Month: September 2018

Extra Points: Jets-Pats, Browns, Hardy, Winston

It was reported Friday that NFL officials swept the Jets’ locker room and questioned three Patriots employees during their matchup last Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The report stated that the sweep came via request by the Jets, who were concerned that the stadium’s operations and radio frequencies weren’t up to par. Though the Jets subsequently denied having any involvement, a source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that the league informed the Pats that “a team” did ask for it to happen. New England believes the Jets are that team, Florio reports, which should add to an already heated rivalry.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stressed patience over the summer regarding his club’s rebuild, but the team is 2-5 and matters could worsen with several playoff-caliber opponents on the schedule over the final nine games of the season. A marked regression from last year’s 7-9 finish might force Haslam to consider making changes, writes Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Those changes could begin in the front office and cost second-year general manager Ray Farmer his job.
  • While the Cowboys have expressed a desire to give defensive end Greg Hardy a contract extension, the Dallas Morning News’ Tim Cowlishaw doesn’t think a new deal would make sense for either side right now. The Cowboys would be taking a substantial risk in signing Hardy just two games into his career with them, as they aren’t yet aware of whether he’s capable of staying out of trouble off the field. In Hardy’s case, he’ll have plenty of offseason suitors if he can behave himself until then. That would obviously up the 27-year-old’s asking price.
  • Since playing arguably the worst game of his young career in an Oct. 4 loss to Carolina, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has turned in back-to-back terrific performances, connecting on 34 of 48 passes for 500-plus yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is impressed with the progression of Winston, the No. 1 pick in last spring’s draft, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “Jameis is growing fast,” Koetter said.

West Notes: Manning, Cards RBs, Hayne

Surprisingly, the success of the 6-0 Broncos this season has come more in spite of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning than because of him. The 39-year-old is having his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign, 1998, when he threw more interceptions (28) than touchdowns (26), averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt and put up a 71.2 passer rating. In 2015, he has also tossed more picks than scores (10 to seven), posted a subpar YPA (6.43) and a poor rating (72.5). Nevertheless, he has a defender in AZCentral.com’s Bob McManaman, who writes that it’s too soon to jump off the Manning bandwagon as he and the Broncos get ready for a clash with 6-0 Green Bay on Sunday.

McManaman believes a change in offensive scheme (from Adam Gase‘s to Gary Kubiak‘s), a lesser O-line, and the offseason loss of touchdown-catching tight end Julius Thomas have hindered Manning in his 18th season and made him look worse than he really is. Whether McManaman is right is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that Manning has the worst rating in the league among qualified starters.

Now to the NFC West:

  • After signing an inexpensive deal for one year with the Cardinals during the summer, running back Chris Johnson has revitalized his career as a key part of an elite team. The 30-year-old currently has the second-highest yards-per-carry average of his career (5.1) to go along with three touchdowns. While Johnson could stand to cash in during the offseason as a result of his renaissance this year, that isn’t on his mind. “I’m not even thinking about my contract,” he said, per Dan Bickley of AZCentral.com. “At the end of the day, I’m just happy to be playing football again. At one point, I thought that would never happen.”
  • Thanks to Johnson’s excellent play, fellow Cardinals runner Andre Ellington has barely figured into their offensive game plan this season. Ellington has 90 fewer carries than Johnson (21 compared to 111), but the Cards will look to get the third-year man more involved this week against the Browns’ last-ranked run defense, writes Kevin Patra of NFL.com. “I think BA (head coach Bruce Arians) has stuff for him and he didn’t get to it, but I’m sure he’ll get to it this week,” said offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.
  • The reasons the 49ers cut Jarryd Hayne on Saturday, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter): 1. They didn’t trust him to pick up blitzes as a running back. 2. He had major issues with ball security as a return man. Despite those flaws, the 49ers will try to sign Hayne to their practice squad Monday, per Branch.

