Month: November 2017

Zack Martin Enters Concussion Protocol

The Cowboys will be playing at least the rest of this game and possibly more without the services of maybe the best guard in football. Zack Martin is now in concussion protocol.

Longtime backup Joe Looney replaced the All-Pro right guard in the lineup. Martin left the game in the second quarter. The fourth-year interior stalwart has never missed an NFL game.

This comes just as Tyron Smith returned to the lineup after a two-game absence. The Cowboys, who rode to the NFC’s No. 1 seed last season behind Ezekiel Elliott and a bulldozing offense line, are now reeling after injuries, departures and a suspension depleted that unit.

Martin does not have the usual 10-day recovery period following a Thursday game. The Cowboys face the Redskins next Thursday.

Dallas is down 16-0 in the fourth quarter and in danger of falling 1.5 games off the wild-card pace in the NFC with a loss to Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Waive CB Lorenzo Doss

Lorenzo Doss‘ three-season tenure with the Broncos ended on Thanksgiving Day after the team made the decision to waive the cornerback. But they look to have done so because of something that happened this morning.

The Broncos cut Doss because he was late for a meeting on Thanksgiving morning, Mike Klis of 9News reports.

The Broncos’ roster stands at 52 players, and Vance Joseph said (via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post) the team probably wouldn’t fill Doss’ spot until after Sunday’s game against the Raiders.

Drafted in the fifth round before the Broncos’ Super Bowl title season, Doss played sparingly but could not carve out much of a role in Denver’s deep cornerback contingent. Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby made opportunities scarce for Kayvon Webster from 2014-16, and Webster played ahead of Doss on Denver’s depth chart. This season, Doss played only eight defensive snaps and was active in only three games after Webster’s departure.

This move leaves the Broncos with just four cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. But Denver has used backup safety Will Parks as a dime performer over Doss this season. The Broncos also invested a third-round pick in Brendan Langley in April.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Pagano, 49ers, Chargers

The Raiders switched out defensive coordinators in firing Ken Norton Jr. and promoting John Pagano. Jack Del Rio said this week no one should feel comfortable about their statuses, but Pagano may be secure moving into 2018. Del Rio expects Pagano to have a role on the ’18 Raiders, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes (on Twitter). Of course, this would likely hinge on Del Rio being retained for a fourth season. After guiding the team to major improvements in 2015 and last season, Del Rio has overseen the Raiders become arguably the NFL’s most disappointing team this season. But he signed a contract extension earlier this year; that would point to the current HC receiving another year to attempt to make good on this Reggie McKenzie-assembled nucleus. Pagano will inherit a defense that ranks 26th. The Del Rio- and Norton-helmed units of the past two seasons ranked 26th in each.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions on Thanksgiving.

  • For those unable to watch Chargers-Cowboys, Nick Novak suffered a back injury but has returned to the game, limping back onto the field for a 22-yard field goal. Punter Drew Kaser was practicing kicks into a net on the sideline, but the Bolts eschewed a 30-yard field goal for a fourth-and-13 early in the second quarter prior to Novak’s return. Novak returned to the Chargers earlier this year after being cut by the Texans. The Bolts have struggled at kicker this season, with Novak already missing a kick today. This gives Los Angeles a 12-for-19 make ratio — worst in the NFL.
  • The Bolts have announced Mike Williams won’t return to their Thanksgiving game because of a knee injury. Williams now has another malady to surmount after a back ailment dogged him for much of the offseason.
  • The 49ers aren’t planning to part with Joe Staley in the near future. Despite the 11th-year player toiling for a rebuilding team in his age-33 season and being the annual subject of trade rumors, John Lynch said (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle) he and right tackle Trent Brown will be cornerstones for the next “couple, few” years. Brown is under contract through 2018 but can be extended after this season. Lynch’s comments appear to point to the team wanting to go that route. Staley’s deal runs through 2019 on incredibly team-friendly cap numbers ($7.7MM in 2018 and ’19).
  • Lynch said Joshua Garnett has changed his “body composition” in order to better function in Kyle Shanahan‘s zone-blocking scheme. Branch notes the 321-pound guard, who was known as a power blocker previously, could have returned from IR this season. Perhaps the 49ers wanted to use this year, once Garnett suffered a preseason injury, as an intentional redshirt for the purposes of the 2016 first-round pick adjusting to the new offense. Lynch said the 49ers encouraged the 6-foot-5 lineman to adjust accordingly, physically speaking, for Shanahan’s scheme, so it appears he will be in the picture in 2018 despite arriving under the Trent Baalke regime. Branch notes he figures to compete for a starting job next season.

