Month: January 2023

Latest On Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa

9:50pm: There were a number of updates throughout the first full day following the second in-game injury to Tagovailoa. Just after noon today, McDaniel informed the media that Tagovailoa was experiencing a headache and, as an extra precaution, was taken to undergo another MRI, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson updated his followers following the testing that revealed “nothing serious/alarming.” He went on the clarify that while every head injury is a serious concern, there was “nothing discovered in testing that would create new concerns about whether he should resume playing football,” noting that, right now, the only barrier to Tagovailoa’s return to the field is the NFL’s five-step concussion protocol.

Retired center and second-term NFLPA President J.C. Tretter released a statement on Twitter around midday today. He explained that the Players Association initiated their investigation because Tagovailoa was permitted to return despite displaying what Tretter called “‘no-go’ symptoms.” He went on to say that, while there admittedly is not “an objective and validated method” for diagnosing brain injuries, the league should err on the side of caution and player safety and work towards eliminating the potential for human error.

The chief medical officer of the NFL, Dr. Allen Sills, laid out what he knew of Tagovailoa’s treatment before the Thursday night game, according to Tom Pelissero and Judy Battista of NFL Network. He explained that Tagovailoa “was checked for concussion symptoms every day” from Sunday until the game on Thursday and that an “independent neuro expert had to clear him.” The NFLPA will verify this information and use it to inform their determinations. Pelissero added that once the review has concluded, “the results will be released publicly.”

8:58am: Tua Tagovailoa was at the heart of controversy and speculation heading into last night’s game, and his health status remains a major talking point today. The Dolphins QB was sacked, then suffered a head injury which left him on the ground for several minutes. He was ultimately stretchered off the field and taken to a local hospital, where he was alert and had full movement in his extremities. 

The episode would have been noteworthy in its own regard, but was doubly so given the hit Tagovailoa sustained on Sunday which caused him to stumble and briefly leave the game. The team’s handling of his situation has since become the subject of an NFLPA investigation, which is ongoing. While it appears at this point that the Dolphins correctly followed concussion protocol in that instance, the fact that the 24-year-old suffered a major injury after playing on a short week has drawn the ire of the player’s union.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith texted a message to current and former association members, via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, which reads, “We insisted on these rules to avoid exactly this scenario. We will pursue every legal option, including making referrals against the doctors to licensing agencies and the team that is obligated to keep our players safe.”

When asked about the potential connection between the two injuries and the team’s decision to play Tagovailoa in spite of the quick turnaround, head coach Mike McDaniel reiterated his confidence in the Alabama product’s recovery from Sunday’s game and the team’s compliance with concussion-related procedures. He said, via NFL.com’s Grant Gordon“I don’t think that an injury from last week made him fall the same way this week, but yeah, I do not have any, like absolutely zero patience for, or will ever put a player in position for them to be in harm’s way.

“There’s an independent specialist that specializes in specialty brain matter, so for me, as long as I’m coaching here, I’m not going to fudge that whole situation… People don’t vary or stray [from protocol]; we don’t mess with that, we never have as long as I’ve been head coach, so it’d never be an issue that you guys have to worry about.”

Tagovailoa travelled back to Miami with the team while wearing a neck brace, per Josina Anderson of CBS Sports (Twitter link). She adds that initial scans showed nothing broken in his neck or spine, and that he will undergo an MRI after arrival. While his short-and long-term recovery timetable will be worth monitoring, this situation will also be underscored by other storylines for the foreseeable future.

Lions RB D’Andre Swift, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown Ruled Out For Sunday

The Lions offense continues to get bitten by injuries as two key offensive players were officially ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The team will attempt to catch up to the rest of the NFC North without running back D’Andre Swift and second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown

Swift started off the season with a bang. During the team’s season-opening loss to the Eagles, Swift carried the ball 15 times for 144 yards and a touchdown. Since then, some different ailments seem to have slowed Swift down as he’s only had 12 carries for 87 yards in the past two weeks while playing less than half of the team’s offensive snaps during that time frame. Head coach Dan Campbell has suggested that Swift could be out through the team’s bye week, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. Swift would only miss the Lions’ next two games in that scenario.

