Month: November 2019

49ers’ Joe Staley Suffers Injury

More injury trouble for the 49ers. On Tuesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan disclosed that left tackle Joe Staley has a finger fracture/dislocation. The injury could require surgery, which would rule him out for a couple of weeks.

[RELATED: 49ers’ Blair Done For Year]

Its already been a trying year for Staley, was out for a while due to broken fibula. Staley returned on Monday night, only to hit the trainer’s room yet again.

Even without the services of Staley, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 49ers’ run game was among the best in the NFL in the first half of the season. There’s reason to believe the 49ers’ line can continue to hold up, but it’s obviously not great news for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

After their first loss of 2019 – an overtime defeat at the hands of the rival Seahawks – the Niners will aim to get back in the win column on Sunday against Arizona.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers’ Ronald Blair Done For Year

49ers defensive end Ronald Blair tore his ACL during Monday night’s loss to the Seahawks, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Blair is done for the season and the Niners will make it official soon by placing him on injured reserve.

Blair, 26, was in the midst of another productive year for the 49ers. As a reserve, he had three sacks across nine games, putting him on pace to match or top his career-high 5.5 sacks last season. Instead, he’ll have to try and build off of that in 2020 and the Niners will have to find edge support elsewhere.

Blair was a 2016 fifth-round pick, meaning that he’ll be out of contract after the season. Clearly, the injury comes at a very inopportune time, but he should still find a decent market in March, plus some reunion interest from the 49ers.

The 49ers, without Blair, will look to rebound from the loss on Sunday against the Cardinals.

Ravens Sign Justin Ellis, Domata Peko

The Ravens have signed veteran defensive tackle Justin Ellis, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Ellis was a regular member of the Raiders’ D-line since Oakland selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, and he even landed a three-year, $15MM contract with the Silver-and-Black in March 2018. But his 2018 season was marred by injury, and he was released with an injury settlement in October.

And while Baltimore scored its fifth straight win on Sunday, its defensive front was noticeably shaky, perhaps because starting DT Michael Pierce played just three snaps. Pierce exited the game against the Bengals with an ankle injury, and head coach John Harbaugh said that an MRI didn’t reveal any long-term concerns. But as Jeff Zrebic of The Athletic writes, Harbaugh was non-committal as to whether Pierce would be available for this Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Texans, instead calling Pierce’s status “day-to-day.”

In addition to Ellis, the Ravens are adding another free agent DT, Domata Peko, as Zrebiec tweets. The Ravens, who are intimately familiar with the long-time Bengal’s work, attempted to sign him earlier this season, but the two sides were unable to agree on terms at the time. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reports that Baltimore will pay Peko $1MM for the remainder of the season (Twitter link).

Neither Ellis nor Peko are likely to create much of a pass rush in the interior of the line — which Baltimore could really use — but like the Ravens’ earlier additions of linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort, both are experienced veterans who understand their assignments and who should, if nothing else, solidify the run defense. That will be essential given Pierce’s uncertain health and the fact that the Ravens are putting rookie DT Daylon Mack on injured reserve, per Zrebiec.

Baltimore, at 7-2 and in first place in AFC North, is doing everything it can to keep the second-place Steelers at bay while pushing for a postseason bye. Zrebiec says the club is expected to add rookie CB Iman Marshall to the active roster this week, and given that the Ravens’ kickoff and punt coverage teams have been uncharacteristically unsteady, Marshall may be asked to bolster those units.

In a corresponding move, the Ravens have waived return man Cyrus Jones, per Zrebiec. Jones muffed a punt in the team’s win over the Patriots in Week 9, and Baltimore signed De’Anthony Thomas shortly thereafter. Thomas operated as the kickoff and punt returner on Sunday and will presumably remain in that role moving forward.

The team also waived DE Ufomba Kamalu, per Zrebiec.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pat Shurmur Likely Won’t Be Fired In 2019; Latest On James Bettcher, Dave Gettleman

Although the Giants suffered an embarrassing loss to the Jets on Sunday, head coach Pat Shurmur will not be fired before the end of the 2019 season, as Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv writes. Furthermore, team ownership is not going to force Shurmur to make any changes to his staff, which means that DC James Bettcher is safe as well.

That does not mean, however, that both men will be with the Giants in 2020. New York is 2-9, and while the club’s roster has some major holes, Shurmur’s play-calling has come into question during his two-year tenure with Big Blue (though as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Shurmur has no intention of giving up play-calling duties). Shurmur has also come under fire for his in-game decision-making.

