Month: October 2020

Seahawks, Others Inquire About Aldon Smith

The Seahawks made a deal to acquire Carlos Dunlap and will almost certainly have him in uniform in Week 9. However, the pass rush-deficient team looked into another edge defender recently.

Aldon Smith came up in a Seahawks-Cowboys conversation this week, with Mike Garafolo of NFL.com noting Seattle and other teams checked in on the re-emerging edge rusher’s availability (video link). The Cowboys’ decisions to trade Everson Griffen and cut Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley surely prompted teams to reach out to see if Dallas would be willing to part with its offseason find.

However, the Cowboys are not interested in dealing Smith, Garafolo adds. The Cowboys signed the former All-Pro this offseason, doing so despite Smith being out of football for nearly five years. Smith has been one of the few bright spots on Dallas’ embattled defense, registering a team-high four sacks. Griffen was the only other Cowboy with more than two this season.

Dallas signed Smith to a one-year deal worth $2MM, beating out Denver in the process. Another $2MM is available to Smith through sack incentives. The four sacks are the most the frequently suspended talent has registered in a season since 2013. Although the Seahawks rank slightly ahead of the Cowboys in defensive DVOA (27th to 30th), they have surrendered the most yards by any team through seven games in NFL history. Seattle’s nine sacks rank 27th as well.

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Cowboys Activate Sean Lee, Joe Looney

Ben DiNucci will have more help up front than he did upon being thrust into action last week. In addition to Zack Martin returning from concussion protocol, Joe Looney is back on the Cowboys’ active roster.

The Cowboys activated Looney and Sean Lee from IR Saturday, though ESPN.com’s Todd Archer notes rookie Tyler Biadasz is expected to make another start at center. Looney has missed the past three games because of an MCL injury.

Dallas used Looney as its full-time starter in 2018, when Travis Frederick missed the season, and re-signed him this offseason after Frederick retired. Looney started the team’s first four games before his knee injury. He went down on the first play of the Cowboys’ Week 4 loss to the Browns. Pro Football Focus grades his 2020 work better than Biadasz’s thus far, with the latter ranking near the bottom of the advanced metrics site’s center hierarchy.

Lee will make his 2020 debut. The Cowboys placed the veteran linebacker on IR prior to the season starting, carrying him onto their 53-man roster so they could activate him at some point. Lee underwent pelvis surgery, forcing his latest injury-induced absence. The Cowboys re-signed Lee on a one-year, $4.5MM deal this offseason. This will be as healthy as Dallas’ linebackers have been all season, with Leighton Vander Esch also now back after missing early-season games.

The Cowboys also promoted cornerback Saivion Smith from their practice squad. Smith will help a cornerback corps that will be without Chidobe Awuzie. The Cowboys enter Week 8 ranking 30th in defensive DVOA. They jettisoned three veterans — Everson Griffen, Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley — this week.

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Cowboys Rule Out Andy Dalton For Week 8

The Cowboys will not have Andy Dalton available in their annual Sunday-night game against the Eagles. They downgraded the veteran passer to out due to the concussion he suffered in Week 7.

Third-stringer Ben DiNucci will start in Philadelphia. Dalton has yet to clear the protocol after taking an illegal hit from Washington linebacker Jon Bostic, and it will result in an unusual starting offense for the team many expected to win the NFC East this season.

Dallas is already down starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins for the season. Although Cameron Erving is back from IR at right tackle, DiNucci will represent an obvious change for a team that has not needed to deviate from its quarterback plan in many years. Dak Prescott started 64 straight games from 2016-19. DiNucci being summoned to start reminds of the 2015 season, when Tony Romo‘s injuries resulted in the Cowboys giving starts to Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and current OC Kellen Moore.

DiNucci spent the past two seasons as the starter at Division I-FCS James Madison. The former Pitt recruit led the Dukes to the D-I-FCS national championship game, when they lost to North Dakota State and likely 2021 first-round pick Trey Lance. While DiNucci led the FCS level with a 71% completion rate last season and accounted for 35 TDs (six rushing), his forced ascent illustrates how far off course this Cowboys season has drifted. DiNucci completed 2 of 3 passes for 39 yards and took three sacks in Dallas’ 25-3 loss to Washington.