Luckily for Detroit, they roster one of the league’s more experienced backup running backs in Jamaal Williams. In the past two games which saw a lower usage of Swift, Williams had 32 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers are also while playing fewer than half of the team’s offensive snaps. With Swift out, Williams should have an opportunity to really take the running game over.

Many called for a breakout sophomore season for St. Brown and, so far, he has delivered. After the first three weeks of the season, St. Brown leads the team in receiving yards with 253. He also ranks in the top-ten of league receivers in receptions (6th with 23), receiving touchdowns (2nd with 3), and receiving yards per game (10th with 84.3). St. Brown has been a dominant favorite target for quarterback Jared Goff and his absence should be a cause for concern.

His absence is even more of a concern since his fellow starting receivers, DJ Chark and Josh Reynolds, were both limited in practice this week with ankle injuries. Both Chark and Reynolds are listed as questionable going into the weekend. With St. Brown out and rookie first-round pick Jameson Williams still awaiting his rookie debut while recovering from a torn ACL, losing Chark and Reynolds would leave Detroit with only Kalif Raymond and Quintez Cephus as healthy pass-catchers. In the unlikely event that Raymond and Cephus are the only two healthy receivers for Week 4, the Lions will likely be forced to use their two practice squad call-ups on any of Tom Kennedy, former USFL-star Maurice Alexander, and undrafted rookie Josh Johnson.

Regardless, of the availability of Chark and Reynolds, the losses of Swift and St. Brown are daunting. The two-game stretch that Detroit could be without Swift consists of two opponents with identical 1-2 records. It’s hard to say that those win-loss totals mean much this early in the season, but the Lions will certainly hope that this is a softer section of their schedule where they’ll potentially be without their lead rusher and receiver.

Pass Rusher Jason Pierre-Paul To Make Ravens Debut

Jason Pierre-Paul is “definitely” ready to debut for the third NFL team of his career, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. Pierre-Paul signed with the Ravens a little over a week ago after his second visit with the team this year. His presence has become a necessity as Baltimore, once again, finds itself getting bitten hard by the injury bug. 

Pierre-Paul surely saw his best years come with the Giants, during the first eight seasons of his career, when he tallied 58.5 sacks and 87.0 tackles for loss in New York. Not only could he wreak havoc in the backfield, but Pierre-Paul had a nose for the football, as well, forcing seven fumbles and returning both his interceptions in a Giants uniform for touchdowns.

As an esteemed veteran, he signed with the Buccaneers at 29-years-old. He became an immediate contributor and, in his first three seasons in Tampa Bay, recorded 30.5 sacks and 32.0 tackles for loss. Pierre-Paul even earned a Pro Bowl bid in his third season with the team.

Last year, though, Pierre-Paul saw his production plummet. He finished 2021 with the second-fewest sacks of his career (2.5) and the fewest tackles for loss of his career (5.0). Pierre-Paul attributes the downturn in production to injuries to his shoulder. He reportedly tore his rotator cuff, biceps, and “a small muscle in his upper back” last year, limiting him for all but the first three weeks of the season.

“I basically got a whole new shoulder. I feel way totally better,” Pierre-Paul explained. “I did what I could do for the team, but not having two shoulders is a big thing. Can’t push, can’t grab, can’t snatch. But I can do all of that now.”

The Ravens are counting on it. Three Ravens outside linebackers already sit on injured reserve and second-round rookie pass rusher David Ojabo remains on the reserve/non-football injury list. With Justin Houston listed as doubtful going into the Bills game, according to Hensley, after suffering a groin injury in last weekend’s win over the Patriots, Baltimore was left with only second-year pass rusher Odafe Oweh to rush the quarterback. Enter Pierre-Paul, who will join Oweh as the only healthy outside linebackers on the roster.

The Ravens have plenty of experience finding pressure from other positions, as they blitz more than any other team in the NFL, but if Pierre-Paul can return to anywhere near his normal form at 33-years-old, the Ravens should have a formidable pass-rushing duo to corral Bills quarterback Josh Allen this Sunday at noon.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 9/30/22

Pittsburgh was the only team to adjust their practice squad today:

Pittsburgh Steelers

Gilbert is returning for his third stint with the Steelers after being released from the practice squad 10 days ago. He started in the NFL when Pittsburgh signed him as an undrafted free agent last year. He ended up on the practice squad but was signed off of it by the Lions in October. He appeared in eight games for Detroit, but only had significant playing time in one game: the matchup against his former team, the Steelers, which ended in a tie. In the game, Gilbert showed his old team his worth with three tackles, a forced fumble, and a pass defensed. Perhaps the Steelers felt it was a good time to bring Gilbert back as starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon hasn’t practiced all week with a hamstring injury.

