AFC East Notes: Gronk, Hightower, Dolphins

It’s been an eventful 24 hours in the AFC East, where the Dolphins fired their offensive coordinator and the Patriots lost their undefeated season, along with key players on both sides of the ball. We’ve got updates on those injuries sustained by New England players on Sunday night, so let’s dive in and round up the latest from out of the AFC East….

  • As first reported late last night by Dianna Marie Russini of ESPN (Twitter link), Rob Gronkowski‘s knee injury isn’t believed to be as serious as it initially looked. Many reporters have since echoed that notion, with one source tells Adam Schefter of (Twitter link) that “we think he is going to be OK.” The star tight end still has to undergo tests today, but Ian Rapoport of tweets that the Patriots don’t think there’s any structural damage to Gronkowski’s knee, and hope he won’t miss much time.
  • On the defensive side, the early diagnosis for Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is an MCL sprain, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network (Twitter link). If there’s no further damage to Hightower’s knee, that injury shouldn’t end the linebacker’s season, though he’d probably have to miss some time — a sprained MCL generally results in a recovery time of two to four weeks.
  • An ESPN report on Sunday suggested that Quinton Coples was involved in an incident on the Jets‘ flight back from Houston last week, which was part of the reason for his release. However, Coples and Jets head coach Todd Bowles both denied that was the case, according to Brian Costello of the New York Post. “I don’t know where that came from,” Coples said. “Only thing is I didn’t fit with the defense.”
  • Before this morning’s firing of Lazor, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald wrote that the Dolphins are in trouble “from top to bottom,” calling this year’s team the worst for the franchise since 2007.
  • In addition to the other changes to the Dolphins‘ coaching staff today, the club has also promoted Phil McGeoghan to wide receivers coach, according to the team (Twitter link).

Dolphins Fire OC Bill Lazor

After the team’s latest disappointing loss on Sunday to the Jets, the Dolphins have made another change to their coaching staff, reports Thayer Evans of (Twitter link). According to Thayer, Miami has fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Ian Rapoport of confirms the decision, tweeting that “massive changes” are on the way for the Dolphins.

Having replaced head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle earlier in the year, the Dolphins have now fired their head coach and their coordinators on both sides of the ball since the regular season began. As such, many of the “massive changes” alluded to by Rapoport seem to have already taken place, but perhaps the reporter is suggesting that the roster will also be undergoing a significant overhaul in the near future.

At the very least, given the results for interim head coach Dan Campbell since his hot start, it seems likely that the Dolphins will hire an external candidate for the permanent head coaching job in the offseason, and that new coach will likely bring in his own coordinators and assistants from outside the organization as well.

As for Lazor, a report last week indicated that at least one Dolphins official had “privately questioned” whether the OC’s system was suited for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has struggled this season after signing a long-term extension. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald noted at the time that an offensive coordinator change wouldn’t surprise anyone, and just a few days later, the team has indeed made that change.

With Lazor out of the picture, quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will take over Miami’s OC job for the rest of the 2015 season, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

AFC Notes: Collins, Manning, Browns

Star linebacker Jamie Collins has been out of the Patriots’ lineup since the end of October because of an illness, one that president Jonathan Kraft isn’t worried will spread throughout the team, per Mike Petraglia of WEEI.

“Jamie’s getting better and getting stronger every day,” Kraft said Sunday. “I know people in non-football life that end up with really bad viruses and get knocked out of their professional lives for a while.”

Continued Kraft, “This was something that doesn’t have us worried about the physical infrastructure at the facility. There wasn’t anything related to Jamie’s issues that had anything to do with the facility.”

Kraft’s words indicate that Collins’ illness isn’t MRSA, a staph infection-causing disease that has affected NFL teams in the past. Most recently, it ended the season of Giants tight end Daniel Fells in October.

Collins returned to practice Friday, so it appears he’ll be back in game action sometime this season.

And now a look at some of the Patriots’ AFC counterparts, including their Sunday night opponent:

  • Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, currently on the shelf because of a plantar fascia injury, is eager to return to the field as soon as possible. The team doesn’t share in his eagerness, though, and it’s causing friction between the two sides, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. Regarding the possibility of a healthy Manning backing up Brock Osweiler, a source told La Canfora, “We know this much — he’s not going to go quietly. He’s going to have to be dealt with.”
  • After briefly losing his job to Johnny Manziel, Josh McCown is back as the Browns’ starting quarterback – which he’s ambivalent about, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. While McCown relishes playing again, he isn’t pleased that his opportunity comes at the expense of Manziel – whom the Browns benched because of off-field issues. “You understand that you have a job to do, and the coaches make the decision and tell you you’re playing and you move forward accordingly,” said McCown. “But at the same time, I’m in the room with [Manziel] every day, and we’ve built a relationship. I’m a big advocate of his and a fan and a friend as well.”
  • The Browns have noteworthy free agents-to-be in safety Tashaun Gipson, tight end Gary Barnidge and receiver Travis Benjamin. If they only re-sign one, it should be the 25-year-old Gipson, writes Tom Reed of Gipson hasn’t been as sharp this season after leading the AFC in interceptions in 2013 and ’14, which could drop his price. That’s something Reed believes the Browns should look to capitalize on after they couldn’t reach a long-term deal with Gipson last offseason, when he was coming off a Pro Bowl campaign.

