Christian Hackenberg

Jets Rumors: Mayfield, Hackenberg, Teddy

As the Jets prepare to reconvene on Monday for their first day of the offseason program, here’s where their quarterback situation stands — both in terms of veterans and the player they’re eyeing at No. 3.

  • While it’s not certain if Baker Mayfield would win out in a Mayfield-or-Sam Darnold scenario, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes the Oklahoma-developed passer would be Gang Green’s preferred option over Josh Allen. The Jets will be prepared to go with Mayfield’s accuracy — back-to-back seasons with a 71 percent completion rate, albeit in the Sooners’ air raid attack — and his career winning games for the Big 12 school over the Wyoming product with the tantalizing upside. Although, at just 6-foot, Mayfield would be the shortest quarterback the Jets drafted since Jeff Blake in 1992, Cimini writes. Blake did end up having a 14-year career, despite only one of those seasons occurring with the Jets.
  • If the Browns take Allen and the Giants draft Darnold, Cimini expects the Jets to stay with Mayfield if confronted with a Mayfield-or-Josh Rosen decision (Twitter link). While the Jets held a higher opinion of the latter going into the offseason, Mayfield may well have usurped the UCLA product as the draft nears.
  • Lamar Jackson is not under consideration for the Jets at No. 3 overall, per Cimini (on Twitter). While Jackson has met with the Browns, it hasn’t been reported that he visited the Jets, Giants or Broncos. His known meetings have come with the Ravens, Chargers and Saints thus far. And the Patriots have interest in the Louisville standout.
  • Todd Bowles expects Teddy Bridgewater to throw passes this spring, but it’s uncertain how much the recently signed QB will participate in the team portions of these voluntary workouts, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. The Jets signed Bridgewater to an incentive-laden contract, doing so after the Vikings expressed concern about his knee this offseason. For now, Josh McCown is preparing to start for a second season in green.
  • While both Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty could be on their way out of the Big Apple soon, Costello writes Petty is the likeliest to be given walking papers before camp commences. As for Hackenberg, there remains a contingent at Jets headquarters hoping he can be salvaged to some degree. However, once the new quarterback arrives, the 2016 second-round pick will be the fourth-string quarterback going into camp. The statuses of these incumbent backups could be determined by how Bridgewater looks in camp. Hackenberg has still yet to play in a regular-season game. Petty finished the past two seasons for the Jets, but has led them to one win in seven starts and last season finished with a 49 percent completion rate.

QB Notes: Vikings, Rosen, Hackenberg

The Vikings might be the current leaders in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, and if the Vikes can land the coveted signal-caller, all three of their 2017 QBs — Case KeenumSam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater — will likely be suiting up elsewhere in 2018. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that at least a handful of teams have expressed interest in Bridgewater as a potential starting quarterback, so he does have a market, despite some reports that the Vikings themselves view Bridgewater as a pedestrian QB.

Now let’s take a look at a few more rumors surrounding some of the draft’s top QBs, as well as veteran signal-callers that could be on the move:

