Browse Month by August 2016
New Orleans Saints

NFL preseason Week 3 winners, losers

If there is an important week of the preseason, it’s the third one. I make that assertion with as little conviction as possible, of course, because in a few weeks not one of you will remember anything about it. (Except perhaps Dallas Cowboys fans.)

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback: What began as a silent protest — refusing to stand during the national anthem for three consecutive weeks — exploded into the biggest story in sports after Kaepernick acknowledged it publicly late Friday night. You might scoff at the impact of raising awareness, as Kaepernick is attempting to do for what he called racial “oppression” in America. But half the fight is imposing a recognition that the oppression even exists. Kaepernick already has succeeded there by starting a civic conversation in a space that doesn’t host many. Make no mistake: Kaepernick has risked his career, not to mention the ire of those offended by his refusal to stand for the national anthem. But he is precisely the profile of a person who can and perhaps should bring attention to important issues. At 28, he already has earned $29.1 million, according to Spotrac, and is guaranteed $11.9 million this season whether or not he plays. He has the safety net that few others do and is using it as collateral for social change. That makes for a productive Week 3, at least from this perspective.

Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans quarterback: It’s amazing how little we know about the on-the-field proficiency of a player who was guaranteed $37 million during the offseason. But Sunday brought the best evidence yet that Osweiler is up to the challenge of starting full time for the Texans. Osweiler converted 11 of 13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown as the Texans’ offense rolled up 31 points in the first half of a 34-24 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Most notable was how decisive Osweiler was, albeit behind excellent pass protection. There was little of the kind of hesitation that suggests a player feels uncomfortable. He also threw two beautiful deep passes to rookie Will Fuller. One went for a 35-yard gain, and Fuller dropped the other.

Tavarres is an undrafted rookie out of Incarnate Word. He made the first round of cuts, as the Eagles recently trimmed their roster to 74 players, and is trying to make the team to contribute mainly on special teams.

“Nothing really changes,” Prescott said. “I just got to continue to do that and make sure I don’t slack up or be lazy in it. I’ve got to stay focused and help this team.”

The Cowboys announced on Saturday that Romo suffered a broken bone in his back during Thursday’s preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, on a hit that initially generated nothing more than a “scare.” Sources told ESPN reporter Todd Archer that Romo sustained a compression fracture to the L1 vertebra and could miss six to 10 weeks. The Cowboys have not issued a timetable and coach Jason Garrett has not yet ruled out Romo for the season opener. “We live in the world day by day,” he said.”

During the play on which he was injured, Romo was in the process of initiating a slide. At virtually the same moment Romo began his motion toward the ground, Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril arrived to tackle him, wrapping his left arm across Romo’s shoulder while applying a downward force with his right arm in an attempt to strip the ball from Romo’s right hand. Romo landed in a seated position with his back rounded and feet outstretched.

The two primary forces in play through his back were compression — the combination of the downward-directed forces through the spine from both Avril and gravity, in addition to the upward force through his spine from the ground as he landed — and flexion, or forward bending, as Avril’s momentum coming from behind brought Romo’s torso forward on impact. The spine can tolerate a fair amount of each, but it’s problematic when the two are combined.

Seattle Seahawks

Roberto Aguayo misses 3 of 6 attempts in practice, gets booed

TAMPA, Fla. — The struggles for Buccaneers rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo continue.

“The preseason is obviously different than practice,” said Clements, who was Rodgers’s quarterbacks coach from 2006 to 2011 before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 and then to his current position last year. “Things move fast, faster. Once the season starts, they move even faster. You get to the playoffs, and they move even faster. Regardless I think of how long you’ve been around, you need a little bit of work before the season starts.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy wouldn’t commit to anything specific for Rodgers.

“The goal is to obviously play Aaron and play our guys,” McCarthy said before Tuesday’s practice. “But we’ll evaluate today’s practice and we’ll have that meeting tomorrow.”

Rodgers said he will do anything McCarthy “wants me to do” in Friday’s game.

“We haven’t talked about play time yet. I’ll find out probably shortly before you guys find out. I think I’m going to play. I’m not sure how long he wants me to play. But it’ll be good to get out there and get some work with the guys,” he said.

Rodgers, 32, took his usual workload early in training camp but then shifted into a different role in advance of the preseason games. He worked more with the scout team offense, while McCarthy prepared backup quarterback Brett Hundley along with rookies Joe Callahan and Marquise Williams to play.