Meanwhile, Bettcher is in charge of the league’s 26th-ranked defense, but he has very little talent at his disposal. As Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com observes, Bettcher is operating without a quality pass rusher, middle linebacker, or cornerback, which has greatly limited the aggressive approach that he is known for. Raanan, like Vacchiano, believes that Bettcher will at least survive through the remainder of 2019, though if he is to be evaluated solely on the performance of his unit over the final seven games, he may not get another shot in New York. But Vacchiano says team brass recognizes the difficult position that Bettcher has been put in, and if the club’s rookies and younger players show signs of life down the home stretch, he could be retained for next year.

Shurmur could also get a third season in New York thanks to his work with rookie QB Daniel Jones. Though Jones has struggled with turnovers, he otherwise looks the part of a franchise signal-caller, and the Giants certainly don’t want to do anything to hinder Jones’ development. If that means keeping Shurmur around for another season, then so be it.

Likewise, GM Dave Gettleman could be on the hot seat, but his selection of Jones — which was heavily criticized in the offseason — may be what saves him. But Raanan says that ownership will think long and hard about Gettleman’s future with the team this offseason, and as of right now, there are doubts as to whether he is the right man to restore the Giants to competitiveness.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

James Conner Expected To Play Week 11

More good news for the surging Steelers. After winning four in a row, Pittsburgh is firmly in the AFC playoff picture, and as Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com writes, the club is expected to have starting running back James Conner back on the field for Thursday night’s matchup against the division-rival Browns.

Conner has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, and the Steelers’ rushing attack has suffered as a result. The team averaged 1.6 yards per carry against the Rams on Sunday and just 3.6 yards per carry against the Colts the week before. While Pittsburgh won both contests — largely as a result of its play-making defense — it clearly needs a strong run game to support young QB Mason Rudolph.

Conner himself has struggled to get untracked this year, as he is averaging under four yards per tote, but he did post 23 carries for 145 yards and a score in the Steeler’s win over the Dolphins in Week 8 before suffering the shoulder injury. He is also a useful receiving weapon and represents a clear upgrade over the likes of Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds.

As Pryor notes, Conner is not fully healed, but he expects that he will be able to manage his pain well enough to handle a full workload. “I’m making a lot of progress on it, and I think I’ll be good to go [on Thursday],” Conner said. “I can’t make no guarantees, but as of right now, I’m feeling very good and things are feeling very confident for me playing on Thursday.”

The team announced that it released RB Darrin Hall from its practice squad, which is another indication that Conner will play on Thursday. To replace Hall, the Steelers added LB Sutton Smith to the taxi squad.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Sign TE Scott Simonson

The Giants have signed tight end Scott Simonson, as Matt Lombardo of NJ.com reports. New York will have its bye this week, but Simonson, 27, may have a chance to see plenty of action when Big Blue returns to the field against the Bears in Week 12.

Fellow tight end Rhett Ellison entered the concussion protocol on Monday, per Lombardo, and Evan Engram is dealing with a foot injury that sidelined him for Sunday’s game against the Jets. So while Simonson is lauded more for his run-blocking abilities than his receiving skills, he could be called on to do a little bit more in the short-term.

Simonson appeared in all 16 games for the Giants in 2018, catching nine passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. New York re-signed him in early 2019, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in this year’s preseason finale and was ultimately released with an injury settlement. This week was the earliest he was eligible to sign with any club, and the injury fortunes of New York’s other TEs worked to his advantage.

In addition to the Simonson signing, the Giants announced a series of practice squad moves. They signed WR Alex Bachman, TE Garrett Dickerson, and LS Colin Holba to the taxi squad and released WR Reggie White Jr. and DL Freedom Akinmoladun from the squad.

Bengals Cut LB Preston Brown

The Bengals have cut linebacker Preston Brown, as Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (via Twitter). Brown signed a three-year pact with Cincinnati this offseason, but he will not even see the end of the first year of that deal.

Brown did start every game for his hometown Bengals this season before the team replaced him in the starting lineup with third-round rookie Germaine Pratt for Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Brown ultimately played just 17 defensive snaps on Sunday, his lowest snap count of the season.

The Bills selected Brown in the third round of the 2014 draft, but even after a solid platform year with Buffalo in 2017, the Bills opted against re-signing him. Brown ultimately accepted a one-year, $4MM deal with the Bengals in 2018, and then he re-upped with Cincinnati in March 2019.