NFC Notes: 49ers, JPP, Lions, Bears

A quick look around the NFC…

  • If the 49ers – losers of five of their first seven games – continue their downward spiral through the rest of the season, first-year head coach Jim Tomsula and his staff (notably offensive coordinator Geep Chryst and defensive coordinator Eric Mangini) could end up as the fall guys, per Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. While general manager Trent Baalke and quarterback Colin Kaepernick may also be under fire, Maiocco believes both have built up credit within the organization via past accomplishments. Thus, they have better odds than the coaches of remaining with the Niners in 2016.
  • Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, finally back with the team after a July 4 fireworks accident that cost him his right index finger, is confident his injury won’t affect his on-field performance. “There’s not going to be a major adjustment. As far as my hand goes, I’ll get used to it. I’m just fortunate to play football again,” Pierre-Paul said, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “The day I walked in here I already won. People said I was going to be out for the whole season,” the 26-year-old added. Pierre-Paul won’t play in the Giants-Saints game Sunday and it’s unclear at the moment when he’ll make his season debut.
  • New Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter had past run-ins with the law in Knoxville – a DUI in 2006 and an aggravated burglary charge in 2009 – but the records of his arrests mysteriously vanished, according to Robert Allen of the Detroit Free Press. “There’s no record. There’s nothing,” said Knoxville police spokesman Darrell DeBusk.
  • The Bears worked out free agent punter Zoltan Mesko on Friday, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Chicago brought in the left-footed Mesko in an effort to prepare for Vikings lefty Jeff Locke – whom the Bears will face Sunday.

Patriots Rumors: Trades, Deflategate, Workouts

As the Nov. 3 trade deadline nears, the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin examines some veterans floundering teams should be looking to deal.

Mentioning Steve Smith, Haloti Ngata, Anquan Boldin and Chad Henne among those who would generate value, Volin focused on some players who’d further strengthen the Patriots.

Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith‘s in a contract year and one of several of the team’s defensive stalwarts, such as Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry, under that circumstance.

Volin insists the Pats should “do whatever they can” to acquire Smith from Kansas City, pointing to the former Dolphin’s talent, the Pats’ penchant for coaxing strong play out of players deemed character risks and the Chiefs saving $2.25MM by moving Smith early. The 28-year-old corner missed three games this season due to a DUI-induced suspension.

The Buccaneers would also make a convenient trading partner for the Pats, and Volin notes Logan Mankins — who the team traded away for since-jettisoned Tim Wright last year — has only $3.5MM remaining on his deal for the rest of this season and would help repair the team’s injury-plagued offensive front.

Here are some more items from New England:

  • The NFL hired former United States solicitor general Paul Clement to aid in its appeal of Judge Richard Berman’s Deflategate ruling, and it indicates an enhanced effort to win the latest saga that’s pitted the league against the NFLPA, Volin writes. Per the New York Times, Clement will be a likely supreme court nominee if a republican wins the White House in 2016, so it represents another expensive example of the lengths both sides will go to win this case. “Stripped of all of the surrounding stuff, this case is still about the commissioner’s authority, not about deflated footballs. It certainly explains why they called in the heavy artillery,” Suffolk University law professor and arbitrator Mark Greenbaum told Volin.
  • The Patriots worked out tight ends Bear Pascoe and Steve Maneri, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The duo has a combined 10 years of experience, with Pascoe, a 29-year-old blocking tight end/fullback, having started 34 games for the Giants and Falcons from 2009-14. The 27-year-old Maneri’s started 10 games since 2011 and made a single-game appearance for the Patriots last season.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Texans, Broncos, Workouts

As the possibility of losing the Raiders again continues to loom over the city, Oakland is continuing to formulate solutions on a path to a new stadium.

Mayor Libby Schaaf has initiated a process of bringing to light yet another stadium proposal with the goal of having it ready to present in the next couple of weeks, per Phil Matier and Andy Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle, who write this operation’s plan is to present this proposal to a special league committee — rather than the owners — by December.

Despite bringing in a consulting firm, Schaaf faces an uphill battle in procuring a land deal that will please the parties involved. The Raiders’ believing they should not have to pay for that part of the process is not sitting well with the city or Alameda County, Matier and Ross note.

