Month: August 2018

A.J. McCarron Fractures Collarbone

A.J. McCarron suffered an injury during his first preseason start with the Bills, and it appears likely it will affect the franchise’s quarterback plans going forward. The free agent addition suffered a hairline fracture in his collarbone, Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports (on Twitter).

McCarron started over Nathan Peterman on Friday night in Cleveland but may have to cede the reins to the younger passer now. Peterman started the Bills’ first preseason game, but McCarron represents the bigger investment, having signed a two-year, $8.1MM deal this offseason. He was viewed as the stopgap quarterback that will provide the bridge to Josh Allen.

Allen figures to see more time as a result of McCarron’s setback, and although the Wyoming product was not viewed as a ready-made NFL signal-caller, his NFL audition could come sooner than previously expected if McCarron misses extensive time.

McCarron’s only relevant NFL work came because of a 2015 Andy Dalton injury, and after a trade to the Browns fell through at the last minute last year, a setback in Cleveland ten months later may deny him a chance at a surefire starting role. Peterman has one game of NFL starting experience, but that start turned out to be one of the worst in NFL history. But he may be the next man up.

FOX To Sign DeMarco Murray As Analyst

At the summer’s outset, DeMarco Murray was hoping to land another NFL opportunity. Now, it’s looking like he intends to make his recent retirement announcement stick. 

The 2014 offensive player of the year will be part of FOX’s college football broadcast team this season, serving as a color analyst on one of the crews, according to Barry Horn, recently of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link).

With players like Alfred Morris and Branden Oliver being signed in recent days, Murray profiles as perhaps the top free agent running back available. Although it wouldn’t be a shock to see the 30-year-old backtrack on this apparent decision to enter broadcasting – short-lived Fox employee Jay Cutler executed this strategy just a year ago – this points Murray further toward retirement.

The former Cowboys, Eagles and Titans running back played for seven seasons and was a full-time starter in Tennessee last year. He did not fare nearly as well last season as he did in 2016, a Pro Bowl campaign that featured nearly 1,700 yards from scrimmage, but Murray seemingly could offer a team insurance in the event of an injury. The Redskins are now without Derrius Guice and have Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall out, making them a logical suitor. But no team’s been connected to luring Murray out of retirement.

Unless that changes, college football fans can expect to hear a young voice breaking down plays this season. Murray won’t have much time to acclimate, either. The season’s first full Saturday of action is barely two weeks away.

Extra Points: Bengals, Lewis, Eagles, Foles, Chiefs, AAF

The Bengals are counting on some new coaching roles making a major difference this season. Marvin Lewis survived another year on the hot seat but knew he would need to rearrange his staff after another disappointing season. Teryl Austin will succeed now-Raiders DC Paul Guenther in running Cincinnati’s defense, and Lewis made Bill Lazor the full-time OC. The team jettisoned longtime offensive line coach Paul Alexander as well, with other new staffers coming in to help a team that’s fallen in the AFC hierarchy the past two years.

I made up my mind I wanted to coach,” Lewis said, via Jonathan Jones of SI.com. “So, do I want to go start over somewhere where I don’t know the people or coach these group of guys downstairs that no one else has? That’s an easy decision. You look at what’s open and these are the best players. And that’s what you want.

I knew we were going to have a lot of change on the coaching staff. I knew I had to make changes and those are the things that (owner) Mike (Brown) and I had to discuss. I had to make changes on people that had been with me for a long time and had been friends, and it’s difficult.”

Lewis added that he didn’t want to make wholesale roster changes, pointing out the number of Pro Bowlers still on the team, but the Bengals aren’t receiving much attention as a contender this season. They’re hoping these staff moves can re-route them back to the AFC playoffs.

