Broncos FB Andy Janovich Out For Season

Broncos fullback Andy Janovich is out for the season after suffering a dislocated elbow, according to Mike Klis of 9News. Janovich left Denver’s game earlier today against the Vikings. The Broncos burst out to an unexpected lead, but Minnesota eventually mounted a successful comeback, dropping Denver to 3-7 on the season.

While the fullback position was thought to be on its last legs a few years ago, players like Janovich have led to a resurgence in the position’s value as an all-around offensive weapon. Unlike 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, Janovich is not an exceptional athlete who offers substantial value catching passes out of the backfield. Instead, Janovich follows the traditional mold of players at his position as a strong blocker in both the running and passing game. While only catching four receptions on the season, Janovich consistently plays in around 30% of the team’s snaps when healthy.

Just over a month ago, Janovich agreed to a three-year, $5.7 MM contract extension with the team and remains in their long-term plans. However, with young quarterback Brandon Allen under center, the team will have to look for a short-term solution to help the team’s backfield.

East Notes: Bell, Schwartz, Garrett,

Jets running back Le’Veon Bell was part of one of the team’s most active offseason is in recent history. However, Bell may be putting on a new uniform as soon as next season, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN. Bell is in the midst of the worst statistical season of his career. Cimini details the various hurdles that will limit New York’s flexibility in finding a new option.

Bell’s guarantees will make it unpalatable for the Jets to simply release Bell and so Cimini suggests a trade following the Jadeveon Clowney model that allows the Jets to incur a smaller cap hit, while recouping some compensation for the 27-year old running back.

Here’s some more from around the NFC East:

  • Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may have the most power of any coordinator in the league, according to Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Schwartz has led one of the strongest defensive units in football over his tenure, but has insisted on maintaining a low profile. But, given the strength of the team’s success, the former Lions head coach may be in line for another opportunity at the helm of a franchise this offseason.
  • Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett held a meeting with the team’s players on Thursday where he took responsibility for some of the team’s recent shortcomings, according to Jane Slater of the NFL Network. Garrett has been on the hot seat for much of the season, although owner Jerry Jones has publicly remained confident in him, but has Dallas in the driver’s seat in the NFC East. According to Slater, the meeting was received well by the players and may be at least partially responsible for the team’s strong performance in their 35-27 victory in Detroit against the Lions.

Browns Notes: Johnson, Garrett Interview, Contract

Running back Duke Johnson was acquired by the Texans from the Browns earlier this year for a conditional draft pick. Johnson has met the conditions in the agreement so Cleveland will receive Houston’s third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Johnson was holding out for the duration of the offseason attempting to force his way out of Cleveland. The Browns honored his request in the first week of August after they found an amenable agreement with Houston. Since joining the Texans this season, Johnson has appeared in every game of the season for the Texans, rushing for 287 yards on 54 carries, while hauling in 22 receptions for 228 yards.

Here’s more from around the Browns notes:

  • Suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett had agreed to an interview with Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, but Cleveland’s higher ups called the first overall pick in the 2017 Draft into their office and told him he could not do the interview, per Glazer. After Garrett’s unprecedented fight against the Steelers, which included swinging a helmet at quarterback Mason Rudolph‘s bare head, it would obviously be valuable to hear from the rusher. However, the team is also working in its best interest being cautious with Garrett’s persona given the drama surrounding his current situation.
  • Garrett’s suspension will obviously cost him a substantial amount of money, but Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap details the specific ramifications for the young star. Fitzgerald notes that recent changes in rookie contract structures that have de-emphasized signing bonuses and placed more emphasis on base salaries has cost Garrett and could have ramifications for prospects in the future.

Marlon Mack Fractures Hand

Colts running back Marlon Mack suffered a right hand fracture during today’s 33-13 win against the Jaguars, but the severity will be determined after seeing specialists early this week, sources tell NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Rapoport goes on to say that he almost certainly won’t play Thursday against the Texans, but it’s up in the air beyond that. ESPN’s Adam Schefter also confirmed that Mack did indeed fracture his right hand, and that more tests will be done this week to determine whether or not he needs surgery and how long he will miss. Schefter goes on to say that Mack will not play Thursday night.

