Saints Work Out Offensive Linemen

The Saints are worked out a handful of offensive linemen on Tuesday, according to a league source who spoke with Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune. It stands to reason that the Saints will sign at least one lineman given the injuries suffered by center Max Unger and Jermon Bushrod on Monday night.

Unger was forced out of Monday’s win over the Panthers with a concussion and Bushrod’s hamstring injury landed him on the sidelines. After that, the Saints were forced to turn to Cameron Tom and Will Clapp to fill in the front five. The Saints were pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel against their divisional rivals, especially since they were already without left tackle Terron Armstead, who has been out for five straight games.

Offensive tackle Nick Becton, who was in camp with the Saints in 2014 and 2015, was among those to audition. The other players are not yet known, but they’re unlikely to be major names. At this point in the season, it’s slim pickins.

The Saints effectively clinched a first-round bye by beating the Panthers on Monday night, but they may need the additional bodies to get through the final two weeks of the season and fortify their bench for the playoffs.

Titans Place Logan Ryan On IR

It’s official now. On Tuesday, the Titans placed cornerback Logan Ryan on season-ending injured reserve. 

Ryan suffered a broken fibula on Sunday, which automatically 86’d him for the season. It’s a bad blow for the Titans, who are still fighting for a playoff spot with two games remaining in the regular season. Through 15 weeks of action, the 27-year-old had a career high of four sacks plus 76 tackles and eight passes defensed.

Without Ryan, the Titans will need some vintage performances from Malcolm Butler and quality support from reserves Leshaun Sims and Joshua Kalu. Adoree’ Jackson, who is having the best season of any Titans corner, now stands as the club’s unquestioned CB1.

To help fill the void, the Titans promoted cornerback Kenneth Durden from the practice squad to the active roster. Durden, 26, appeared in five games for the Titans earlier this year, and those contests represent the entirety of his NFL experience.

The Titans, without Ryan, face the Redskins this week before a crucial showdown with the Colts in Week 17.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Teams Eyeing Colts’ Matt Eberflus

The Colts are surging and the rest of the league is taking notice. At least two teams are doing homework on Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as a possibility to become their next head coach, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears.

Eberflus was the Cowboys’ linebackers coach for seven seasons before signing on to be the Colts’ defensive coordinator under Josh McDaniels in January. When McDaniels bailed, the Colts resolved to do right by Eberflus and the other assistants who had already inked contracts with the team. It was a stand-up move by the organization and it paid off big time.

After an abysmal 1-5 start, the Colts have rallied to win seven of their last eight games and put themselves squarely in the playoff hunt. Their latest win – a 23-0 romp over Eberflus’ last employer – further underscored the talents of the 48-year-old defensive guru.

If the Colts can top the Giants and Titans in the next two weeks, they’ll likely land in the playoffs and complete one of the most improbable turnarounds in NFL history. If that happens, the Colts may have to search for a new defensive coordinator in the offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Harris, Ray, Joseph

Here’s the latest out of Denver:

  • It’s “very possible” that cornerback Chris Harris will be placed on injured reserve this week, coach Vance Joseph told reporters (Twitter link via Mike Klis of 9News). Harris, 29, suffered a fractured fibula on Dec. 2, but the team wanted to keep its options open in case he would be needed for the playoffs. At 6-8, the Broncos have been mathematically eliminated from contention, so there’s little reason to put Harris in harm’s way.
  • Linebacker Shane Ray was a healthy scratch for the first in his career on Saturday and he didn’t hide his frustration when speaking with local beat writers on Monday. “Little disrespectful, but that’s all good, I don’t think I’ve been (a healthy) inactive in my whole career,” Ray said. “Whatever reason they felt I need to be inactive, that’s on them.” When asked if he’ll appear in the Broncos’ final two games of the season, Ray replied, “Y’all got to ask Vance Joseph that.” The Broncos declined Ray’s fifth-year option back in May and it seems unlikely that the 2015 first-round pick will return to Denver next year. Multiple wrist surgeries cost Ray eight games in 2017 and the Broncos seem prepared to move on.
  • Joseph is on the hot seat, but Mike Shanahan is not expected to garner consideration if the Broncos conduct a search for a new head coach.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Collins, Gurley, Panthers

Providing an interesting flashback, Nick Foles engineered the Eagles to a big win Sunday night. He is going to be Philadelphia’s starter next week against the Texans, Doug Pederson said Monday. However, unlike last season, Carson Wentz is not headed to IR after what is viewed as a season-ending injury, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The third-year starter is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a back problem, so an IR trip would make sense — unless the Eagles want Wentz around in case he can make a surprise recovery or be an emergency quarterback. Pederson added that the Eagles will not put Wentz in harm’s way. The Eagles remain committed to the former No. 2 overall pick, who is eligible for an extension at season’s end. Foles, though, has started during the team’s biggest wins the past two years and will have another chance to build a unique free agency case. Foles’ contract expires after the season.