  • If the Vikings cannot land Cousins, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune suggests that Eagles QB (and Super Bowl LII MVP) Nick Foles could be on the team’s radar. The Eagles have suggested they are open to trading Foles, and Minnesota just hired former Philadelphia QBs coach John DeFilippo as its new offensive coordinator. Of course, the two sides previously completed a QB trade when the Eagles shipped Bradford to the Vikings prior to the 2016 campaign.
  • Paul Schwartz of the New York Post wonders if Giants head coach Pat Shurmur‘s recent unsolicited comments about Eli Manning‘s enviable durability — and Shurmur’s statement that players who get injured a lot continue to get injured a lot — are an indication that Big Blue is concerned about Josh Rosen‘s injury history. The UCLA quarterback has suffered two concussions, and he also underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder in 2016. Nonetheless, Schwartz writes that Rosen has looked as good as advertised at the combine, so aside from health concerns, he appears to be a viable target for the Giants, who hold the No. 2 overall selection.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says it would be a “minor upset” if Christian Hackenberg is still on the Jets in 2018, and Hackenberg’s fate could be tied to the Cousins sweepstakes. If New York does not land Cousins, it will look to acquire another veteran QB or two — Cimini names Bridgewater as one possibility — and then draft a rookie signal-caller. If the Jets do sign Cousins, Hackenberg could theoretically stick as a backup, but even in that scenario, Gang Green would likely try to sign a more accomplished No. 2, and the club may still pick up a rookie in the later rounds of the draft, which would force Hackenberg out of the picture. For his part, Cimini believes it’s time to move on, and it appears head coach Todd Bowles feels similarly. Interestingly, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe says he has watched videos of Hackenberg’s offseason workouts, and he reports the former Penn State star’s mechanics look terrific.
  • Sam Darnold‘s throwing motion is a little longer than some scouts would like, but he has no plans to change it, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. Darnold is not throwing at this year’s combine, though teams will have a chance to further evaluate his mechanics at USC’s pro day on March 21.

Jets Notes: Wilkerson, Bowles, QB’s

Jets embattled defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was inactive for the second game in a row in the team’s loss to the Chargers in Week 16. While Wilkerson did sign a lucrative $86MM contract extension about a year and a half ago, it’s unlikely that the former first round pick will be back in New York next season, opines Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.

Heach coach Todd Bowles was unsure whether the healthy scratch trend would continue for Wilkerson in the final week of the regular season, noting to reporters simply that “We’ll see.” Cimini also points out that the decision to keep Wilkerson off the field appeared to come directly from Bowles himself and not the front office.

“I made him inactive,” Bowles said. “Coach’s decision.”

Wilkerson did practice during the week, but notably arrived late for a team meeting, which may have ultimately titled Bowles’ decision to sit his highest-paid player. Cimini further reports that the Jets plan on cutting the 28-year-old before his $16.8MM salary becomes guaranteed in March.

The Jets decided to extend Wilkerson after a 12.5 sack performance in 2015. But he’s disappointed since then, collecting just eight sacks in 28 games, including only 3.5 sacks this season.

Here’s more stories surrounding Gang Green:

  • In another story from Cimini, he passes along that while the Jets will finish under-.500 for the second season in a row, Bowles should still be the team’s head coach come Week 1 next year based on what Jets ownership has said throughout this season. Acting owner Christopher Johnson emphasized early on the word “progress” over “playoffs” and it seems like the team has made a lot of strides in Bowles’ third go around with the franchise. The Jets have been in nearly every game this year without the talent you expect from a at least a mildly competitive team. “You just keep your head down and just keep working,” Bowles said. “We’re in every game. We’re not closing them out. We’re not finishing them. For whatever reason, we’re not making plays in the fourth quarter to finish these games. You keep working and you keep trying to find a solution.” Cimini only sees the Jets ownership firing Bowles if there is a dramatic shift in philosophy, even though there’s be nothing to signal that there is a change in the way Johnson is thinking about the future of the organization.
  • Former fourth round pick Bryce Petty continues to struggle in a starting role for the Jets. Cimini notes that since he made his first start in 2016, the former Baylor quarterback has thrown at least one interception and no more than one touchdown in every start he’s made. Without veteran QB Josh McCown, the team has taken a major step back with Petty under center, which has caused a lot of frustration around the team, according to Brian Costello of the Brian Costello of the New York Post“Bryce needs to work his way through things,” Bowles explained. “It’s only his second game starting this year. He needs to go through that.” However, it’s clear that after two separate tryouts in the past two seasons, Petty doesn’t look like he’s going to be a major factor on the Jets QB depth chart moving forward.
  • Costello also reports that backup quarterback Christian Hackenberg was close to relieving Petty at some point in the second half, but Bowles ultimately decided to keep him on the sideline. “Bryce is the backup quarterback,” Bowles explained. “He won it in the summer. You put the backup in. You don’t put a three over a two. Christian is not that bad. Bryce did not have a good ballgame. It’s only his second start. I’m not going to sit here and condemn the guy because he didn’t play well in week two of starting this year after not playing all year.” Hackenberg has been notably absent from the quarterback conversation since he was drafted by New York in the second of the 2016 NFL Draft. Many pundits understood that he was raw coming out of Penn State, but it’s been surprising that he has gotten zero snaps in what’s been two lost seasons for the franchise. The lack of playing time certainly points to the Jets looking for another long-term option either in the draft or the free agent market for next year’s team.