Gordon is young, still just 25. But the Browns are building a team through the draft, with young players they select and grow. They had 14 picks in this draft. They will have extra high picks in the next two drafts. There is wisdom in their approach, and several of the players they selected have shown some promise in practice and games. Adding another high pick in the mix for Gordon, on paper, seems to fit the approach.

This is not to say the Browns should trade Gordon. They just have to consider every possibility.

Maybe this group has the magic approach to change his life so that he’s dependable. But other regimes have thought the same thing and watched Gordon be suspended. Joe Banner said he had a trade lined up for Gordon in 2013, but didn’t make it because he knew the coaches would want to tear out his fingernails. They believed they could keep Gordon on the field.

The coaches and support structure changed, and Gordon was suspended for 27 of the next 32 games.

Gordon has returned with a new support structure, one he has raved about. It could be the one to make it work for longer than a portion of a season. But nobody knows.

So what do the Browns do if a team offers a second-round pick for Gordon that could turn into a first-round choice based on performance?

Would the Browns turn it down as they attempt to build through the draft?

Seattle Seahawks

Meet Trevor Siemian: The QB who could replace Peyton Manning

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tight end Craig Stevens, a key blocker in the Tennessee Titans’ revamped smashmouth scheme, has informed the team that he will retire, it was announced Tuesday.

“I think he just wants to be fair to the team and to his family,” his agent, Ken Zuckerman, said. “He had some previous concussions, but he’s fine. He just feels it’s time. It’s been a tough decision, but he’s ready to go on with the next part of his life.”

He kept himself on the Broncos’ radar with his arm strength and progress in the offense. He was the team’s No. 2 quarterback for six games last season as Manning recovered from a foot injury. The Broncos briefly brought in Christian Ponder, but in a matters of days chose Siemian to be the backup down the stretch in a Super Bowl run.

Both Gruden and Jones said he’d be ready to start the season against Pittsburgh. Gruden said Jones already has made significant strides; after the game Jones called his pain level a seven.

“I wish I could have played. I’ve been missing playing, and I wanted to be out there with my teammates. I feel like that’s what my job and responsibility is, to be out there with my team. It was tough to not be out there.”

Brady said he thinks he would have played if it were a regular-season game but added that he supported Belichick’s decision.

As for whether he wants to play in Friday’s preseason game at Carolina, Brady said, “Absolutely. I like to be out there every time I get a chance to play. You only get so many opportunities a year. I’m getting [only] so many opportunities left in my life, so I’d like to take advantage of any and all of them if possible.”

Bell (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) had only one sack in three years at Ohio State but said he has long admired Mathieu at LSU and in the NFL and wanted to emulate his style of getting to the ball and causing “havoc.”

“I always watched Tyrann, so I said, ‘I think I can do it a little bit better than him,'” Bell said. “We’ve got the one-on-one drills with the running backs, and I won every one. So, I said, ‘Nobody can block me out here.'”

Seattle Seahawks

Rams want to extend Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead’s deals now

I won’t say Fisher wouldn’t be hired by any other NFL team, because the league is incredibly conservative and there’s always a team that will favor a coach with experience, no matter how lukewarm that experience has been. Fisher is in the final season of a staggering deal that pays him $7 million per season (again, last playoff win: 2003), but there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to add onto that deal now.

The Rams are betting that the Fisher-Snead combination — with a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff, in a tough division, with no track record of winning success — will break through in 2016. Good luck.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The brief but intense fight between New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery that led to both players being ejected from Monday’s joint practice was no laughing matter to head coaches Bill Belichick and John Fox, but Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long found a way to keep it light afterward.

With his brother Chris on the opposite sideline, Long said of the sideline-clearing scuffle, “I was just making sure [he] wasn’t coming to dropkick me. I turned around and, of course, he was making a beeline for me.”

Kyle, 27, is in his fourth season with the Bears. Chris, 31, signed a one-year deal with the Patriots after spending the first eight years of his career with the Rams.

The two had a few one-on-one matchups during Monday’s practice, and unlike some of their days growing up, there were no fights.

“Today was a really good opportunity to line up and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s my brother right across from me! It was just a lot of fun. I’m proud of him, and we’re really lucky to be in this situation,” Kyle said.

For his part, Chris said he took little joy in making contact with his brother during drills.