NFC Notes: Ryan, Lynch, Giants, Quarless

The Falcons started the season 5-0 and looked like a surefire playoff team, but they’ve lost five of their last six games to drop to 6-5. Their postseason hopes are now in serious jeopardy, and one reason for their skid is the lackluster play of quarterback Matt Ryan. During their four-game losing streak, the Falcons have averaged fewer than 17 points per game and Ryan has thrown just seven touchdowns against six interceptions. Two of those picks came in a crucial 20-10 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. Afterward, owner Arthur Blank and head coach Dan Quinn expressed confidence in Ryan, a three-time Pro Bowler who has been the Falcons’ QB since they drafted him third overall in 2008.

“He’s demonstrated his abilities over eight years. He’ll be fine. He’ll be good,” Blank said, according to Vaughn McClure of

Added Quinn, who said he isn’t thinking about benching Ryan or anyone else, “He’s absolutely the competitor that I want. He’s what we look for and our team looks for the whole way.”

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Whether he retires or the Seahawks simply decide to move on from him, there’s a good chance Marshawn Lynch is in his final year in Seattle, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports. Lynch underwent groin surgery earlier this week and it’s possible he’ll end up on season-ending IR in a month if the team decides he’s not ready to return. Regardless, from an on-field standpoint, the five-time Pro Bowler has become less essential to the Seahawks’ offense with the emergence of rookie Thomas Rawls. From a business standpoint, cutting Lynch would save Seattle $6.5MM on its cap in 2016 and $10.5MM in ’17.
  • Don’t expect Giants general manager Jerry Reese to be a fall guy if they miss the playoffs, tweets ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
  • The Packers – who are in desperate need of weapons in their passing game – are close to getting injured tight end Andrew Quarless back, per Weston Hodkiewicz of the Press-Gazette. Quarless has been on the shelf since tearing his ACL in Week 3, and head coach Mike McCarthy said he could practice in the coming week. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be active for Green Bay’s game against Detroit on Thursday, however.

Jimmy Graham Out For Season With Patellar Tendon Injury

The Seahawks stayed in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt with a 39-30 win over the Steelers on Sunday, but the victory comes with bad news. Tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a patellar tendon injury during the game and will undergo season-ending surgery, according to head coach Pete Carroll (Twitter link via the team). The recovery timeline will be six to nine months, per Dr. David Chao of SiriusXM (Twitter link).

Prior to departing in the fourth quarter, Graham was having one of his best games of 2015 with four receptions for 75 yards. He had to be carted off the field with an air cast on his right leg after landing awkwardly on an incomplete pass in Pittsburgh’s end zone.

Graham finishes the season, his first in Seattle, with 48 catches for 605 yards and two touchdowns. Considering what Seattle gave up for Graham in the offseason – center Max Unger and a first-round pick – it was a disappointing campaign for the three-time Pro Bowler. The ex-Saint came to the Seahawks fresh off four straight seasons of at least 85 catches and 880-plus yards, also racking up a prolific 46 touchdowns during that span.

While Graham’s production tailed off this season, he’s still a big loss for quarterback Russell Wilson and the 6-5 Seahawks – who will continue fighting for their playoff lives over the final five weeks. Graham is currently second on the Seahawks in both receptions and yards, trailing only wideout Doug Baldwin. The team’s second-most productive tight end, Luke Wilson, has just 12 catches this year.

Week In Review: 11/22/15 – 11/29/15

The headlines from the past week at PFR:

Key News:








PFR Originals: 11/22/15 – 11/29/15

The original content and analysis produced by the PFR staff during the past week:

  • Luke Adams took a look at the 2016 cap outlook for the Ravens. The big question the team faces is how to restructure Joe Flacco‘s cap hit in order to clear some room for free agency. Will Hill is also a candidate for an extension, and Dennis Pitta is likely to either be cut or have his salary reduced.
  • In our Community Tailgate series, we post topics for discussion and encourage readers to share their thoughts in the comments section. The issues covered this week:

Geoff Schwartz Leaves Game With Fractured Leg

Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz exited the contest versus Washington with a fractured lower leg. He has been ruled out, and will be heading to injured reserve according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (via Twitter).

The Giants will likely look to add an offensive lineman during the week, either in free agency or from their practice squad.

The entire offensive line has been finding it difficult to stay on the field. Former first-round pick Justin Pugh was already ruled out for today with a concussion, the second-straight game he missed with that injury. Schwartz had already moved to left guard to compensate for that. Center Weston Richburg is also missing with a high ankle sprain.