The Bay Area scribes, however, hear that Oakland has the trump card in this standoff: the fact that Raiders owner Mark Davis does not have the votes to move and is lagging behind the Rams and Chargers, the latter once agreeing on a significant partnership for a Carson, Calif.-based stadium, in the Los Angeles sweepstakes.

The league desires a wealthier owner that will make an L.A. return profitable, per the Chronicle’s investigative-reporting tandem, and Davis doesn’t match up. He’s in the process of taking on a partner to help aid this potential relocation financially.

Let’s look at some additional AFC items.

  • Ryan Mallett remains eligible to collect $1.47MM from the Texans in termination pay, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes. The Texans are carrying this figure on their 2015 payroll after extracting themselves from the two-year, $7.01MM contract they signed Mallett to in March. The reeling signal-caller can file for his remaining 10 game checks, each totaling $147K+, but the Texans are not on the hook for any money in 2016.
  • Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith‘s indecisiveness on their quarterback situation should put their jobs at risk, writes the Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon.
  • In advance of a matchup with the 6-0 Packers, the Broncos‘ coaching staff was noticeably stricter this week, players told Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post
  • The Colts kicked the tires on former free agent acquisition and starting guard Donald Thomas today, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Thomas played two games for Indianapolis in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury. The former Patriots lineman sustained another in 2014, and the Colts cut his comeback short when they released him before the season.
  • The Jets worked out former Chiefs center and sixth-round pick Eric Kush on Friday, Wilson reports (on Twitter). Current Kansas City center Mitch Morse beat out Kush for the position this summer.
  • The Browns brought in defensive tackles Joe Vellano, Terry Williams and Toby Johnson for workouts this week, according to Wilson (on Twitter).
  • J.R. Tavai worked out for the Titans this week, Wilson tweets. The rookie outside linebacker who the Titans cut just before the season also tried out for the Packers earlier this week.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/15

Here are today’s minor moves:

  • The Dolphins placed Cameron Wake on season-ending injured reserve after the star pass-rusher tore his Achilles’ tendon against the Patriots on Thursday night, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald tweets. The four-time Pro Bowler will be 34 next season.
  • In addition, the Dolphins pilfered one of their AFC rivals’ practice squad players in signing tackle Ulrick John from the Colts‘ 10-man taxi unit, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports (on Twitter). A seventh-round pick of Indianapolis’ last year, John’s been with the Colts since last season but hasn’t received any game action. Miami’s now dealing with the loss of starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James for several weeks, creating the need for an extra man at the position.
  • The Raiders promoted linebacker Korey Toomer to their 53-man roster and cut defensive end Shelby Harris, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). A fifth-round pick of the Seahawks’ in 2012, Toomer played in eight games with the Rams and Cowboys last season. Per the Associated Press’ Josh Dubow (via Twitter), Toomer has 139 career special teams snaps and no defensive plays on his resume.
  • With J.T. Thomas out for Sunday’s Week 8 game and Jon Beason questionable, the Giants signed linebacker James Morris off their practice squad and cut cornerback Brandon McGee, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports (on Twitter). The 24-year-old Morris spent time with the Patriots last year prior to landing on the Giants’ practice squad. He’s yet to suit up in a game.
  • The Titans made a repeat transaction in signing wide receiver Rico Richardson from their practice squad and cutting tight end Chase Coffman to make room, Jim Wyatt of Titans Online tweets. Cut earlier this week in favor of Coffman, Richardson will be needed for depth purposes for a second straight Sunday, with Harry Douglas out again with a rib injury, Wyatt reports (on Twitter).

49ers Cut Jarryd Hayne

One of the more interesting stories this year underwent a revision when the 49ers cut rugby sensation-turned-backup running back Jarryd Hayne, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.

The 27-year-old cross-sport prospect played in seven games with the 49ers, receiving eight carries and rushing for 25 yards. In his place, the team brought up Kendall Gaskins from the practice squad.