McCollum oddly also has ties to Detroit. After originally signing last year as an undrafted free agent with the Texans, McCollum was signed off their practice squad by the Lions after Week 4. McCollum played in every remaining game for Detroit, mostly on special teams, and even started a Week 14 contest against the Broncos.

WR Notes: Toney, Rams, Lions, Cards, Cooks

The Giants will enter their Week 4 game with Richie James, David Sills and Kenny Golladay as their top available wide receivers. Wan’Dale Robinson will miss a third straight game, while Kadarius Toney will be out for a second. The Toney-Giants relationship is steadily deteriorating. This regime is “clearly” not high on the Dave Gettleman-era first-round pick, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports writes. Repeated injury problems have slowed Toney with the Giants, who saw the Eagles trade in front of them to nab DeVonta Smith last year. Reports connected the Giants to the Heisman winner ahead of last year’s draft. Toney will have missed nine career games by Sunday, due to various lower-body ailments, and the current Giants regime’s Golladay handling shows it is not afraid to bury bad investments. It would seem Darius Slayton — another player who has not impressed the current staff, leading to trade buzz — will see more run in Week 4, but Vacchiano adds the Giants will likely be looking for at least two new wideouts in 2023. Toney joined Slayton in being linked in trade rumors, albeit briefly, this offseason. Robinson, a second-round rookie, appears the only lock to be back.

Here is the latest from the receiver scene around the league:

  • Allen Robinson flashed often during Rams training camp, and determining this signing will fail after three games is ill-advised. But early indications are Robinson’s 2021 Bears performance was not an outlier. The veteran dropped a touchdown pass against the Cardinals and has just seven catches for 88 yards with Los Angeles. The Rams came in with a monster offer — three years, $46.5MM; $30MM fully guaranteed — to sign the former Jaguars and Bears wideout, using their cap space on the ninth-year player after Von Miller chose the Bills. Other teams were interested in Robinson, albeit at lower price points, but SI.com’s Albert Breer notes teams did not like what Robinson put on tape. That is not exactly surprising, considering how badly Robinson’s final Bears season (38 receptions, 410 yards, one touchdown) went. But the early returns on Robinson’s Rams deal are not promising. Rams-Odell Beckham Jr. connections will likely continue.
  • The Lions are being patient with Jameson Williams, who is recovering from an ACL tear sustained during the national championship game. Williams is on Detroit’s reserve/NFI list, and while the first-round wideout could return in Week 5, he will not. The Alabama product is likelier to be back in early November, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press posits. Williams recently posted a video of him running and cutting. A second-half return has always been rumored for Williams, whom the Lions traded up 20 spots to draft. But no setbacks having occurred here obviously represents a good sign for the rebuilding franchise.
  • The Cardinals‘ receiving corps will not be at full strength until at least Week 7, when DeAndre Hopkins is eligible to return from his PED suspension. But the team may have one of its previously unavailable weapons in uniform Sunday. Rondale Moore is tracking toward returning from his hamstring injury, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets. The 2021 second-rounder, who caught 54 passes for 435 yards as a rookie, has missed Arizona’s first three games. He managed three limited practices this week. Marquise Brown, who suffered a foot injury in Week 3, is also likely to play. A.J. Green will miss Week 4 with a knee injury.
  • After Brandin Cooks played one game on the base salary he locked in by signing a two-year, $39.76MM extension in April, the Texans converted $831K of that base into a signing bonus. The Texans saved $554K with the move, Wilson notes. Cooks’ salary is down to $1.17MM; it spikes to $18MM next year. Cooks, who is now on his third contract, is signed through 2024.

Patriots Rule Out Mac Jones For Week 4; Brian Hoyer To Start

After suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 3, Mac Jones was not expected to play this week. He will not; the Patriots ruled him out for their Week 4 game in Green Bay.