Here’s the latest from the football landscape:

  • The Eagles received a scare Thursday night when Super Bowl MVP and temporary starting quarterback Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury. The shoulder sprain Foles suffered is believed to be a minor malady and not one that will require a significant rehab effort, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports. It’s looking like it will come down to the wire on whom the defending Super Bowl champions will start at quarterback on opening night, with Carson Wentz unlikely to play in the preseason. The Eagles not having Foles would throw a major wrench in their plans, despite third-stringer Nate Sudfeld having a nice offseason.
  • Steven Nelson will be a full-time outside cornerback this season, Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star notes. This change emerged in the offseason, one that featured breakout slot man Kendall Fuller’s arrival, but the Chiefs are evidently committed to trying Nelson – their most frequent slot corner over the past two seasons – as an outside man. The 2015 third-round pick is entering a contract year. While Kansas City has looked at other corners this month – Bashaud Breeland and Orlando Scandrick – the trio of Fuller, Nelson and David Amerson remains atop the depth chart. Nelson did leave the Chiefs’ game Friday night with a head injury, however.
  • Former Jets second-round pick Stephen Hill and ex-Titans backup quarterback Zach Mettenberger are two of the notable new names signed on to play for the Alliance of American Football. The AAF announced 100 more players will join. Ex-Rams running back Daryl Richardson, former Saints and Jets ball carrier Khiry Robinson, linebacker Deontae Skinner and running back Storm Johnson are among the new contingent. Former Giants and Ravens safety Will Hill and veteran kicker Nick Novak, who was with the Chargers last season, were among the first wave to sign.

Poll: Who Should Bills Start At QB?

The Bills started A.J. McCarron at quarterback Friday night in Cleveland after giving Nathan Peterman the initial start of the preseason. For a playoff team, Buffalo’s proceeded in interesting fashion and has three unique choices to start going into the regular season.

In trading the quarterback who helped them snap major North American sports’ longest playoff drought, the Bills look to be less equipped to make a playoff run this season. Tyrod Taylor had his share of detractors, and the new Bills regime was obviously not sold he was anything more than a stopgap, but his three years’ worth of starter experience represented a higher floor than any of the team’s current options.

So, Buffalo appears to be in a worse spot at sports’ premier job entering the 2018 season. The Bills, who have Las Vegas’ second-worst odds to win Super Bowl LIII, appear to have willingly taken a step back in hopes of reloading for the future.

They signed McCarron to seemingly be the bridge to whatever quarterback they chose in Round 1, which turned out to be Josh Allen. But the fifth-year passer has yet to seize the role. McCarron is still competing with Peterman, the latter having looked better than the higher-paid ex-Bengal during several junctures of the offseason. But McCarron signed a two-year, $8.1MM contract. Peterman has three years left on his rookie deal.

While the 2017 fifth-round pick endured last season’s most disastrous start, his five-interception outing in Los Angeles, he’s clearly shown more as an NFL sophomore. But can the Bills turn back to him after that start and having made two bigger investments at QB?

Explaining why McCarron and Peterman were going to receive first-team work over Allen to start camp, Brandon Beane said the team was committed to giving his team’s veterans the best chance to win this season. But the Bills are not expected to contend in 2018. And they made multiple first-round trades up to select Allen at No. 7. If he shows increased NFL readiness during the preseason’s remainder, would a rebuilding team throw the mid-major prodigy into action early?

So, should the Bills open the season with McCarron, finally giving Andy Dalton’s longtime backup a real chance to prove he’s an NFL starter? Or should Peterman’s improved offseason grant him a second chance? Should the Bills throw a curveball and begin the Allen era now? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Brent Celek Leaning Towards Retirement

Eagles free agent tight end Brent Celek tells 97.5 The Fanatic that he’s leaning towards retirement (audio link). Celek didn’t quite say that it’s Eagles-or-bust if he were to play, but it was heavily suggested. 

I think I’m leaning more toward retirement,” Celek said. “I’ve had a few offers, but none of them are worth leaving a city that I have been in for eleven years where I won the Super Bowl in my final year. It wouldn’t feel right to put another uniform on.

Celek was overshadowed a bit in Philadelphia last year with Zach Ertz and Trey Burton ahead of him on the depth chart, but he appeared in all 16 games for the Eagles. He has been remarkably durable over the course of his career, missing just one game since entering the league in 2007.

Once upon a time, Celek was a major part of the Eagles’ passing attack. He nearly hit 1,000 receiving yards in 2009 and he averaged 59 catches for 744 yards and 4+ TDs between 2009 and 2012. In recent years, he’s been used more for blocking purposes. He has just 27 grabs for 285 yards over the last two seasons. In theory, the Eagles could circle back to him now that Burton is out of the picture, but they could just as easily forge ahead with their current group, which includes second-round pick Dallas Goedert and free agent pickup Richard Rodgers.