San Francisco hopes Hayne clears waivers and thus can be re-signed to the 49ers’ practice squad on Monday, per Maiocco, but Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee can see the non-traditional player being picked up by the Seahawks before then (Twitter link).

The move stems from Carlos Hyde being ruled out for Week 8, and possibly needing multiple weeks of rest, and the 49ers likely needing running backs with more experience playing the position. Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk notes the rugby standout struggled to get up to speed in the return game and run game but also doesn’t doubt some team will take a chance on him via waiver claim.

Behind Hyde, only Reggie Bush, Mike Davis and now Gaskins remain, making this now probably the thinnest backfield situation in the league during Hyde’s absence. Bush only has eight carries for 28 yards this season.

Gaskins is a 24-year-old undrafted free agent who’s played on three teams — the Giants, Titans and 49ers — since 2013 but has no NFL carries.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 10/31/15

Here are Saturday’s practice squad signings and cuts from around the NFL:

Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins

Coaching Notes: Chargers, Caldwell, Fox, Del Rio

As Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com writes, it hasn’t been a great three weeks for the Chargers defense. In that span, the unit has allowed 30 first-half points to the Raiders, 548 yards to the Packers, and a game-winning touchdown to the Michael Vick-led Steelers.

Defensive coordinator John Pagano understands that he may be on the hot seat if his squad doesn’t turn it around.

“It starts with: we’re all accountable, No. 1; myself,” Pagano said (via Tom Krasovic of The San Diego Union-Tribune). “We’ve got to do a better job. We didn’t play good. We didn’t coach good.”

“This might be adverse times for us as a football unit, but it’s not adversity that will overcome us. There’s bigger things out there in life that we or guys will go through. This is something that we’ve got to grow from right now, and learn from as a team. Sometimes, it’s not an easy path.”

Let’s check out some more coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Smith also believes that Lions coach Jim Caldwell shouldn’t be comfortable with his job security, noting that any decision would be made by owner Martha Ford. Caldwell fired three assistants earlier this week, and Smith wonders if the decision may have come from ownership. Facing a potential 1-7 start to the season, the writer says the coaching moves could be Caldwell’s final opportunity to “reinvigorate” his offense.
  • Bears head coach John Fox understands that it can be difficult for players to adapt to a new leader, and he likes what he’s seen despite his team’s 2-4 start. “We’re battling, and there are a lot of changes,” said told Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune. “You’ve got players learning new systems in all three phases, players getting used to the coaches, coaches getting used to the players.”
  • There have been rumblings that USC could pursue Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, a USC alum, as a replacement for Steve Sarkisian. However, general manager Reggie McKenzie shut down those rumors. “We talked when we first came together–he wants to be the coach of the Oakland Raiders,” McKenzie told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News“His mind is not looking anywhere else… He’s sincere and I’m sincere with this. We don’t see that as an opportunity for him. He wants to be here. He’s going to do well here in Oakland, believe that.”

Bengals Activate Vontaze Burfict From PUP

The Bengals will be receiving some defensive reinforcement this weekend as they put their undefeated record on the line against the Steelers. The team announced today (via Twitter) that they have activated linebacker Vontaze Burfict from the physically unable to perform list. To make room on the active roster, the team has released receiver Greg Little.

The former undrafted free agent hasn’t played for the Bengals in more than a year, and the 25-year-old underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee during the winter. Following a rookie campaign where he started 14 games, Burfict established himself as one of the league’s tops young linebackers, compiling 171 tackles, three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in 2013. His performance earned him a four-year, $20MM contract extension in 2014.

Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets that the Bengals will likely ease the linebacker back into play, and it’s more likely that Burfict treats the performance like a “preseason ramp up.” The player echoed that sentiment when discussing his inevitable return.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a tough game,” Burfict said (via Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com). “Who hasn’t played in a year and come plays 70, 80 snaps in one game? So I’m just looking forward to contributing as much as I can.”

Little briefly saw the field for the Bengals in 2014, but he’s yet to make an appearance in 2015. In 54 career games with Cincinnati and the Browns, the 26-year-old has 161 catches for 1,890 yards and eight touchdowns.