As for the fight in practice, Butler and Jeffery were jawing at each other in the end zone. Jeffery grasped Butler’s face mask, and Butler appeared to take a few swipes at Jeffery.

Bears tight end Greg Scruggs, a four-year veteran out of Louisville, was the third man in and that’s when things started to escalate with all players. Scruggs said he was trying to play the role of peacemaker and stop Jeffery from getting fined for fighting in practice, but his actions led to more players joining the fray.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington adds ex-Oklahoma WR K.J. Young

Young showed promise as a redshirt freshman for the Sooners, hauling in 19 passes for 215 yards and one touchdown. He spent the 2015 season at Riverside Community College in California and had 40 catches for 421 yards and six touchdowns in nine games.

With two years remaining and immediate eligibility, Young has a chance to make an impact in 2016.

UW doesn’t have many established playmakers at wideout, though speedy junior John Ross, who averaged nearly 22 yards per catch in 2014, is back after tearing an ACL last year. Dante Pettis (30 catches, 414 yards) and Brayden Lenius (26 catches, 307 yards) are back in the fold as well. Lenius missed spring ball, as did redshirt freshman Quinten Pounds, and Isaiah Renfro, another promising young receiver, decided to give up the game, so Young has an opportunity to quickly work his way toward the top of the depth chart.

Washington is a trendy Pac-12 pick leading up to the season, which begins Sept. 3 at home against Rutgers.

The San Diego Chargers and Joey Bosa’s agents have not talked since the beginning of Training Camp on July 28, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports:

Chargers, Bosa haven’t talked since July 28 https://t.co/zo8yCJsvhT

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 7, 2016
It has been 10 days since Training Camp started and the San Diego Chargers are still insisting that their nonexistent precedent takes precedence over the precedent that has been set by the rest of the National Football League when it comes to negotiating with top five picks under the current CBA.

The Chargers have not had a top five pick under the current CBA prior to drafting Joey Bosa this year. So, when they tell you that “this isn’t how we do business,” understand that this is the first time they have ever been in this position and that their argument is ridiculous. They will point to the contracts of veterans like Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, and Antonio Gates. Do not be fooled by this nonsense. Those players had the ability to negotiate terms other than offset language and bonus payout structures. They could insist on a higher signing bonus, higher annual average value, or longer contract. Those things are not on the table for a draft pick thanks to the current CBA.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have arrived in New England, where they will spend the next two days practicing against the Patriots before Thursday’s preseason opener. New Orleans’ rehabbing defense will face the ultimate test against Tom Brady and the impressive tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. Last season, the Saints’ linebackers struggled mightily in pass coverage. They were torn up by tight ends in particular. But veteran Dannell Ellerbe — the Saints’ best coverage linebacker — has looked great in camp so far now that he’s healthy, and pass coverage seems to be a strength of new backup linebacker Craig Robertson. It will be interesting to see how they match up. — Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Mularkey: Derrick Henry needs to start faster

Henry won’t get the number of carries that allows him to waste a few downs before he gets his motor humming.

On Friday, Henry got the message.

“He started a little faster today — actually in the tempo period he hit it,” Mularkey said, per The Tennessean. “I talked to him after practice yesterday. Again, I want to make sure I’m not putting guys in position if they’re not ready to go. “He said, ‘I just didnt understand it well enough. I do now.’ I don’t think that will be an issue anymore.”

Added Henry: “Yeah, I know exactly what he was talking about. I definitely wanted to pick it up today, have better intensity and make everyone better around me.”

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Friday’s wake-up call, Day 9 of New York Jets training camp:

What’s happening: They’re on the field at 1:50 p.m. Tired of practice? So are the players, who have four more practices before the first preseason game.

“I threw it to a rookie, too, which was awful, like a double whammy,” he said, laughing. “But it was one of those things [where] it got picked off, and I actually was kind of smiling about it, because I finally got to cut that thing off the top of my head.”

Some quarterbacks lose their head when they throw an interception. Fitzpatrick lost his hair. He needed a cleanup afterward, which doesn’t say much for Burris’ barbering skills.

Green Bay Packers

1 to 10 percent: Jordy Nelson has made one Pro Bowl and is now on the wrong side of 30 with an ACL tear in his recent past. If he plays into his late 30s at a high level, he has a shot. … Josh Sitton deserves to be in the discussion on performance, but he hasn’t been a first-team All-Pro once during his eight-year career.