Mack, 23, has had a strong season for the Colts, coming into today’s game having rushing for 753 yards on 178 carries with three touchdowns. He also has proven to be a reliable pass blocker for Jacoby Brissett. Prior to fracturing his hand, Mack was on his way to a huge day, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown before exiting early in the third quarter. With Jordan Wilkins also sidelined due to an ankle issue, Jonathan Williams replaced Mack as the Colts’ early-down back in the game.

If Wilkins misses more time, Williams will most likely will step into that role come Thursday. In Mack’s absence, the former Buffalo fifth-round draft pick played well, rushing for 116 yards on 13 carries, while also making one reception for 31 yards.

Latest On Marvin Lewis

Former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is well-positioned to have numerous opportunities to continue his head coaching career in January of 2020, with several front offices viewing him as a top candidate in what could be a 2020 hiring cycle that prizes experience, league sources tell Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

Lewis, 61, who led the Bengals to a 131-122-3 record in 16 seasons, while making the playoffs seven times, was ready to take a step back from coaching for a while at the end of last season. He did not actively pursue jobs, although a few did have some appeal to him, and he was comfortable taking some time away from that particular grind, says La Canfora. La Canfora goes on to say that should the right opportunity arise, some close to Lewis believe he would indeed return to the NFL in 2020. He joined his friends Ray Anderson and Herm Edwards at Arizona State University as a special advisor back in May of this year.

This report by La Canfora differs from what Lewis was quoted as saying back in June, where he told Zach Gelb on CBS Sports Radio that he did not expect to coach again

Currently, eight coaches are in their first season with their respective teams, and 15 teams have hired new coaches since 2018. It’s unclear what potential job openings there will be besides the vacant Redskins job, which is currently held by interim coach Bill Callahan.

Lewis is seen as one of the most accomplished options available for teams looking to make a change at head coach, according to several executives and agents that La Canfora has reached out to, and has strong support from within the league office as well. In recent years, the new trend has been for teams to hire younger, more offensive-minded coaches, although most of the 2019 coaching class has generally struggled this year, with the Bengals being 0-9 under new coach Zac Taylor with a roster that featured a number of players Lewis led to a 6-10 record in 2018.

Prior to becoming the Bengals head coach, Lewis was a successful defensive coordinator, serving as the defensive coordinator for both the Ravens and Redskins before taking the Bengals head coaching job in 2003. After leaving the team last year, Lewis finished as the Bengals’ leader in wins as a coach, and his 131 wins rank 24th in regular season wins among NFL head coaches and 29th in all-time wins. With his track record, it would not be surprising to see Lewis back on the NFL sidelines in 2020.

 

Eagles Looking To Extend Core Players

Before the 2019 season ends, the Eagles are going to make a strong push to secure several core players, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. After inking key offensive lineman Brandon Brooks to a four-year extension on Monday, the Eagles are also in discussions to extend the contracts of tight end Zach Ertz, tackle Lane Johnson, and safety Malcolm Jenkins, league sources tell La Canfora.

All players have formed a stout and very effective core for Philadelphia, and Ertz and Johnson have been critical to the success of quarterback Carson Wentz, along with being a big part of their surprising Super Bowl LII win.

Ertz, 29, signed his last contract extension in January of 2015, one of several players to do so with the team prior to the end of that season, and has emerged as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He has also been a vital weapon for Wentz, particularly this season due to the injuries to their receivers. Ertz set a new single-season record for tight end receptions just last year and is currently under contract until 2021. 

Johnson, 29, is considered by some to be the best right tackle in football. He is powerful, athletic, and a critical player for the franchise. He has the ability to play left tackle if needed as well and is dominant in pass protection and run blocking. Signed until 2021, there is still some risk associated with signing Johnson, however, as he will be suspended for 32 games if he fails another PED test. Johnson failed his second, most recent PED test back in 2016, and was suspended for 10 games.

