Month: October 2018

Extra Points: Gordon, Pats, Lee, Giants, Lions

In a development that’s sure to prompt thousands of early phone alarms Sunday morning, Melvin Gordon has been downgraded to questionable. The Chargers‘ top threat is now a true game-time decision to play against the Titans in London, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Considering this is an 8:30am CT game, this will obviously test the commitment of Gordon’s North American-based fantasy owners while putting the Bolts down one of their best players. Gordon was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, but as ESPN’s Eric Williams notes (on Twitter), wasn’t listed on the injury report until Saturday. A hamstring malady places Gordon’s availability for Week 7 in question. The Chargers took precautions against a Gordon absence by promoting Detrez Newsome from their practice squad. Since finishing his first two NFL seasons on IR, Gordon has played in 22 straight games and emerged as one of the league’s best backs.

Here’s the latest from around the league:

  • The Cowboys will have the services of Sean Lee on Sunday against the Redskins. Lee is not on Dallas’ injury report for its game against Washington. He missed the past three games because of a hamstring strain, opening the door for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch to log plenty of playing time. Vander Esch responded and enters Week 7 as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 overall linebacker. Lee, Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith will split time in Dallas’ nickel package, Todd Archer of ESPN.com notes.
  • A disastrous Giants start will result in more changes to their maligned offensive line. Big Blue will bench free agent guard pickup Patrick Omameh and move center John Greco to guard on Monday night, Dan Duggan of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Former Chargers starting center Spencer Pulley will move into the role of Giants first-string snapper, Duggan adds. Omameh suffered a knee injury in practice this week, but Duggan notes this decision was made prior to that occurring. PFF slots the former Jaguars starter as its No. 67 guard (out of 73 full-time players at this position). He’s signed to a three-year, $15MM deal. Pulley, who started all 16 games for the Chargers last season, landed in New York via post-preseason waiver claim. Pulley will join Greco and right tackle Chad Wheeler as replacement starters for this year’s Giants front.
  • Despite logging three limited practices this week, Ziggy Ansah will not return for the Lions on Sunday. Detroit declared its top pass rusher out for a fifth straight game. The franchise-tagged defensive end said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press) like he felt like he could play, but the Lions will continue to soldier on without him. He’s been trying to surmount a shoulder injury since exiting in Week 1 because of it.
  • T.J. Lang, however, will return to the Lions’ lineup. The veteran guard missed two games because of a concussion and sought medical advice from several doctors, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. While Lang’s return will be a welcome sight for Lions fans, Meinke does not expect Detroit to keep him around in 2019. The final year of Lang’s Lions deal comes with an $11.7MM cap hit. It would save the Lions $9MM if they cut Lang, for whom they authorized a $9.5MM-AAV deal in 2017.
  • Rob Gronkowski is almost certainly going to miss the Patriots-Bears game, with ankle and back trouble keeping the all-world tight end home after his team departed for Chicago. But the Patriots will also be without backup Jacob Hollister, the team announced. This leaves Dwayne Allen as the only healthy tight end available. The former Colt has one catch this season. The Pats still haven’t declared Gronk out, which would make for an interesting sequence of events were he to play without boarding the team plane.

Poll: Who Will Win AFC South?

Although the AFC South has seen repeat champions this decade, the division’s post-Peyton Manning years have not produced a similar perpetual frontrunner. This season’s unfolding on a familiar course.

Going into Week 7, three AFC South teams — the Jaguars, Titans and Texans — are 3-3. The Colts probably have the division’s best quarterback, but they’re 1-5 and on a rebuilding track. This could be shaping up to be a complicated race as we enter the midseason stretch.

Jacksonville came into the season as the division’s favorite, but the past two games — when the Chiefs and Cowboys combined to outscore the Jaguars 70-21 — leave this division more in doubt than it looked entering October. With Blake Bortles‘ inconsistency continuing into his fifth season, the Jags continue to depend on their defense. But that unit’s not quite on the unassailable perch on which it hovered last season — when a group housing mostly the same personnel led the league in DVOA.

That metric still has this Jaguar defense sitting fifth, but will a merely good defense be enough to lift a Bortles-led offense that doesn’t have much in the way of weaponry? (Though, a Leonard FournetteCarlos Hyde backfield may look formidable if Fournette can shake off his hamstring injury.) The Jags already lost at home to the Titans and now has the Texans coming to town in what will be a pivotal spot for both teams.

When I examined this division’s similar outlook around the midway point last season, Deshaun Watson was days away from the ACL tear that sank the Texans. He’s off his stratospheric pace from last year, which was to be expected, but has absorbed by far the most sacks (25) and hits (65) any quarterback’s sustained this season. Houston did not outfit its franchise centerpiece with a strong offensive line, and Watson doesn’t have much in the way of a running game, either.

The Texans will need to improve in these areas to be a legitimate AFC contender, but they have won three straight and again have the services of a healthy J.J. Watt, who is putting together a defensive player of the year case and leading a top-10 DVOA unit.