Clay Matthews hasn’t really been hurt by his temporary move to inside linebacker, even though it dragged down his sack totals. He has made six Pro Bowl appearances in seven seasons; the Hall of Fame rate for eligible guys who have done that is 72 percent, and the players who missed were mostly offensive linemen and Alstott, who play positions the voters don’t value. Matthews is likely to get in. 80 percent

Julius Peppers should be an open-and-shut candidate, especially after he retires and the (in my eyes, unfair and inaccurate) arguments that he took plays off in Carolina and Chicago fade into the annals of time. He has nine Pro Bowl appearances, three first-team All-Pro nods, a Defensive Player of the Year award and 136 career sacks. The only thing he lacks is the sort of impactful postseason run that Ware just finished up for Denver, but it shouldn’t be necessary. 80 percent

Aaron Rodgers could only be kept out by vengeful “Bachelorette” fans.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2016 NFL season over/under win total picks for NFC: Bury the Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles 7.5 Over (+130) / Under (-160) — The Sam Bradford issue looms large. The hypothetical situation where Bradford refuses to play or retires and Chase Daniel has to start and then Carson Wentz has to start … It’s a scary situation. It’s also a major red flag to see this price where it’s at — the reality is this thing could crash and burn. Wait until the number drops (at -160, it seems likely to eventually move down to 7.0 wins) and then take the under.

Washington Redskins 7.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115) — The only reason to not jump on this team is because the Redskins’ history says they won’t be consistent. But Scot McCloughan’s past tells us he can pull off back-to-back years of quality performance. The running back situation (Matt Jones/Chris Thompson/Keith Marshall) is questionable, and Kirk Cousins won’t do what he did last year, even with the addition of Josh Doctson. The defense is secretly tough. They should be the real favorite to win this division given how the team is built.

Arizona Cardinals 9.5 Over (-140) / Under (+110) — For the third straight year, the world doesn’t give Bruce Arians’ team any respect. This is maybe the most dangerous team in football, and they only got better this offseason with adding Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche to bolster the pass rush. Carson Palmer is aging well, there’s tons of talent at receiver (Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown are the NFL’s best trio) and David Johnson could be scary if he builds on his rookie breakout. The defense will be stout again. The over price is steep but this is a double-digit win team and title contender. Huge bonus that they might not have to deal with Tom Brady in Week 1. They might have six or seven wins before their Week 9 bye.

Los Angeles Rams 7.5 Over (+115) / Under (-140) — The addition of Jared Goff at quarterback and the move to Los Angeles has everyone all aflutter. Goff could be a very good NFL quarterback but does he really fit what the Rams want to do on offense? Todd Gurley is the truth and Aaron Donald somehow remains underrated. The defense flies all over the place and will create turnovers. If Goff is great, the Rams will break .500 for the first time under Jeff Fisher. If he’s a rookie quarterback playing in a difficult division, it’s entirely possible they could end up winning seven games again.

San Francisco 49ers 5.5 Over (-115) / Under (-115) — Personally I’m a big fan of Chip Kelly. He got a bad rap in Philadelphia because of how he ran the front office, and he should be better in San Francisco. But there’s not as much talent here. Carlos Hyde is going to blow up next year in his offense and Torrey Smith could do damage as well. But the quarterback situation is a major issue. Have you seen their opening schedule? The Rams at home, the Panthers and Seahawks on the road and then the Cowboys and Cardinals at home. 0-5 is a very real possibly to start. It’s hard to find more than four wins for this rebuilding team.

Seattle Seahawks 10.5 Over (-140) / Under (+110) — No sleeper business here from Las Vegas. Seattle is the favorite to win the NFC West and is tied with Green Bay and Carolina for the highest win total in the NFC. Unlike last year, there shouldn’t be a slow start (the Dolphins, Rams, 49ers and Jets open things up) before the Week 5 bye. Ten or 11 wins is well within range, which means you’ve got to trust the better schedule here and assume a quality team will win the games it should. No drama this offseason or early on as people wonder if the “Seahawks’ dynasty is dead.”

Atlanta Falcons 7.5 Over (+110) / Under (-140) — Good gravy, look at their opening set of games. Bucs at home, Raiders/Saints on the road, Carolina at home and then Denver/Seattle on the road. Good bet that Dan Quinn, even if this team is better, has a reverse opening from last season. 0-6 is a real possibility, and that’s before home games against San Diego/Green Bay and road games against Tampa and Philadelphia. At least there are only six games after the bye, and four of those are at home.