John Jerry, Dallas Reynolds, and rookie Bobby Hart are seeing unexpected playing time because of the rash of injuries to the interior of the offensive line. In fact, other that the two starting offensive tackles, backup Emmett Cleary is the only other offensive lineman on the active roster.

Schwartz struggled with injury for the Giants last year, when he played in only two games after signing a not insignificant free agent contract the previous offseason. The team has yet to get a return on investment for the four-year deal worth $16.8MM and $6.2MM guaranteed. If this injury is indeed season ending, it could put his future with the team in jeopardy.

Sunday Roundup: Marrone, Martin, Keenum

As the afternoon games get underway, let’s take a look at some news and notes from around the league:

  • We heard earlier today that Jaguars OL coach Doug Marrone will be viewed as a top head coaching candidate this offseason, and Mike Florio of explains why. As Florio writes, Marrone, who became available after opting to terminate his relationship with Buffalo last year, came on the market “a little too unexpectedly” for teams to scrap their existing plans at the time. Now, however, with a high number of potential head coaching vacancies and a relatively small number of truly qualified candidates, Marrone will be an attractive option, especially given that the Bills are doing less (record-wise) with more talent under Rex Ryan than they did under Marrone.
  • Former NFL agent Joel Corry tweets that there is no need to speculate as to whether the Buccaneers will put the franchise tag on Doug Martin, as the nearly $12MM cap number for a franchised running back is too steep in today’s NFL. The last time the tag was used on an RB was in 2012, when the Ravens tagged Ray Rice and the Bears tagged Matt Forte. The cap number for a franchised RB at the time was $7.7MM.
  • ESPN’s Chris Mortensen tweets that, even though the NFL has apparently closed the book on whether the Rams should be penalized for last week’s concussion controversy surrounding Case Keenum, the NFL Players Association is continuing its own investigation.
  • In his latest mailbag, Tony Grossi of looks at what the Browns might expect to receive if they were to trade Johnny Manziel at this point, and he notes that the best the Browns could hope for is a future pick conditioned on Manziel’s active status and number of starts.
  • After the Lions promoted Isa Abdul-Quddus to a starting role and moved James Ihedigbo to the bench, they began to see a noticeable improvement from the back end of their defense, as Kyle Meinke of observes. Abdul-Quddus is not as physical as Ihedigbo, but he covers much more ground and has established himself as a quality option in the team’s secondary, particularly in light of the recent injury to Glover Quin. Adbul-Quddus, who signed a one-year deal with Detroit last year, may be putting himself in line for a multi-year pact this offseason.
  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News examines the futures for Cowboys defensive backs Byron Jones and Morris Claiborne, predicting that Dallas plans to move Jones to safety moving forward, thereby increasing the likelihood that the team retains Claiborne.
  • In a series of three articles, Jason Fitzgerald of reexamines the Eagles‘ offseason decisions, offers his thoughts on the Jets‘ rebuilding process, and previews the 2016 class of free agent tight ends.

Jets Waive Quinton Coples

SUNDAY, 11:07am: Per Rich Cimini of, Coples was involved in an incident on the Jets’ return flight from Houston last Saturday, which ultimately sealed his fate with the club. The nature of the incident is unclear, but this report adds another layer to what was initially painted as a simple lack of schematic fit. Bowles has clearly established himself as a no-nonsense coach during his first year at the helm, and Cimini writes that his decision to waive Coples rattled the locker room. Bob Glauber of Newsday agrees and believes the move increased the team’s respect for Bowles.

MONDAY, 11:10am: The Jets have made a somewhat surprising roster move, announcing today in a press release that they have parted ways with former first-round pick Quinton Coples, placing the outside linebacker on waivers. If Coples goes unclaimed, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent tomorrow.

Coples, selected 16th overall in the 2012 draft, had his best year as a pro in 2014, but even that amounted to just 35 tackles and 6.5 sacks, modest totals for a first-round pass rusher. Since Todd Bowles took over as the Jets’ head coach, Coples has become increasingly marginalized. As Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News observed this morning (via Twitter), the 25-year-old played just five snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Texans, and clearly wasn’t a fit in the current defensive scheme.

The Jets had picked up Coples’ fifth-year option for 2016 back in April, but his $7.751MM salary for next year was guaranteed for injury only, so New York won’t have to pay it. If another team decides to claim Coples off waivers, that club would have to take on his current contract, including that option. As such, it would be somewhat risky to claim him and play him for the remainder of this season, since that 2016 salary could become fully guaranteed if he suffers a major injury. The linebacker’s $1.515MM salary for 2015 is also fully guaranteed, so a club claiming him would be on the hook for the final six weeks at that rate.

While Coples’ performance in 2015 won’t necessarily earn him another shot right away, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him generate some interest, particularly if he clears waivers and becomes a free agent. Considering he played under Rex Ryan for the first three years of his NFL career, Coples may appeal to the Bills.

NFL News & NFL Rumors