Tennessee’s probably trudging into Week 7 on the lowest note of this division’s contenders, having completed a historically futile effort in Baltimore. Marcus Mariota took 11 sacks, tied for the second-most in NFL history, despite his first-string line being fully available. The fourth-year quarterback has not built on the strong performance he delivered to help the Titans to an overtime win over the Eagles. He’s thrown two touchdown passes this season, is averaging only 158.3 passing yards per game and is 23rd in Total QBR.

The Titans have struggled to replace Delanie Walker‘s reliable presence, and their Dion LewisDerrick Henry tandem has sputtered (neither averages more than 3.3 yards per carry) thus far, putting Mariota in a tough spot Sunday in London and running the risk of the Titans falling below .500 after a 3-1 start.

Andrew Luck‘s return should be viewed as the top positive takeaway for the Colts, whose roster didn’t indicate they were especially interested in 2018 contention. Can they rebound and mount something of a challenge in a division without a current winning record, or are they stampeding toward another high draft choice?

It’s obviously still early in the season, but is one of these teams about to separate from the competition and become the kind of contender that can challenge the Patriots or Chiefs? The Jags already beat the Pats, but the latter has obviously proven far more as a perpetual AFC contender and will be treated as such despite the Week 2 result.

So, who has the best chance of putting together a run in the South? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your views in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brittany Bowlen Confirms Interest In Becoming Broncos’ Controlling Owner

More clarity’s emerging on the Broncos’ future. Brittany Bowlen had yet to make a comment about a desire to become the Broncos’ controlling owner but did so Saturday night.

I do have ambitions and goals to one day be controlling owner of the Denver Broncos,” Bowlen said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Brittany Bowlen, 28, has been viewed as the frontrunner to succeed her father for a while now. Some members of the Broncos organization and some in the league office have high hopes for Brittany Bowlen’s ability to thrive in this role, in the event she ends up as her father’s long-term successor, per Albert Breer of SI.com (on Twitter).

However, Brittany Bowlen acknowledges she’s not ready for such a role just yet, telling Jhabvala, “I’m not there yet, but I really believe I can get there” one day. Brittany Bowlen (video link via Denver7’s Troy Renck) does not have a timetable for a potential ascent to the position her father made famous.

While Brittany Bowlen is viewed as the heir apparent, Beth Bowlen Wallace has expressed desire to become the franchise’s controlling owner. Wallace, 47, does not have the same support her younger sister does. Broncos president Joe Ellis, a member of the Pat Bowlen Trust, said earlier this year Wallace is not qualified to become the team’s controlling owner.

Pat Bowlen’s been battling Alzheimer’s for years. His wife Annabel now is as well. Pat mentioned Brittany as the only one of his seven children whom he believed could take over the Broncos as controlling owner. Naturally, Wallace disagrees with this and believes she’s met the criteria set forth by the trustees, a group that features Ellis as its most prominent member. But with Brittany revealing she is interested in this lofty position, Wallace’s hopes in rising to this role could well take a hit.

South Rumors: Colts, Saints, Jarrett, Jags

Chris Ballard‘s operational style through two offseasons has the Colts in rebuilding mode. They possess the second-most cap space ($51MM) and are projected to hold an NFL-high $126MM in 2019. However, the Colts are 1-5 and may be set for their worst two-year stretch since the Jim Harbaugh-to-Peyton Manning transition produced six wins between the 1997-98 seasons. Ownership isn’t wavering on the Ballard hire, though, per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Ballard’s been intent on building from within, with Keefer pointing out the Colts were never a serious Le’Veon Bell trade contender nor were they going to entertain a Dez Bryant signing. Only one defensive starter, Clayton Geathers, remains from the Ryan Grigson era. Although, especially during T.Y. Hilton‘s absence, the Colts have been reeling at wideout. They let Donte Moncrief walk and didn’t address the position when promising rookie Deon Cain was lost for the season, so the GM deserves some blame for the state of this spot, Keefer adds.

It will be interesting to see if Ballard deviates from his methods when the Colts begin working with that staggering amount of cap space come 2019. Here’s the latest from other South locales:

  • The Falcons will have the services of Grady Jarrett on Monday night against the Giants, Dan Quinn said. The team’s top interior defender missed the past two games because of an ankle injury. This will be key for the Falcons, who have lost several defenders thus far this season, and Jarrett, with the 2015 fifth-round pick being in a contract year.
  • Teddy Bridgewater is also in a walk year, and the timing of the Saints‘ trade to acquire the Jets reserve passer suggests they’ll be interested in attempting to convince the former first-round pick to stay as Drew Brees‘ successor. But next year’s quarterback market doesn’t look to be as strong as this year’s, and Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com doesn’t expect Bridgewater to be with the Saints in 2019. Bridgewater signed with the Jets for one year and $6MM, with an incentive package that can now be classified as NLTBE. Prior to any major cuts, Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor stand to be the centerpiece attractions in the 2019 free agent quarterback class. Katzenstein expects Bridgewater to wait and sign for far more money than the Saints, with Brees still operating in high gear, will be willing to pay him.
  • No quarterback’s taken more sacks than Deshaun Watson (25), and the Texans will be without one of their top blockers on Sunday. Zach Fulton is out for Week 7’s Houston-Jacksonville game. The fifth-year guard is dealing with an ankle injury.
  • The Jaguarstrade for Carlos Hyde seems to suggest they’re concerned about Leonard Fournette going forward, but Hays Carlyon of 1010XL (on Twitter) doesn’t believe the second-year running back endured a setback and expects him to suit up in Week 10 after the Jags’ bye. Fournette’s been dealing with hamstring trouble throughout the season, and Carlyon adds this move was likely more about the Jags’ fear of being shorthanded for much longer rather than Fournette suffering another setback.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/20/18