The Cowboys have Garrett Gilbert in place as DiNucci’s backup. Despite being drafted in the 2014 sixth round, Gilbert has only played in six games and thrown six passes as a pro.

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Colts Activate WR Michael Pittman Jr.

The Colts will receive a boost to their passing game this weekend. The team announced this morning that they’ve activated wideout Michael Pittman Jr. from injured reserve. To make room, the team has waived receiver Daurice Fountain.

Following a standout career at USC that saw him earn a pair of first team All-Pac-12 honors, Pittman was selected in the second round (No. 34) of this past year’s draft. He appeared in each of Indy’s first three games (including one start), hauling in nine receptions for 73 yards. He also led all Colts receivers in snaps during their Week 2 win over the Vikings.

The 23-year-old was placed on IR in early October after being diagnosed with compartment syndrome in his calf. The rookie should slide back into a depth chart that’s currently led by T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal.

Fountain was a fifth-round pick by the Colts back in 2018. He was limited to only a single game during his first two years in the NFL, but he’s seen time in four games this season, hauling in a pair of catches for 23 yards.

Bears WR Allen Robinson Expected To Play On Sunday

Good news for the Bears this morning. ESPN’s Field Yates reports (via Twitter) that top wideout Allen Robinson has cleared concussion protocol and is expected to play tomorrow.

Robinson suffered a concussion during the Bears loss to the Rams on Monday night, and his status was changed from “questionable” to “doubtful” on Friday’s injury report. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune noted yesterday (on Twitter), a player “has to be at least limited in” one practice in order to be listed as questionable for a respective week. Since Robinson didn’t practice as he went through concussion protocol, the Bears were required to list him as doubtful.

Robinson being active is obviously a huge boost for a 5-2 Bears team that’s going against a formidable 4-2 Saints squad. The 27-year-old receiver is having another standout season in Chicago, hauling in 44 receptions for 544 yards and two touchdowns.

Unfortunately, the Bears won’t be completely healthy for their showdown against New Orleans. Center Cody Whitehair is sidelined with a calf injury, while pass rusher Khalil Mack and wideout Cordarrelle Patterson are both questionable.

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Eagles Activate TE Dallas Goedert, WR Jalen Reagor, OL Jason Peters

The Eagles will welcome back a number of players for tomorrow’s matchup against the Cowboys. Geoff Mosher reports (via Twitter) that Philly will activate tight end Dallas Goedert. Meanwhile, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo tweets that the team is also activating wideout Jalen Reagor, offensive lineman Jason Peters, linebacker T.J. Edwards, and safety Rudy Ford.

Considering the injuries that the Eagles are dealing with on offense, both Goedert and Reagor will be especially welcome additions. Following a 2019 campaign that saw him haul in 58 receptions for 607 yards and five scores, Goedert continued to produce through the first two-plus games of the 2020 season, hauling in 13 receptions for 138 yards and one score before succumbing to an ankle injury. The former second-rounder managed to put up that solid production playing behind Zach Ertz, but with the veteran currently sidelined, Goedert should have a clear path to snaps.

Reagor, the 21st pick in this past year’s draft, was relatively productive through his first two career games, hauling in five catches for 96 yards. He suffered a ligament tear in his thumb in late September, and he was subsequently placed on IR. He’ll join a receivers corps that’s currently led by former sixth-rounder Travis Fulgham.

Peters, 38, signed a one-year extension with the Eagles this past summer. He started each of Philly’s first three games before being sidelined with a toe injury. With offensive tackle Lane Johnson dealing with a knee injury, Peters could immediately slide back into the starting lineup.

Edwards, a 2019 undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, appeared in all 16 games as a rookie. He compiled 15 tackles and one forced fumble in four starts this season before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4. Ford has served exclusively on special teams in three games for the Eagles this season.

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Lions Sign RB Jonathan Williams

Jonathan Williams is back in Detroit. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that the Lions have signed the running back off Washington’s practice squad.

The 26-year-old joined the Lions back in August, and he was added to Detroit’s practice squad after being cut in early September. He was promoted to the active roster for Week 1, but he was subsequently demoted and (eventually) released. He ended up catching on with Washington’s practice squad earlier this month, but Detroit is now adding him back to their active roster.