Brown succumbed to injury for the first time in his career in 2018, as he played in just seven games for the Bengals after appearing in all 64 possible games for the Bills over his first four years in the league. But while he has managed to stay healthy in 2019, he has not played particularly well, especially in coverage. The fact that the Bengals cut ties less than one year into his three-year contract is not a good look for Brown.

Still, he just turned 27 and is owed only $400K for the rest of the season. As such, a team in need of a veteran LB with plenty of starting experience could put in a waiver claim, especially since such a team could cut him again this offseason with fairly minimal dead money ramifications. And if he clears waivers, he may not last too long on the open market.

Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic expects the Bengals to clean out most of their LB room this offseason, and he suggests that only Pratt will be retained for 2020 (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Cut Vernon Hargreaves

The Buccaneers have cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Tampa Bay selected Hargreaves in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2016 draft and exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie deal back in May, which would have kept the Florida product under club control through 2020.

However, the fifth-year option would have come with a $9.9MM salary and was guaranteed for injury only, so Hargreaves will not have any impact on the Bucs’ cap in 2020. This move comes on the heels of Hargreaves being benched in the second half of Sunday’s victory over the Cardinals for not hustling, and may have been done to send a message to the rest of the locker room. As Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes, Hargreaves planned to speak with head coach Bruce Arians to discuss the benching and expressed confidence that he and Arians could resolve any issues they might have, but the fact that his lack of hustle was not an isolated incident could have contributed to his ouster. Laine reminds us that Arians sat Hargreaves on the first day of OTAs because he was “not mentally ready to practice.”

The Bucs’ decision is particularly telling given that they have the worst pass defense in the NFL and now have just three healthy corners on the roster. As Greg Auman of The Athletic notes, Tampa will turn to rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting as its starters (Twitter link). Auman tweets that, given the youth and injuries along the CB depth chart, the club is likely to add a corner from outside the organization to replace Hargreaves.

Hargreaves rarely lived up to his first-round billing during his tenure with the Bucs, struggling both outside the numbers and in the slot. However, given his youth and upside, he will surely garner interest from other clubs in need of secondary help. Now that we are past the trade deadline, Hargreaves is subject to waivers, and while he is due just $980K for the remainder of the 2019 season, a team that claims Hargreaves off waivers would also be putting itself on the hook for the 2020 option year. As such, teams may wait for Hargreaves to clear waivers and then attempt to sign him as a free agent.

GM Jason Licht issued the following statement on the transaction (Twitter links to Auman):

“After thoughtful consideration over the past few weeks, Coach Arians and I came to the conclusion that we needed to make this change. Decisions such as this are always difficult, but we felt it was in the best interest of the team to part ways with Vernon at this time and allow him to explore other opportunities. We are disappointed that it did not work out here for Vernon, and we wish him continued success moving forward.”

Hargreaves, a collegiate standout with the Gators, ends his Bucs tenure with two interceptions — including one pick-six — 19 passes defensed, and 164 total tackles in 35 games (33 starts). Injuries limited him to just 10 games between the 2017-18 seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts To Work Out Kickers

After another difficult outing from future Hall-of-Famer Adam Vinatieri on Sunday, the Colts are working out free agent kickers today, as Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). Graziano says the team has not made any decision with respect to Vinatieri, but Indianapolis wants to see what’s available in case it elects to move on from the 46-year-old.

It sounds as if the Colts will consider cutting Vinatieri if they are sufficiently impressed by one of the kickers they’re bringing in for a tryout. If that happens, it would be an unceremonious end to a brilliant career, but Indianapolis cannot afford to keep Vinatieri around because of what he’s accomplished in the past. In 2019, the four-time Super Bowl champ has directly contributed to several of the Colts’ four losses — including Sunday’s home loss to the previously 1-7 Dolphins — and he has missed a whopping six extra points and five field goals.

After the second game of the 2019 season, a game in which he missed two PATS in a narrow win over the Titans, Vinatieri sounded like a man contemplating retirement. He ultimately elected to continue playing, and the Colts have stood by him, but after the defeat to Miami, it was easy to see that head coach Frank Reich‘s patience was wearing thin. Now, it’s unclear whether Vinatieri has already attempted the last kick of his 24-year NFL tenure.

We will pass along the names of the kickers the Colts are trying out when they become available.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.