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Denver Broncos

  • Signed off Jets’ practice squad: C Nico Falah
  • Placed on IR: G Ronald Leary

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cardinals Sign S Eddie Pleasant

Eddie Pleasant worked out for four teams in the past month. The Cardinals weren’t one of the franchises that brought the veteran safety in for an audition, but they’re signing him nonetheless.

The Cards and Pleasant agreed on terms Saturday, Field Yates of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Pleasant spent camp with the Patriots but was released in late August.

Prior to spending barely a month in New England, Pleasant played six seasons in Houston. The Texans used the 29-year-old veteran as a backup safety during those six years. Pleasant played in 78 games for the Texans from 2013-17. Despite not starting any games, Pleasant made a career-high 49 tackles last season, the second of a two-year deal he agreed to in 2016 to stay in Houston.

Pleasant worked out for the Packers this week, and since the start of the season traveled to Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle for workouts that did not lead to signings. The Cardinals were without Tre Boston in a loss to the Broncos on Thursday but now have six safeties on their active roster, although Budda Baker functions as Arizona’s slot cornerback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texans Activate S Andre Hal

With his cancer in remission, Andre Hal was cleared to practice this week. There’s a decent chance the Texans safety will make his season debut on Sunday.

The Texans announced they’ve activated Hal from the reserve/non-football illness list in advance of their Week 7 game against the Jaguars. The team had three weeks to activate Hal after he returned to practice on Wednesday. Being activated three days into a three-week window represents another conquest for a safety that’s overcome plenty this year.

Hal was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in June. By late September, the cancer was in remission. This is a remarkable recovery for the 26-year-old safety, who had already beaten long odds in his career by emerging as a regular starter from a seventh-round draft position.

Hal started 38 games for the Texans over the past three seasons, including all 16 last season. He may not return to a starting role immediately, but with Tyrann Mathieu and converted cornerback Kareem Jackson in place at safety, Houston could soon be deep on its defensive back line.

The Texans made room on their roster by waiving edge defender Daeshon Hall, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Rob Gronkowski Out For Week 7?

Rob Gronkowski is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report. That designation may soon change.

The Patriots departed for Chicago, and the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride reports (via Twitter) Gronkowski was not with the team. Thus, he stands to miss New England’s Week 7 game.

Gronk is listed on the Pats’ injury report with ankle and back maladies, with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport noting the back trouble surfaced Friday (Twitter link).

While Gronkowski could conceivably take a later flight to the Windy City, not traveling with the team is almost always a sign a player will not participate in a game. The Patriots are still not ruling Gronk out for Sunday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter), but it certainly seems a long shot he’ll play.

The 29-year-old tight end’s played in all six Patriots games thus far this season but is a perpetual injury risk, having missed extensive time in the past. Back trouble has plagued him in the recent past, too, with Gronk having missed much of New England’s 2016 Super Bowl title season with back issues.

In the conversation for greatest tight end ever, Gronkowski is in his ninth season with the Patriots. He’s caught 26 passes for 405 yards and a touchdown this season. While his yards-per-game figure of 67.5 is down from his best seasons, he made some key catches in the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs.

The four-time All-Pro also agreed to another incentive package this offseason, and the $3.3MM package is tied largely to his availability. Any absence will hurt his chances of cashing in like he did last season.

Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister would be the top Patriot tight ends if Gronk indeed can’t go. They’ve combined for four catches this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Cut Tom Savage

Tom Savage‘s San Francisco stay may end up being brief. The 49ers announced Saturday they’ve waived the former Texans quarterback.

The team brought in Savage on Tuesday and does not have a veteran presence on its roster, with second-year man C.J. Beathard starting and rookie Nick Mullens backing him up. But the 49ers will move on without Savage for now and promote defensive back Tyvis Powell.

This is the second time Savage has been cut this year. The Saints parted ways with him prior to the season, acquiring Teddy Bridgewater to back up Drew Brees and keeping versatile QB Taysom Hill as well.

This separation may not last long, though. Savage looks to have a chance to return to the team soon, with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco tweeting the 49ers will probably bring him back in the coming days. A need for DB depth resulted in this transaction, but should that situation clear up in the near future, Savage may return. Still, his stock’s taken a noticeable dive since being named Houston’s Week 1 starter last season.

Powell has bounced on and off the 49ers’ active roster this year. He’s up with the 53-man unit now because of injuries. Jimmie Ward is doubtful to play Sunday against the Rams, and Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon are questionable.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.