AFC East Notes: Jets, Wilkerson, Dolphins

Last offseason, the Dolphins signed safety T.J. McDonald, traded for defensive end William Hayes, signed linebacker Lawrence Timmons and extended/re-signed several key members of the defense. Unfortunately, their maneuverings have not paid off, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald writes.

The Dolphins also spent a great deal of money to keep key contributors in-house. Despite extensions for defensive end Cameron Wake, linebacker, Kiko Alonso, and safety Reshad Jones plus a new deal for defensive end Andre Branch, the D is simply not producing.

I think in general, this will apply to Kiko but also to sum up some of the other guys from Sunday,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “Our good players can’t miss on plays. He missed a couple of tackles that he can’t miss. Period. If we want to be the defense that we want to be and we want to win games that we want to win, he can’t miss a couple of those plays. Reshad can’t miss a tackle. Cam can’t miss a sack. That’s just facts.

This offseason, the 6-8 Dolphins will have to re-evaluate their roster, but they won’t have much flexibility thanks to the moves they made in 2017.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

East Notes: Cowboys, Giants, Hackenberg, Jets

Jerry Jones offered a measured response to Roger Goodell‘s new extension when asked about it on Friday morning.

“No, I don’t really [have any comment],” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan (transcript via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). “We’re having a very important [owners] meeting here in Dallas next week beginning Wednesday. That’s very meaningful. I’m looking forward to that. That’ll be very meaningful as we go forward. One of the things that I think that has been mentioned is any role that I might have had in the extension of Roger. As you know, I’ve been on both ends of it as far as any criticism. It’s been my experience in 30 years in the NFL that to make change and to make positive change — every time we all strive to make the NFL better, I include every owner with that — it’s hard. It’s very, very hard. If you really want to make some changes, you usually end up getting a lot of criticism along the way. It’s happened every time with me when we’ve had meaningful change. … We’ll see how it goes forward, but there’s nothing that has surprised me here.”

While Jones seethes behind closed doors, let’s take a look at the latest from the East divisions:

  • Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com spoke with people around the league to size up some potential candidates for the Giants‘ GM vacancy. The names he’s hearing include Eliot Wolf (Packers), Nick Caserio (Patriots), Scott Pioli (Falcons), Trent Kirchner (Seahawks), Dave Gettleman (ex-Panthers GM), Louis Riddick (currently with ESPN), and internal candidates Kevin Abrams and Marc Ross.
  • Can Christian Hackenberg still be the Jets‘ quarterback of the future? The former second round pick has yet to see the field, but Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News won’t rule out the possibility that he could be in the mix next season. For his part, Hackenberg admits that he is anxious to take an NFL snap. “In order to grow and learn, you need to get hit in your mouth,” Hackenberg said. “You need to fail. Then you grow from that. There’s really no intimidation. I got to experience things. I felt like I experienced a lot of really good things this preseason and some things I need to learn from. That’s all part of the process. If you don’t experience both ends of the spectrum, you’re not getting everything out of the adventure.”

Extra Points: Anthem, Raiders, Bengals, Jets

Discussion about who stands and who sits for the national anthem could come to an end next season if the owners have their way, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske hears. Maske reports that some NFL owners think there is a “strong possibility” they could enact a change to the league’s policy next season that could keep players off the field during the playing of the national anthem.

Maske quoted one person familiar with the owners’ deliberations saying, “I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen.” He continued with the source, who said, “I think most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season.”