The soon to be 32-year-old Jenkins has emerged as a leader on the defense and is a proven play maker. The Eagles would undoubtedly like to keep him, however his age may play a role if the Eagles ultimately decide to not extend him. The three-time Pro Bowlers has made his desire for an extension well-known, as he said point blank that he feels like he has “outplayed” his contact back in June. In a down year, Jenkins has 39 tackles, without an interception, and is currently signed through 2020.

Conflict Between Vic Fangio, Coaching Staff?

The Broncos hoped that they would be competing for a playoff spot this year, but they are 3-6, are in last place in the AFC West, and their starting QB, Brandon Allen, just played his first regular season game two weeks ago (though he did win it).

As such, Denver’s playoff hopes are quite slim, and apparently head coach Vic Fangio isn’t helping matters. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, there has been consistent conflict between Fangio and his staff, and even between Fangio and some of his players (like veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded to the 49ers last month).

La Canfora’s sources say that the relationship between Fangio and his offensive assistants is particularly troubling, with Fangio quick to dispute offensive play calls. The 61-year-old, who is in his first season as a head coach, can reportedly come across as overbearing on the headsets, and one source said, “[t]here is a negative reaction to almost every offensive play call.” Another source was more blunt, saying, “[p]retty much everyone gets treated like crap.”

Of course, the roster that GM John Elway has put together is deeply flawed, and Fangio cannot be held entirely culpable for the lack of production he has gotten from the quarterback position and the offensive line. La Canfora does not offer any speculation as to whether Elway will consider firing Fangio after the 2019 season, but the fact that Elway stuck by former HC Vance Joseph — who was clearly in over his head — for two seasons suggests that Fangio may get a chance to right the ship and work on his people skills in 2020.

That is especially true given that the team’s defense has generally performed well, which reflects well on the defensive-minded Fangio. But if the team can’t get its QB situation figured out — and Elway has not shown that he is capable of finding a franchise signal-caller — 2020 may not go much better than 2019 has.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matthew Stafford Could Miss Six Weeks

Lions QB Matthew Stafford has fractured bones in his back, and as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes, the injury could keep Stafford sidelined for six more weeks.

Schefter says Stafford will not necessarily miss the next six games, but the fact that it’s a six-week injury underscores just how much pain Stafford was playing through before team doctors shut him down for last week’s game against the Bears. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com also hears that the 2009 No. 1 overall pick could miss an additional six games, though the plan is for him to have another scan this week to get a more accurate timeline. Per Rapoport, there is a chance Stafford could return for next week’s matchup against the Redskins, but that doesn’t sound particularly likely.

What neither Schefter nor Rapoport say is that the Lions could choose to keep Stafford sidelined for the rest of the year if Detroit’s playoff hopes continue to fade. The Lions are currently 3-5-1 and are in last place in the NFC North, so even with a healthy Stafford, the club would be a longshot to qualify for the postseason. Assuming Detroit can’t make up any ground with Jeff Driskel under center, the team would be wise to not jeopardize Stafford’s long-term health for no reason.

Of course, head coach Matt Patricia could be on the hot seat, so he doubtlessly wants Stafford to return as quickly as possible. But considering how well Stafford has played this year even with the injury, preserving him for 2020 may be in the team’s best interests.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colin Kaepernick’s Agent Not Optimistic Kaepernick Will Be Signed

Prior to Saturday’s much-ballyhooed showcase for free agent QB Colin Kaepernick, two primary points of contention emerged between the league and Kaepernick’s camp: the waiver that the league wanted Kaepernick to sign, and the fact that the league did not allow Kaepernick to bring in an independent film crew to tape the workout.