If Celek does return, it sounds like it will be with the Eagles. But, no matter what, he says there’s one team he’d never play for.

Hell no,” Celek said when asked about the possibility of heading to Dallas. “Do you think I would play for the Cowboys? Philly is my home. If they offered me 10MM, I still wouldn’t go.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Cooper, Seahawks

Jonathan Cooper has progressed to the point he’s working with the 49ers’ second-team guards in training camp, Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes. Although Cooper played in Week 17 last season, he underwent offseason knee surgery, so it’s a good sign for his progress.

Cooper is now in the hunt for a starting role opposite of Joshua Garnett, who also recently returned to practice after he was sidelined by a knee injury. Neither guard played last week in San Francisco’s preseason opener, but now that they are back in the saddle, it doesn’t sound like the Niners will be forced to look for outside help.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll says a personal issue with Marcus Smith was a factor in his release. (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson). Carroll added that Smith understood the decision, which suggests that the defensive end did not ask for his release. The Seahawks will save roughly $1MM against the cap by cutting Smith, though they have spent an equal amount to bring in linebacker Erik Walden.
  • The 49ers don’t have a traditional No. 1 wide receiver after bypassing Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson in free agency and, thus far, have avoided Dez BryantKyle Shanahan is confident enough in his offensive scheme that he doesn’t believe it requires a WR1-type talent for it to be effective, and that’s why Matt Miller of Bleacher Report doesn’t see San Francisco taking a wide receiver in the 2019 draft. Of course, it’s incredibly early in the process, and Pierre Garcon’s reliability in his age-32 season will surely factor into the 49ers’ offseason decisions on the receiver front.
  • We’ve heard that the Rams and Aaron Donald are making progress on a new deal, but head coach Sean McVay pumped the breaks such talk this week.

NFC East Notes: Eagles, Foles, Redskins

Here’s a look at the NFC East:

Seahawks Cut DE Marcus Smith

The Seahawks have released defensive end Marcus Smith, the team announced. The move comes as a surprise since he was projected to be a part of their pass-rush rotation this season.

Smith missed the last two days of Seahawks practice as he dealt with what coach Pete Carroll termed as a family issue. In any case, he’ll be looking for a new club as the start of the season draws near.

Smith flamed out as a former first-round pick of the Eagles and was waived last summer. He signed on with the Seahawks and played a bit in a reserve role. In 252 snaps, Smith had 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks. In March, he was re-signed to a one-year deal worth up to $2.7MM.

The Seahawks project to start Frank Clark and Dion Jordan (if the stress issue in his leg heals up in time) in Week 1. With Smith out of the picture, they’ll be leaning a bit more heavily on third-round choice Rasheem Green for support. Braden Jackson and Quinton Jefferson are also among those pushing for time at the bookends.

In related moves, the Seahawks also waived Elijah Battle and signed running back Justin Stockton.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Darnold, Dolphins

If it wasn’t apparent Thursday night, when Sam Darnold received his first preseason start, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv notes many in the Jets organization want the rookie to start in Week 1. Taking this route would likely mean Gang Green finding a trade partner for Teddy Bridgewater, and given the way he’s looked thus far, there are surely some teams who will be interested.

However, Vacchiano adds that Bridgewater “intrigues” Todd Bowles. Josh McCown isn’t likely to receive much preseason work, but Vacchiano notes that’s not indicative of his performance. Bowles observed McCown work throughout last season, so he knows what he has in the 39-year-old incumbent.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • A few Dolphins players on the bubble have made a case for strong consideration in the past couple of weeks, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Suddenly, players previously thought to be facing long odds like defensive end Jonathan Woodard and wide receiver Francis Owusu have a real chance at making the cut. If Owusu makes the cut, that could spell bad news for former third-round pick Leonte Carroo.
  • More from Jackson, who writes that the Dolphins are unlikely trade for Bridgewater, despite their previous interest in him. The Jets QB is on a one-year deal worth $5MM and could make a lot more through incentives, so the Dolphins are unlikely to pay out that contract and give up a draft pick unless a big need develops. That need has yet to develop as Ryan Tannehill is healthy and David Fales continues to look solid in reserve.
  • On Friday morning, the Patriots learned that first-round pick Isaiah Wynn is done for the season.

Sam Robinson contributed to this post.