Jacob Tamme Announces Retirement

Jacob Tamme had not played in a game in just more than a year, and the longtime tight end is not planning to suit up for one again.

The former Colts, Broncos and Falcons pass-catcher announced his retirement on Thanksgiving, doing so after playing nine seasons. Tamme made a lengthy social media announcement, thanking numerous parties (Twitter links).

Tamme suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in November of last season, and while he had designs on returning for a possible 10th season earlier this year, nothing came to fruition. The 32-year-old performer will retire with 259 receptions, 2,570 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Splitting his career between upper-echelon backup (to Dallas Clark and Julius Thomas) and starter, Tamme had three seasons of 550-plus receiving yards.

A fourth-round Colts pick out of Kentucky in 2008, Tamme emerged on the scene with a 631-yard showing in relief of Clark in 2010 and was the top receiving tight end on Peyton Manning‘s first Broncos team in 2012. His best statistical work, however, came in his age-30 season with the Falcons. Tamme caught 59 passes for 657 yards in 2015. The shoulder ailment limited him to eight games in 2016.

Tamme also played in two Super Bowls, with the ’09 Colts and ’13 Broncos.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Barnett, Ansah, Giants, Panthers

The Eagles have had many stars in their journey towards the top of the NFL this season, and one of those players has been rookie defensive end Derek Barnett. The team’s first round pick this past May has given Philadelphia another dominant pass rusher outside of Brandon Graham and has made the front office look even better, opines Geoff Mosher of the FanRags Sports Network.

Mosher points out that Barnett was viewed as the “safe” pick when the Eagles were selecting in the middle of the first round. He states that flashier draftees that the Eagles passed on, like running back Dalvin Cook, defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster, have all had injury problems, making the choice to select Tennessee’s all-time sack leader even more brilliant.

At the moment, Barnett is simply a pass rushing specialist coming off the bench, but has already racked up 4.5 games even without getting the majority of the snaps. He trails team leader Brandon Graham by just 1.5 sacks with six weeks left to play. Barnett may not have been the sexy choice at the time, but he’s making the Eagles decision makers look even smarter because of what he’s adding to an already outstanding roster.

  • Lions star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah returned to game action for the team’s Thanksgiving tilt against the Vikings. Ansah is active for the first time since Week 9 when he injured his back on Monday night football. The 28-year-old has responded well from a down 2016 campaign with four sacks in just eight games this season. The news of his return is certainly a welcomed addition to a defense that ranks 20th in sacks in the NFL.
  • In regards to the late Thanksgiving game between the Redskins and Giants, the expectation that New York will have offensive lineman Jon Halapio make his first professional start at right guard, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 26-year-old would be replacing D.J. Fluker, who has already been ruled out for Week 12 with a toe injury. The move represents another shift in the offensive line for the Giants, who had rookie Chad Wheeler make his first NFL start during the team’s victory over the Chiefs in Week 11.
  • In more positive injury news, Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen is continuing to make progress recovering from a broken foot he suffered back in September, reports Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Rodrigue further notes that Olsen looks to be on track to return Sunday, which would be huge addition for an offense that already traded away Kelvin Benjamin and lost wide receiver Curtis Samuel for the season.

Bears Place Leonard Floyd On IR

In not even a week since we learned that Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd seriously injured his right knee, the talented pass rusher has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Thursday.