The waiver issue sparked a great deal of debate, with prominent writers like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggesting that the NFL was trying to back Kaepernick into a corner by making him sign a non-standard waiver that would have had him release any employment-related claims that might have arisen after the two sides settled Kaepernick’s collusion case in February. However, as Mike Jones of USA Today writes, the language of the league’s proposed waiver was very similar to language included in waivers for other rookie camps and free agent tryouts, and after reviewing the waiver itself, Florio did back off of his earlier argument a bit. He believes that, while the NFL’s waiver did not specifically target employment-related claims, Kaepernick’s camp was right to at least be skeptical of certain provisions in the waiver.

But Steve Wyche of the NFL Network, citing Kaepernick’s agent, Jeff Nalley, says that the independent filming issue — and not the waiver issue — was the more pressing concern (Twitter link). The consensus among most NFL writers and analysts appears to be that both the NFL and Kaepernick’s team share some of the blame for the fact that the workout did not go particularly smoothly. Indeed, as Jim Trotter of the NFL Network tweets, the league should not have announced the workout prior to resolving all potential areas of conflict, but Kaepernick should have accepted that he can’t call every shot.

Similarly, Jones opines that Kaepernick did not prove that he can carry himself with flexibility and professionalism, and he did not prove that he can take care of business with minimal fanfare. The fact that he inconvenienced over 20 NFL scouts by changing the workout location at the last minute does nothing to undermine the arguments of his detractors who believe he is not fully committed to playing again unless it’s entirely on his terms.

Perhaps as a result of that reality, Nalley says he is not optimistic that his client will sign with an NFL team (video link via Wyche). Nalley does appreciate the fact that the NFL was able to assemble a large contingent of clubs willing to at least give Kaepernick a look, and he concedes that it could be a step in the right direction.

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com passes along a scouting report of the workout itself, which is mostly positive except that it suggests Kaepernick’s accuracy and touch were shaky, especially on deep balls (Twitter link). The report indicated that Kaepernick is good enough to be on an NFL roster, but probably as a backup.

Meanwhile, although the Bills were initially reported Sunday morning as the “mystery team” that followed Kaepernick to the new workout location — only eight of the original 25 clubs that agreed to attend at the original site made the trek to the new site — Schefter says Buffalo did not, in fact, have any reps in attendance (Twitter link). As such, we’re still awaiting word on who the mystery team was.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns-Steelers Brawl

The NFL has suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Garrett will appeal the ban (Twitter link).

In case you haven’t heard, Garrett was the central figure in a horrific melee that broke out in the final moments of Thursday night’s contest between the Steelers and Browns. While both fanbases certainly have their own perspective on the matter, it’s clear that Garrett unnecessarily drove Steelers QB Mason Rudolph into the ground after Rudolph released a pass. The play could have been flagged — and may have been if the game were in doubt at that point or if there were more then eight seconds left — and Rudolph took exception to it.

Rudolph grabbed at Garrett’s helmet and kicked out at him, which caused Garrett to escalate the scuffle beyond what anyone could have reasonably expected, yanking Rudolph’s helmet off of him and striking him over the head with it. That naturally led to a scrum between both clubs that saw Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (three games) and Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi (one game) receive suspensions. Rudolph, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi were all fined, and obviously Garrett will be fined as well.

As Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, more fines will be coming for Rudolph and others. While NFL head of football operations Troy Vincent and his team initially reviewed the footage of the brawl with a focus on who committed offenses worthy of a suspension, they will now comb through the tape to determine the full amount of fines (and what other players may deserve them). Vincent says there will certainly be another wave of fines on the way, and both the Steelers and Browns have been hit with $250K sanctions.

Adam Schefter of ESPN.com says the appeals for Garrett, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi will be heard on Monday and Tuesday by jointly-appointed officers Derrick Brooks and James Thrash. The rulings are expected no later than Wednesday. Schefter adds in a separate report that at least 10 players will be fined, and that the announcement will be issued next weekend.

Per Rapoport, Garrett’s camp will argue that the CBA does not allow for indefinite suspensions for on-field acts and that the league should impose a ban for a finite number of games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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