Brian Hoyer will get the call against the Packers. This will be Hoyer’s 40th career start. Despite his extensive history with the Patriots, Sunday will mark only the veteran’s second start with the team.

Jones did not log an official practice this week, though the Pats quarterback was present at the team’s Friday workout. Bill Belichick repeatedly called the 2021 first-rounder “day to day,” but the young passer is believed to be battling a severe high ankle sprain — one that could sideline him for multiple games. Thus, it was expected throughout the week Hoyer would get the call. Jones made a strong effort to play through this issue Sunday, but NFL.com’s Mike Giardi notes the Alabama product continues to walk with a “noticeable limp” (Twitter link).

Hoyer, 36, has made some memorable contributions as a pro. The Cleveland-area native had the Browns in playoff contention late in the 2014 season, one that came mostly without Josh Gordon, and replaced Ryan Mallett early in the 2015 campaign to steer the Texans to an AFC South title. The former UDFA threw 19 touchdown passes compared to just seven interceptions that season. But Hoyer is far removed from his best NFL days; he is 1-12 as a starter since that Houston season. That win came for the 2016 Bears.

The Patriots have nevertheless circled back to Hoyer on multiple occasions. Adding him as a 2009 UDFA, the Pats kept Hoyer around for three seasons. They then re-signed him in 2017, after having traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Hoyer began that season as San Francisco’s stopgap starter but finished it as Tom Brady‘s backup. After the Colts signed Hoyer to back up Jacoby Brissett in 2019, in the wake of the surprise Andrew Luck retirement, the Pats brought him back for the 2020 season. Hoyer backed up Cam Newton in 2020 and was Jones’ QB2 last season.

Hoyer’s experience aside, this is a clear setback during a Patriots season themed around Jones’ development. This will be Jones’ first missed start as a pro. The former national championship-winning QB sustained his injury on the final play of the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens; Jones was unable to put any weight on his injured leg after the malady occurred. Despite seeking out a second opinion this week, Jones will be shelved.

A multigame Jones absence would stand to affect the Pats’ preparations going forward; they face the Lions in Week 5 and the Browns in Week 6. Hoyer struggles would open the door to rookie Bailey Zappe, who is coming off a record-setting season (62 touchdown passes) at Western Kentucky. There are no quarterbacks on New England’s practice squad.

Bears Audition Michael Badgley, Josh Lambo

The Bears may need a kicker for their Week 4 game, and they are turning to the workout circuit to find a fill-in option. The team excused Cairo Santos from practice Thursday for personal reasons, per the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs, and the veteran specialist was not there Friday.

With no kicker currently on the Bears’ 16-man practice squad, outside help appears necessary. Michael Badgley, Josh Lambo and Brian Johnson took part in a Friday workout, Biggs adds (via Twitter). Santos, 31, has been the Bears’ kicker since 2020. Via the three-year extension he signed in 2021, Santos is signed through the 2024 season.

Badgley, Lambo and Johnson kicked in the NFL last season. None entered this season with a gig. Both Lambo and Badgley began their careers with the Chargers; Badgley played as a Colts replacement option last season, while Lambo was with the Jaguars from 2017-21. The team moved in a different direction this year, ditching both Lambo and top 2021 option Matthew Wright.

Lambo, 31, only kicked in seven Jaguars games from 2020-21 but was the team’s full-timer for most of Doug Marrone‘s HC tenure. He led the NFL with a 97% make rate during his most recent full season (2019), going 33-for-34, but missed each of his three field goal tries last season. Lambo’s Jacksonville stay represents his longest as a pro; it will likely be most remembered for his Urban Meyer conflict. Lambo has sued the Jags, alleging Meyer kicked him while he was warming up for a preseason game. Jacksonville released Lambo in October 2021.

Signed to replace an injured Rodrigo Blankenship midway through last season, Badgley made 86% of his tries (18 of 21) in Indianapolis. One of the Saints’ four options in their Wil Lutz-less season, Johnson also kicked for Washington in 2021. Johnson has yet to miss a field goal as a pro, going 10-for-10 as a rookie. This has been a two-workout week for Badgley, who auditioned for the Chiefs with ex-Jags teammate Wright. The latter landed the job — a spot on Kansas City’s P-squad.