The thought this action could quell attention from the league’s anthem issues is a naive one. Players in favor of demonstrating their right to protest are sure to feel disrespected, while having no one standing for the flag is certain to draw ire from a wide range of fans. Whatever the decision, the NFL isn’t likely to escape the spotlight anytime soon.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Raiders  head coach Jack Del Rio issued a statement on Wednesday stating “nobody should feel comfortable” following the team’s firing of defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., NBC Sports’ Scott Blair reports. Del Rio continued, saying, “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.” After starting the season with Super Bowl aspirations, the Raiders are holding out hope for a second-half revival to contend for a wildcard spot.
  • Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey sat down with ESPN’s Adam Schefter on his Know Them From Adam Podcast to give his first interview since being fired in June. In the interview, which the Kansas City Star’s Blair Kerkhoff recapped, Dorsey didn’t address his departure much outside of saying he’s had better days. He did claim he wanted to make a return to football, however. “I know I can do my job with the best with my peers in the National Football League,” Dorsey said. “I’m very proud of being able to help an organization re-establish their winning ways, and I think that’s important.”
  • When asked if the team was committed to kicker Randy Bullock for the remainder of the season, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said they were committed to him “for the week.,” ESPN’s Katherine Terrell reports. Bullock has connected on 8-of-10 field goals on the season but has missed an extra point in each of his last two games.
  • It’s getting close to time for the Jets to see what they have in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News writes. Though Josh McCown has played well, Mehta claims it is time to call the kids up from “Triple-A” to see what they can do.

East Notes: Webb, Hackenberg, Dolphins

Mired in their worst season in 14 years, the Giants could soon be faced with a tough decision at quarterback. But for now, their plan isn’t changing. Eli Manning will continue to be their starter, and Davis Webb‘s role doesn’t look to be increasing. The Giants do not plan to play the third-round rookie in 2017, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports.

Webb has not been receiving additional practice reps and remains behind Manning and Geno Smith, the latter being expected to keep operating as the backup quarterbackGiants wide receivers coach Frank Cignetti said the Cal product is making “tremendous progress” and noted the team would “obviously” get a better read on Webb with game action, but the 1-8 Giants may have other plans in the works regarding their post-Manning quarterback.

Webb was “all but anointed” as Manning’s successor come 2020, Vacchiano notes, but that was before the team lost eight of its first nine games. Now, the Giants have ramped up quarterback scouting, Vacchiano confirms, because of their lost season and a possible top-five draft choice that would then be awarded. The reporter adds Big Blue will “strongly consider” taking a quarterback with that pick.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern divisions, continuing with the New York teams.

  • Both the Giants and Jets have sent their GMs to Los Angeles on Saturday night for the UCLA-USC game featuring high-end quarterback prospects Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. While Jerry Reese is heading the Giants’ contingent, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (on Twitter), Mike Maccagnan, VP of personnel Brian Heimerdinger and a scout are representing the Jets. Cimini adds Gang Green might be leading the pack among interested teams here. That’s interesting because, as of now, the Jets won’t be in position to have the kind of draft pick it will likely take to land Darnold or Rosen, provided they declare early. While it’s uncertain how many other GMs are at the Los Angeles Coliseum for UCLA-USC, at least 20 teams have sent scouts.
  • The Jets are operating their quarterback contingent in similar fashion to their stadium mates, with Vacchiano reporting the team has no immediate plans to play Christian Hackenberg. Barring a Josh McCown injury, Vacchiano writes it’s unlikely Hackenberg plays this season. Additionally, the reporter notes the Jets “aren’t sold” on the 2016 second-round pick. Vacchiano reports the Jets are “strongly eyeing” the 2018 draft class as well. The Jets are believed to be scouting Wyoming’s Josh Allen to a degree other teams aren’t just yet.
  • The Dolphins‘ pass-catching corps may look quite different next season. While Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes the team will have money to re-sign Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins are of the belief they can replace the slot receiver with a Day 2 draft pick. Landry is averaging 7.7 yards per reception, and that might not be worth a $16MM franchise tag for the team. Jackson reports Landry is expected to want a contract in the range of five years and $65MM — which would make him by far the NFL’s highest-paid slot receiver. Jackson writes no decision has been made on this front yet, and how this season finishes will influence the franchise’s thinking on this front.
  • Miami wants Ndamukong Suh back for what will be his age-31 season but will likely approach the Pro Bowl defensive tackle about a restructure, Jackson notes. The Dolphins could create $12MM in 2018 cap space with a base salary-to-signing bonus conversion, thus putting more money on future caps, and lower Suh’s ’18 cap hit from $26.1MM to around $14MM.
  • However, Jackson notes Julius Thomas probably won’t be back next season. The tight end has another season on his Jaguars-constructed (and Dolphins-restructured) deal, but Miami can save $6.6MM in cap space. The athletic pass-catcher who will turn 30 in June is on pace to play more than he did in either Jaguars season, having suited up for all nine Dolphins games thus far, but he has not been the same since leaving Denver.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Bills, Hackenberg