Leonard Floyd (Vertical)

Floyd suffered his knee injury during the team’s game last Sunday against the Lions. The 25-year-old had reportedly sprained two ligaments during the contest, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune. So while it wasn’t immediately known if the injury was season-ending, head coach John Fox pretty much implied that Floyd’s outlook for 2017 didn’t appear all too hopeful.

“It’s going to be some time until he can come back, if at all the rest of this season,” Fox told the media this week. “We’ll kind of measure that as we go. But it was good to hear it wasn’t the ACL. It was MCL, PCL. It will require some work to get him fixed, but obviously better news that the total reconstruction.” (Quote courtesy of Campbell).

The second-year pass rush specialist was on track to match and possibly pass is seven sacks that he collected during his rookie season. Floyd tallied 4.5 sacks in ten games this season and ranked as the 67th best pass rusher in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Chicago has suffered a number of notable injuries on the offensive side of the ball, but Floyd represents a significant blow to the team’s defense, who had already lost pass rusher Willie Young to the IR in Week 6. The Bears will have to rely on backups Sam Acho and Jonathan Anderson to fill the outside linebacker void for the remainder of the regular season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Revis, Thomas, Booker, Bullock

Darrelle Revis is back in the NFL after signing with the Chiefs yesterday. Now we’re learning a little more about what his new contract looks like. The 32-year-old cornerback’s deal is for two seasons and has team incentives that could up the overall value of the agreement, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Rapoport adds that Revis will receive an extra $1.75 MM if he plays in an AFC title game and an additional $1.75 MM if Kansas City wins the Super Bowl. The Jets would not be on the hook for that extra cash. It remains to be seen how effective the former All-Pro will be in his return, but he does add depth to a secondary that’s allowing the fifth most yards through the air so far this season.

  • In order to make room for Revis on the active roster, the Chiefs have waived defensive tackle Cam Thomas, reports Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. The 30-year-old defensive lineman had only played in game this season after appearing in all 16 games from 2013-2015. Releasing Thomas leaves the team without a backup nose tackle as the only backup defensive lineman on the roster are Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Jarvis Jenkins.
  • The Broncos offense has not produced this season, but the running game may change in a shift to running back Devontae Booker according to their new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, reports Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post. “Book’ has really been playing some good football,” interim offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Wednesday. “I think Book deserves more touches. Obviously, we’ll see how the game goes.” Kosmider notes that the second-year back’s workload has been increasing in the past few weeks. Booker missed the first three games of the season recovering from an injury to his wrist. He carried the ball a season-high 14 times this past Sunday. He hadn’t passed single-digit carries this entire year until the team’s game versus the Bengals in Week 11.
  • Bengals kicker Randy Bullock has missed two extra points in two weeks, which has head coach Marvin Lewis publicly noting his weak grip on the kicking job. Lewis was open about Bullock’s struggles when talking to the media yesterday, including Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com. “It does affect our patience level,” and later clarifying that “We’re committed to Randy for this week.” However, despite the fact that the team is sticking with Bullock in Week 12, it should be noted that the 27-year-old has only made about 81% of his field goal attempts in his career.

Redskins Not Considering Transition Tag For QB Kirk Cousins

The Redskins have several contractual options when it comes to quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ future with the organization. However, as NFL.com Ian Rapoport reports, they’re not considering one route. Rapoport writes that the Redskins believe the $28.8MM transition tag is “not considered a viable option.” Instead, the team will consider signing him to a $34.5MM franchise tag, signing him to a long-term contract, or letting him hit unrestricted free agency.

Kirk Cousins (vertical)As our own Zach Links noted back in July, the transition tag would always be a considerable risk. Several general managers believed that rival teams could offer Cousins a giant signing bonus, making it difficult for his incumbent team to match. As Zach also noted, “any club would have to pay an exorbitant amount to steal Cousins, but a bid that the Redskins don’t match wouldn’t entitle them to any compensation for his departure.” Ultimately, there’s little incentive to this particular route.