The latest from the NFC here, continuing with a key Giants offseason decision:

  • Landon Collins is rehabbing an injury that is expected to impact him well into the offseason. The Giants safety said he risked further damage to his injured shoulder by continuing to play, though he said during an appearance on The Michael Kay Show (via ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan, on Twitter) he would have considered staying on the field if the Giants had beaten the Eagles to stay in a more realistic playoff pursuit at the time. Collins’ contract expires soon, and the Giants are not believed to have engaged in extension talks with him yet. Collins, though, would prefer to stay in New York and is, as of now, expecting to return (Twitter link via Raanan). The franchise tag — expected to be worth approximately $11.2MM for safeties — is likely, Raanan adds.
  • Another high-profile player might not be back with his current employer. Matt Kalil signed a somewhat surprising five-year, $55MM Panthers contract in 2017, and that deal still has guarantees going into 2019. The Panthers would be tagged with $14.7MM in dead-money charges if they released Kalil next year — and such a move would not net Carolina anything in cap savings — but The Athletic’s Joe Person notes (subscription required) the current sense is Kalil will be released. The Panthers have a new owner in David Tepper, and the GM that authorized the Kalil contract, Dave Gettleman, is now with the Giants. So, a cut-your-losses maneuver would add up more compared to if the decision-makers behind the contract were still in place. Kalil has spent all season on IR.
  • Todd Gurley‘s knee injury surely terrified millions of fantasy owners, and it would throw another wrench in a slumping Rams attack. But Sean McVay said Monday (via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry, on Twitter) Gurley is day-to-day with knee inflammation. This does not mean the All-Pro running back is a lock to face the Cardinals on Sunday, but it appears Gurley has dodged a multi-week injury and will be fine for the playoffs at the latest.
  • Greg Olsen underwent foot surgery on Monday, Person tweets. The Panthers’ Pro Bowl tight end said the procedure went well. Olsen is signed through the 2020 season, but the foot trouble that’s plagued him may not make it a lock he returns next year.

NFL Workout Updates: 12/17/18

Here is the latest from the workout circuit, all links going to NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account (unless otherwise noted)

Jacksonville Jaguars

Minnesota Vikings

  • K Ty Long (CFL tryout), LB Alex Singleton (CFL tryout) (link)

New York Jets

  • LB Jameer Thurman (CFL tryout), LB James Vaughters (CFL tryout) (link)

Philadelphia Eagles

Mike Shanahan Not Option For Broncos HC?

The NFL news cycle had not seen Mike Shanahan-Broncos overlap in many years, but Monday brought that, with a report indicating the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach was a consideration for the Broncos late last year.

With the Broncos likely set to have a coaching vacancy soon, Shanahan would conceivably be in play for a Broncos reunion this time around. But that does not appear to be the case. The 66-year-old coach will not be among the candidates considered if/when the Broncos fire Vance Joseph, Mike Klis of 9News reports.

John Elway‘s hesitance in giving Joseph his second season was partially Shanahan-related, but Broncos president Joe Ellis was less on-board than the GM, ultimately nixing the idea. However, the talks for Shanahan to reclaim his post as Broncos HC did not go too far, with The Athletic’s Nicki Jhabvala reporting (subscription required) Ellis did not directly refute the idea of Shanahan 2.0. The Elway-Ellis talks regarding Shanahan were not especially formal, Jhabvala notes, adding no offer or deal framework was discussed.

This news called into question who was making the final football decisions in Denver, but Jhabvala notes the GM, and not Ellis, is still the point man on football operations. Ellis did give Elway the go-ahead to fire Joseph after last season if he so chose, but that a thorough coaching search be conducted rather than rehiring Shanahan. That said, Ellis did not want Shanahan to be part of the search. And it appears that stance remains.

The Broncos fired Shanahan after 14 seasons in 2008. He has not coached since his Redskins tenure ended after the 2013 campaign. Part of this Shanahan-return talk involved Kirk Cousins, with Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette reporting Shanahan and his former pupil met during the offseason, Cousins indicating he would follow Shanahan to Denver at a reduced rate. However, Jhabvala refutes this, writing Cousins did not meet with Shanahan nor discuss a discount Broncos setup.

Denver then went with Case Keenum for Joseph’s second year, and while the results have been better than they were in 2017, injuries and some maligned in-game coaching decisions have weakened this year’s team. Joseph, who met with Elway on Monday about the Shanahan reports, is 11-19 in two years. Joseph will not be fired before the season ends, Klis adds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Frank Gore To Miss Rest Of Season

Fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, Frank Gore will not have any additional chances to add to his historic total this season.

The Dolphins running back will be out the rest of the way with a mid-foot sprain suffered Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Monday tests revealed the extent of this injury, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, and Gore’s first season with his hometown team will end after 14 games.

It’s uncertain as to whether Gore will require surgery, with Rapoport adding that decision won’t come for a bit. The bigger question pertains to Gore’s future. He is 35 (36 in May) and playing on an expiring contract. But few NFL running backs have ever exhibited this kind of durability and consistency. Gore has not missed a game since the 2010 season and has only failed to hit the 14-game barrier in one of his 14 NFL seasons.

He said in November he was going year-to-year with his career. Despite his age, it would not be surprising if Gore was back for a 15th season. A return would give Gore (14,748 yards) a reasonable chance at surpassing Barry Sanders for third place on the all-time rushing list.

With Miami this year, Gore bounced back and finished his slate with 722 rushing yards. That’s the fifth-most by anyone in an age-35 season, behind John Riggins, John Henry Johnson, Emmitt Smith and Marcus Allen. While that does not eclipse his Colts totals — 900-plus ground yards in each of those three campaigns — Gore was better on a per-play basis. His 4.6 yards per carry are the most since his 2012 Pro Bowl season. Gore leads the Dolphins in rushing by a substantial margin over backfield mate Kenyan Drake.

Drake and rookie Kalen Ballage will be the primary backs going forward for the Dolphins, who remain in playoff contention. Though, with three 8-6 teams, the 7-7 Fins need a lot of help if they are to make it two postseason berths in the past three years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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