The Dolphins told Jarvis Landry’s representation that there is no truth whatsoever to reports of the team being willing to “seriously listen” to trade offers for him, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald hears. And, on Monday, coach Adam Gase told reporters that Landry isn’t going anywhere.

I did talk to him and told him there’s no chance that he’s going to be traded,” Gase said (via James Walker of ESPN.com). “And if something that’s not true comes out like that, then I’m going to deal with it. I’m going to approach the player. … I just let him know that there’s no chance I’m going to trade you.”

Landry is in the final year of a contract that will pay him roughly $894K. The team has yet to offer him a multiyear extension, fueling speculation that might not be long for Miami. The Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills this offseason at $8MM per year but have DeVante Parker on a rookie deal for as many as three more seasons.

Here’s more out of Miami as well as the latest from some of the Dolphins’ top rivals facilities.

  • Byron Maxwell is not locked into Miami’s starting lineup. The well-paid cornerback is competing with Alterraun Verner for a job opposite Xavien Howard, who is entrenched with the Fins’ first unit, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. Maxwell has no guaranteed money remaining on his six-year deal after this season. He’s set to count $8.5MM against Miami’s cap this year, while Verner is attached to the veteran minimum. A timeshare scenario is in play for the Dolphins, Salguero writes, or a possible benching if Maxwell cannot re-establish consistency.
  • Previous comments from Bills GM Brandon Beane indicated Reggie Ragland‘s standing on the updated Buffalo depth chart wasn’t to be taken as gospel, but it now appears the former Alabama stalwart was not a fit for Sean McDermott‘s 4-3 scheme, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com writes. After trading Ragland to the Chiefs, the Bills are placing their trust in Preston Brown to play the Luke Kuechly role in McDermott’s defense. The 2014 third-round pick has started all but two games during his Bills tenure and hasn’t missed a game. Entering his contract year, Brown has plenty riding on 2017. But it looks like McDermott believed Brown, who began his career as 4-3 middle linebacker before working in Rex Ryan‘s 3-4 for two years, could fill that job better than Ragland.
  • Despite his second-round draft status, Christian Hackenberg finished third in the race to become the Jets‘ starting quarterback job, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The developmental player will remain as such for now, with Josh McCown having won the job. But Cimini writes Hackenberg figures to be given playing time this season in order for the Jets to evaluate him in advance of a 2018 draft expected to be flush with quarterback talent.
  • Arrested on a firearms charge in July, Bills defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was found not guilty of possessing a concealed weapon, an Ohio judge ruled Monday (via WIVB.com). A second-year player, Washington was arrested for allegedly pulling out a firearm at a water park July 9 in Sharonville, Ohio. The 2016 third-round pick started 11 games for Buffalo last season.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Jets Name Josh McCown As Starting QB

With one more preseason game on the docket, the Jets’ quarterback competition is already over. Josh McCown will be the team’s starter in Week 1, head coach Todd Bowles announced. Josh McCown (vertical)

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This was the expected outcome for the Jets’ QB battle as Christian Hackenberg has struggled and Bryce Petty has failed to really pull away from the pack. Petty did perform better than Hackenberg this offseason, but he is currently nursing a knee injury suffered in Saturday night’s preseason contest against the Giants. With that in mind, Bowles says that no determination has been made about the team’s No. 2 QB role.