Regardless, as Rapoport writes, the Redskins decision will ultimately depend on Cousins play down the stretch. If the quarterback is able to single-handedly lead his team to a handful of wins over the final stretch of the season, the organization could easily justify him as their franchise quarterback. However, if Cousins continues to put up pedestrian numbers, it’d be tough to justify the $34.5MM franchise tag (which will be the third straight year the Redskins have slapped him with the tag). Cousins has been heating up as of late, and he’s completed 66.7-percent of his passes this season for 2,796 yards, 17 touchdowns, and five interceptions. However, the Redskins are an underwhelming 4-6.

It’ll still be some time before we get any clarity on the situation. The two sides aren’t allowed to negotiate until the end of the season, and Cousins’ camp will surely wait to see if the organization assigns him with the franchise tag. Ultimately, as Rapoport writes, the “choice is in Cousins’ hands.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Anthem, Raiders, Bengals, Jets

Discussion about who stands and who sits for the national anthem could come to an end next season if the owners have their way, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske hears. Maske reports that some NFL owners think there is a “strong possibility” they could enact a change to the league’s policy next season that could keep players off the field during the playing of the national anthem.

Maske quoted one person familiar with the owners’ deliberations saying, “I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen.” He continued with the source, who said, “I think most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season.”

The thought this action could quell attention from the league’s anthem issues is a naive one. Players in favor of demonstrating their right to protest are sure to feel disrespected, while having no one standing for the flag is certain to draw ire from a wide range of fans. Whatever the decision, the NFL isn’t likely to escape the spotlight anytime soon.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Raiders  head coach Jack Del Rio issued a statement on Wednesday stating “nobody should feel comfortable” following the team’s firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., NBC Sports’ Scott Blair reports. Del Rio continued, saying, “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.” After starting the season with Super Bowl aspirations, the Raiders are holding out hope for a second-half revival to contend for a wildcard spot.
  • Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sat down with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his Know Them From Adam Podcast to give his first interview since being fired in June. In the interview, which the Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff recapped, Dorsey didn’t address his departure much outside of saying he’s had better days. He did claim he wanted to make a return to football, however. “I know I can do my job with the best with my peers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “I’m very proud of being able to help an organization re-establish their winning ways, and I think that’s important.”
  • When asked if the team was committed to kicker Randy Bullock for the remainder of the season, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said they were committed to him “for the week.,” ESPN’s Katherine Terrell reports. Bullock has connected on 8-of-10 field goals on the season but has missed an extra point in each of his last two games.
  • It’s getting close to time for the Jets to see what they have in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Though Josh McCown has played well, Mehta claims it is time to call the kids up from “Triple-A” to see what they can do.

NFC Notes: Reed, Redskins, Lions, 49ers

Just days after Terrelle Pryor was placed on season-ending injured reserve, the Redskins’ pass catchers received another blow on Wednesday. The team’s star tight end Jordan Reed was ruled out for the team’s Thanksgiving tilt with the Giants, according to Kimberly Martin of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

The oft-injured Reed, who was labeled as questionable by head coach Jay Gruden an hour before the announcement, will miss his sixth game of the year. Reed also missed four games in 2016 and two during his breakout 2015 season.

There are few better tight ends than Reed when he is on the field. Of the 11 players at his position to record 250 receptions since 2013, he is the only one to average at least five receptions per game. The team will once again turn to Vernon Davis in the division clash on Thursday night.

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • Though the 49ers will start C.J. Beathard again on Sunday, team general manager John Lynch is convinced Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be the team’s future starting quarterback writes Cam Inman of The Mercury News“We really, genuinely believe that this guy’s got the makings of a guy who could be our guy for years to come,” Lynch said. “That’s all got to come to fruition on the field.” 
  • Staying with San Francisco, Lynch also believes defensive end Arik Armstead has a bright future with the team despite missing 18 of 32 career games with an injury, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee“We think he’s a fit with what we are and who we are going forward,” Lynch said. Though he is a fit, Armstead will need to find a way to stay on the field to stay in the 49ers’ plans.
  • Matt Prater has been the Lions’ most valuable free agent signing in the last five seasons, writes ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. Though he has stiff competition from Golden Tate and Glover Quin, the veteran kicker is without a doubt in the mix for the honor.