It’s tough to envision Williams doing much during his second stint in Detroit. Adrian Peterson and rookie D’Andre Swift have led the team’s running game, and while Peterson was recently dealing with an abdomen injury, he won’t carry an injury designation heading into tomorrow’s game against the Colts. The Lions are also currently rostering Kerryon Johnson and Bo Scarbrough, so there aren’t many carries to go around.

Williams was a fifth-round pick by the Bills in 2016, and he’s also had stints with the Broncos, Saints, and Colts during his five-year career. His had his best season in 2019 with Indy, running for 235 yards and one score on 49 carries. Most of that production came in a two-week span when Williams ran for 220 combined yards against the Jaguars and Texans.

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Rams Activate DT A’Shawn Robinson

Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson could finally make his debut for the Rams this weekend. The team announced that they’ve activated the veteran to the 53-man roster.

Robinson joined the Rams this past offseason on a two-year, $17MM deal. As Mark Inabinett of AL.com explains, the 25-year-old had previously dealt with a “respiratory situation,” qualifying him as a medical opt-out amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Under that plan, Robinson could have earned $350K for the 2020 season and had his contract officially set to begin in 2021.

Instead, Robinson and the Rams agreed to a reworked deal that saw Robinson start the season on the reserve/NFI list. While the start of his two-year deal was still delayed until the 2021 campaign, Robinson will instead play the 2020 season under a deal that’s based on bonuses.

While the Rams defensive line grouping is set with Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald and Sebastian Joseph as starters, Robinson will provide the team with another depth piece (alongside Morgan Fox and Greg Gaines). Coach Sean McVay told reporters that if Robinson doesn’t play this weekend against the Dolphins, he’ll definitely return following the team’s Week 9 bye.

The 2016 second-rounder had spent the first four seasons of his career with the Lions. After starting all 16 games during the 2017 season, Robinson was limited to only 26 games (16 starts) between the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. Still, he combined for 89 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles.

Texans Trade Eli Ankou To Cowboys

The Texans have traded defensive tackle Eli Ankou to the Cowboys, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. The deal will be finalized on Monday, pending the results of Ankou’s COVID-19 test. In exchange, the Texans will receive a seventh-round pick.

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Ankou will help Dallas fill the gap following the release of defensive tackle Dontari Poe. This marks the 26-year-old’s third stop of the season — he started out with the Colts before being claimed by the Texans earlier this month. He did not suit up for Houston this season, but he does have 20 career appearances to his credit with the Colts, Browns, and Jaguars.

Ankou, a former undrafted free agent out of UCLA, will be watching from a distance as the Cowboys face the Eagles on Sunday night. Instead, he’ll have his first chance to debut the following week against the Steelers. The Cowboys still have time for additional moves before the Tuesday deadline, but they’re not expected to make a huge splash. Meanwhile, other would-be contenders like the Vikings may be gearing up for a weekend fire sale.

Vikings Place CB Mike Hughes On IR

The Vikings will enter their Aaron Rodgers rematch decimated at cornerback. They placed Mike Hughes on IR Friday, and ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin reports the neck injury Hughes sustained in Week 6 has the rest of his season in doubt.

Neck trouble would be an automatic concern regardless of circumstances, but Hughes has a history with neck issues. He landed on IR before Minnesota’s playoff slate last season, and a belated report indicated the former first-round pick suffered broken vertebra in his neck. Hughes recovered in time for this season, but Friday’s report is certainly troubling for his NFL future.

Hughes has not been able to stay healthy as a pro. An ACL tear ended his 2018 rookie season after six games. He played 14 last season but has missed time this year. With 2018 first-round picks being the first to have fully guaranteed fifth-year options, it now appears a certainty the Vikings will pass on Hughes’ come May.

The Vikings did, however, make Hughes a key piece of their cornerback puzzle this offseason. They let Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander defect to the Bengals, doing so after cutting former No. 1 corner Xavier Rhodes. Minnesota drafted corners Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler in Rounds 1 and 3, respectively, this year.

Dantzler, however, resides on the Vikings’ reserve/COVID-19 list. He will miss Sunday’s Packers tilt, leaving Gladney as the only healthy corner from the Vikes’ regular rotation. Holton Hill is also out with a foot injury.

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