McCown, 38, joined the Jets on a one-year, $6MM contract this offseason, turning down opportunities to serve as a backup on a contending team for less money. He’ll have the opportunity to start for the Jets until they figure out the future of the position for 2018 and beyond.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Jets, Blount, Cowboys

It has been assumed for some time that Josh McCown would at least open the 2017 season as the Jets‘ starting quarterback, but the team needs to give Christian Hackenberg a look this year in order to see what they have in him, and to that end, Hackenberg got a surprise start in last night’s preseason matchup against the Lions.

It did not go well. Hackenberg took a big step backward from his solid outing last week, going 2-for-6 for 14 yards. He was sacked twice, he fumbled once, and four of his five drives were three-and-outs. Although head coach Todd Bowles attempted to take some of the heat off Hackenberg by pointing out that the offensive line did not give him much of a chance, Brian Costello of the New York Post believes McCown won the team’s starting job last night, and he didn’t even have to take a snap to do it.

Now for more from the league’s east divisions, starting with more from Gang Green:

  • McCown was initially supposed to take more snaps in last night’s game than he did in the Jets‘ first preseason contest, but Bowles said he changed his mind on Thursday night, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. Bowles said McCown “has played in a million preseason games” and therefore elected to give Hackenberg a shot. However, Mehta reports that McCown was told by a media relations advisor to not speak with reporters after the game, even though McCown was apparently open to talking. It is unclear what the team’s motivation in “censoring” McCown would be, but it is an interesting move just the same.
  • Unlike Hackenberg, Jets No. 3 signal-caller Bryce Petty performed fairly well last night, going 15-for-24 for 160 yards and leading two field goal drives. Per Mehta, Petty has secured a roster spot unless he suffers a complete meltdown over the next several weeks.
  • Mehta also observes that Ross Martin, who made a pair of short field goals last night to go along with a miss from 56 yards, remains the front-runner to win the Jets‘ kicking job over Chandler Catanzaro, who missed a 55-yarder in the preseason opener but did not get an attempt last night.
  • Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount is coming off one of his best seasons, but he struggled to find a new home in free agency this offseason, and the short-yardage specialist may be on the roster bubble in Philly, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (citing Matt Lombardo of NJ.com) writes. Although Blount does not really fit the Eagles’ offense, it may not be wise to cut him, as Wendell Smallwood has had difficulty staying healthy, Darren Sproles is 34, and Donnel Pumphrey is a fourth-round rookie.
  • Cowboys No. 2 QB Kellen Moore turned in another poor performance during last night’s contest against the Colts, and while the team continues to publicly support him, an unnamed source tells Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Moore will be the subject of conversation at personnel meetings this week. It is unclear what that means at this point, because the team will certainly not promote undrafted rookie Cooper Rush to the backup job, no matter how well he has played, and the Cowboys have not yet considered adding a proven free agent to compete with Moore.
  • It was a different story for Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who finally played in a football game last night after 596 days on the sidelines. Smith, who suffered a gruesome knee injury during the final game of his collegiate career on January 1, 2016, saw his draft stock plummet as a result and was ultimately scooped up by Dallas in the second round of the 2016 draft (he was originally considered a top-10, or even top-5, talent). The Cowboys knew 2016 would essentially be a medical redshirt year for Smith, but they also knew that, if Smith could overcome the injury, they could have something special on their hands. The nerve in Smith’s leg continues to regenerate, and as Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News writes, Smith looked solid in last night’s preseason game. He was in for 12 snaps, he moved well, and he was quick to the ball, further solidifying the team;s belief that he will be a significant contributor this year.