Jerry Jones Addresses Randy Gregory’s Cowboys Exit

Using Micah Parsons far more as an edge player than linebacker thus far this year, the Cowboys have formed a quality pass rush after the Randy Gregory negotiations broke down. Gregory is now a Broncos starter, teaming with Bradley Chubb as part of another team’s quality edge-rushing situation.

The Cowboys were prepared to keep Gregory on a five-year, $70MM deal — the exact terms he signed for in Denver — but an 11th-hour snafu related to guarantee forfeiture scuttled the agreement. This produced tension from both sides in the wake of Gregory going with the Broncos, but Jerry Jones said Friday the team’s depth benefited from the talks not producing a deal.

I decided we were going too much on that guy; we could have three other guys better,” Jones said, when asked if he approached Dan Quinn about the state of the team’s pass rush amid the Gregory talks, during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan (audio link). “I didn’t have to go to anybody on that.

A Cowboy from 2015-21 (amid a historically suspension-marred tenure), Gregory had agreed to stay but reversed course after he felt the Cowboys inserted language late in the process that could have voided his $28MM in guarantees even if he incurred a fine. The Cowboys have this provision included in most of their contracts. Jones now indicating he viewed the team’s offer as too high certainly proves interesting, given where Gregory’s deal ranks among edge defenders and how the Cowboys proceeded after losing him.

After Gregory committed to the Broncos during the legal tampering period, the Cowboys re-signed Dorance Armstrong on a two-year deal worth $12MM, took a flier on Dante Fowler (one year, $3MM) and drafted Sam Williams in the second round. This came after DeMarcus Lawrence, who refused to take a pay cut earlier in March, redid his deal. Lawrence, 30, is now tied to a three-year, $40MM pact ($30MM fully guaranteed).

The Broncos are now taking on the Gregory suspension risk, though the former second-round pick’s most recent ban came in 2019, and have him tied to an average salary ranking 22nd among edge rushers. The Cowboys have just one contract averaging north of $6MM across their defense — Lawrence’s — but the team stood down on adding another. Despite Von Miller offering to take a hometown discount, the Cowboys offered the Dallas-area native Gregory’s terms. That ended up placing third in the Miller sweepstakes, and the future Hall of Famer opted for a Bills proposal that included guarantees into Year 3.

Armstrong, who totaled just 2.5 career sacks from 2019-21, tallied five last season and already has three in three 2022 games. Torching Giants right tackle Evan Neal on Monday, Lawrence ripped off his first three-sack game since 2018. Fowler, who disappointed with the Falcons, has notched a sack and one quarterback hit thus far. Williams (34 defensive snaps) is playing behind this trio and Parsons. Gregory has sacks in back-to-back games and has forced two fumbles in three Broncos tilts.

It is too early to grade the Cowboys’ decision, but the team’s choice to pass on a Parsons-Lawrence-Gregory (or Parsons-Lawrence-Miller) pass rush is working out so far. But it will be interesting to see how Armstrong, Fowler and Williams fare over the course of Miller’s Buffalo career and Gregory’s Denver stay.

2022 NFL Cap Space, By Team

As we exit September, trade rumors will become a steady NFL topic. This year’s deadline falls on Nov. 1. That will return cap-space discussions to the forefront. Here is how every team stacks up financially going into October, via Over The Cap.

  1. Cleveland Browns: $35.94MM
  2. Philadelphia Eagles: $10.89MM
  3. Denver Broncos: $10.67MM
  4. Carolina Panthers: $10.47MM
  5. Las Vegas Raiders: $10.35MM
  6. Dallas Cowboys: $9.25MM
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers: $8.64MM
  8. Green Bay Packers: $8.57MM
  9. Indianapolis Colts: $7.97MM
  10. Atlanta Falcons: $7.92MM
  11. New York Jets: $6.97MM
  12. Chicago Bears: $6.84MM
  13. San Francisco 49ers: $6.75MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $6.51MM
  15. Arizona Cardinals: $6.25MM
  16. Los Angeles Chargers: $5.83MM
  17. New York Giants: $5.49MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $5.41MM
  19. Los Angeles Rams: $5.38MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $4.51MM
  21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $3.87MM
  22. New England Patriots: $3.5MM
  23. Cincinnati Bengals: $3.16MM
  24. New Orleans Saints: $2.86MM
  25. Detroit Lions: $2.64MM
  26. Washington Commanders: $2.58MM
  27. Buffalo Bills: $2.44MM
  28. Tennessee Titans: $2.41MM
  29. Seattle Seahawks: $2.28MM
  30. Kansas City Chiefs: $2.12MM
  31. Houston Texans: $1.64MM
  32. Minnesota Vikings: $1.47MM