Carolina Panthers 10.5 Over (Even) / Under (-130) — Carolina’s NFC defense opens up on Thursday night in the first ever Super Bowl opening night rematch, but things get much easier before their Week 7 bye. The 49ers, Vikings, Falcons, Buccaneers and Saints offer up a strong early slate to beef up the schedule. The real tester are all the West Coast trips. Eleven wins feels like the best case for Carolina, even with plenty of talent remaining.

New Orleans Saints 7.0 Over (Even) / Under (-130) — Another team with a tough early bye (Week 5), the Saints finally have decent preseason expectations. Drew Brees and Sean Payton are desperate, and the team definitely made the defense better in the offseason. Coby Fleener is an upgrade at tight end, but Brandin Cooks/Michael Thomas/Brandon Coleman/Willie Snead are the wideouts here. It’s possible to buy into defensive improvement but difficult to accept a massive leap forward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7.5 Over (+105) / Under (-135) — The shift on defense without Lovie Smith will be the telltale sign here. If the defense can get better — and they can, given the talent of Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David — this team could make a jump forward. Jameis Winston is a legit candidate to “take a leap,” and the offensive line will be more cohesive and experienced. Doug Martin and Charles Sims are dangerous, and Mike Evans is getting slept on as a guy who could have a big-time season.

Jerry Jones isn’t a considered a football guy. Yes, he played at the University of Arkansas, but he made his money in the oil business and bought the Cowboys in 1989. The team won three Super Bowls — in 1992, 1993 and 1995 — though, depending on who’s telling the story, Jimmy Johnson was responsible for building those rosters.

Jones and Johnson have differing accounts about who deserved credit for what, but the reality is this: Since 1997, Dallas has made the postseason seven times and managed a 2-7 record — including a stretch from 1998-2008 where they were winless.

Jones isn’t afraid to take risks others wouldn’t if it means getting the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl, but it’s also hard to take the man seriously when he admits that he really wanted to use a first-round pick on Johnny Manziel. Or that he said of Brandon Weeden last season, “You won’t see a more gifted passer.” Or that he’s now kicking himself for not overpaying to land Paxton Lynch in last week’s draft.

But it’s also why the Cowboys owner and general manager isn’t solely responsible for player-personnel decisions. In fact, much of that falls to Jones’ son, Stephen, who has done a masterful job of keeping his old man in check while also forcing other executives around the league to take notice.

One NFL general manager even went so far as to tell BleacherReport.com’s Mike Freeman that “The Cowboys are starting to scare me.”

And it has everything to do with Stephen’s voice (of reason) being the loudest in the room.

1. Ezekiel Elliott is already being paid like a Top-10 running back

The rookie wage scale implemented by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 is designed to prevent top draft picks from being paid like highly productive veterans as unproven commodities. Ezekiel Elliott, the fourth overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, may be the one exception because of the economic downturn with running back salaries.

The Ohio State product is expected to sign a fully guaranteed four-year, $24,956,338 contract, which includes a $16,350,064 signing bonus. Elliott’s $6,239,085 average yearly salary makes him the NFL’s ninth highest paid running back by this metric. His expected contract is slightly more than the reported best offer the Cowboys gave DeMarco Murray in 2015 as a free agent. Dallas was unwilling to pay Murray more than $24 million over four years with $12 million fully guaranteed after a 2014 season in which he lead the league in rushing by gaining 1,845 yards on the ground on 392 carries, the eighth-most ever in an NFL regular season.

This dynamic with the running back market didn’t exist in 2012 when the Cleveland Browns selected Trent Richardson with the third-overall pick. Richardson’s fully guaranteed four-year, $20,489,796 contract made him the NFL’s 16th-highest paid running back by average yearly salary. There were ten running backs signed to veteran contracts averaging over $7 million per year in 2012. Only five running backs currently top the $7 million per year mark.

Teams have a fifth-year option with first-round picks that must be exercised after the third year of a rookie contract. The decision on the option year wouldn’t need to be made until 2019 in Elliott’s case. As a top-10 pick, Elliott has the worst value for a fifth-year option relative to the salary structure at the various positions. His option-year salary, which will be the same as the running back transition tag, should be north of $10 million. This year’s running back transition tag is $9.647 million.