week's loss to the Eagles, the Giants are 2-3 in games in which Eli Manning throws four TD passes. When he throws only three, they are 13-2.
THAT'S SAYIN' THUMBTHING
To Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who went into a South Philadelphia Toys "R" Us last week and quietly picked up the tab for a couple of Christmas shoppers. After suffering his second neck injury in as many seasons last month, Hobbs' career may be over. But rather than sitting around feeling sorry for himself, he decided to spread some cheer to others. Even the fact that one suspicious woman told him to "get the hell out of here" didn't dissuade him. Good for you, Ellis.
To Robert Larsen, a Seahawks season-ticketholder who is suing Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis for throwing a chunk of snow at him following a game in Seattle 2 years ago. Seriously. Video (you can find it on YouTube) shows Seahawks fans pelting Ellis and his teammates with snowballs as they were exiting the field. Ellis picked up a large chunk of snow and heaved it in Larsen's direction. End of story. Well, not exactly. Larsen is seeking damages for "physical injury, humiliation, mental distress, pain and wage loss." Again, seriously. Times like these make me proud my daughter became a lawyer.
(Last Week's Rankings in Parentheses)
1. Patriots 12-2 (1)
2. Ravens 10-4 (4)
3. Falcons 12-2 (5)
4. Eagles 10-4 (6)
5. Saints 10-4 (2)
6. Bears 10-4 (8)
7. *Steelers 10-4 (3)
8. Giants 9-5 (7)
9. Jets 10-4 (10)
10. Packers 8-6 (9)
11. Chargers 8-6 (14)
12. Colts 8-6 (15)
13. Chiefs 9-5 (16)
14. Jaguars 8-6 (11)
15. Bucs 8-6 (12)
16. Raiders 7-7 (19)
17. Dolphins 7-7 (13)
18. Rams 6-8 (17)
19. Cowboys 5-9 (21)
20. Browns 5-9 (18)
21. Titans 6-8 (24)
22. Lions 4-10 (26)
23. Bills 4-10 (27)
24. 49ers 5-9 (20)
25. Texans 5-9 (22)
26. Vikings 5-9 (23)
27. Seahawks 6-8 (25)
28. Redskins 5-9 (28)
29. Bengals 3-11 (30)
30. Cardinals 4-10 (29)
31. Broncos 3-11 (31)
32. *Panthers 2-12 (32)
*Last night's game not included.