The Eagles’ number is certainly far closer to the Vikings’ last-place figure than what the Browns have stockpiled. Cleveland would stand to have room to augment its 2022 roster, via a patient free agent or a trade. That could depend on where Jacoby Brissett has the team stationed going into the Nov. 1 deadline. But the Browns also appear to be preparing for their Deshaun Watson future. Watson’s unprecedented contract spikes from a $9.4MM cap number (2022) to a record-shattering $54.99MM numbers from 2023-26. As that reality awaits, the Browns rolling over cap space to 2023 would be prudent.

With Sterling Shepard‘s ACL tear moving the veteran wide receiver to IR, the Giants will need to both cover that cost ($6.3MM) and add a contract to fill the roster spot. Every team will go through versions of that issue this season, as injuries pile up. The Giants are prepared to eat a significant chunk of Kenny Golladay‘s 2022 base salary ($13MM) to move him, eyeing an escape from his $4.5MM 2023 guarantee. No takers have emerged, though it will be interesting to see if a market for the former Pro Bowler forms once injuries affect more teams’ receiver situations.

Since their Jimmy Garoppolo restructure, the 49ers agreed to a two-year extension with Dre Greenlaw. The team is not expected to extend Nick Bosa until 2023, however. The Texans, Falcons, Bears and Eagles all sit north of $60MM in dead money, meaning more than a quarter of their respective cap space is tied to players no longer on the roster. Watson, Matt Ryan and Khalil Mack are responsible for massive dead-money hits on the Houston, Atlanta and Chicago payrolls. Philadelphia still has Alshon Jeffery, Malik Jackson and Brandon Brooks dead money on its cap sheet.

Panthers Seeking Experienced HC Post-Matt Rhule?

The Panthers became one of a few 0-2 teams to respond with a Week 3 win. That likely extended Matt Rhule‘s leash, but the third-year Carolina HC is not out of the woods yet.

Rhule is under “heavy scrutiny” from David Tepper, and the franchise’s fifth-year owner is losing patience with the former successful college coach, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. As we heard last weekend, no firing is imminent. Rhule (11-25 in two-plus seasons) remains tied to a seven-year, $62MM contract he signed in 2020.

The Panthers also have a plus-3 point differential this season, which has seen them lose on 56- and 58-yard game-winning field goals. But the odds are against the former Temple and Baylor HC making it to the 2023 season in Carolina.

After the Panthers shelled out a monster contract for an unproven NFL coach, many around the league expect Tepper to replace Rhule with an experienced option, Wilson adds. The Panthers would be in the market for a retread, a route this franchise has taken just once (George Seifert) in its history. Five of the 10 teams with coaching vacancies went with second-chance options this year as well. Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores (his lawsuit notwithstanding) and Jim Caldwell were retread options to take multiple interviews this offseason but not land jobs.

This is a similar path to the one the Panthers traversed when identifying their 2022 offensive coordinator, with former head coach Ben McAdoo landing the gig. Unfortunately, Carolina’s offense is what has held Rhule back. The defensive coordinator Rhule brought with him from the college ranks, Phil Snow, oversaw last season’s second-ranked (yardage-wise) unit. And the team’s Week 3 turnover spree led to the win over the Saints. Offensively, the Panthers have yet to see much from Baker Mayfield, who is thus far continuing the Rhule-era run of unsatisfactory quarterback play.

Rhule’s inability to properly staff the QB spot is not for lack of trying; the team was linked to Deshaun Watson in 2021 and was a finalist for the embattled passer this year. But the trades for Mayfield and Sam Darnold and the Teddy Bridgewater free agency accord have not worked out. Though, Mayfield has only played three games. The former Browns starter will enter Week 4 last in QBR. Should Rhule be canned during the season, he would undoubtedly be a coveted option for college programs seeking an upgrade.