Ezekiel Ansah

NFC Notes: Barnett, Ansah, Giants, Panthers

The Eagles have had many stars in their journey towards the top of the NFL this season, and one of those players has been rookie defensive end Derek Barnett. The team’s first round pick this past May has given Philadelphia another dominant pass rusher outside of Brandon Graham and has made the front office look even better, opines Geoff Mosher of the FanRags Sports Network.

Mosher points out that Barnett was viewed as the “safe” pick when the Eagles were selecting in the middle of the first round. He states that flashier draftees that the Eagles passed on, like running back Dalvin Cook, defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster, have all had injury problems, making the choice to select Tennessee’s all-time sack leader even more brilliant.

At the moment, Barnett is simply a pass rushing specialist coming off the bench, but has already racked up 4.5 games even without getting the majority of the snaps. He trails team leader Brandon Graham by just 1.5 sacks with six weeks left to play. Barnett may not have been the sexy choice at the time, but he’s making the Eagles decision makers look even smarter because of what he’s adding to an already outstanding roster.

  • Lions star defensive end Ezekiel Ansah returned to game action for the team’s Thanksgiving tilt against the Vikings. Ansah is active for the first time since Week 9 when he injured his back on Monday night football. The 28-year-old has responded well from a down 2016 campaign with four sacks in just eight games this season. The news of his return is certainly a welcomed addition to a defense that ranks 20th in sacks in the NFL.
  • In regards to the late Thanksgiving game between the Redskins and Giants, the expectation that New York will have offensive lineman Jon Halapio make his first professional start at right guard, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. The 26-year-old would be replacing D.J. Fluker, who has already been ruled out for Week 12 with a toe injury. The move represents another shift in the offensive line for the Giants, who had rookie Chad Wheeler make his first NFL start during the team’s victory over the Chiefs in Week 11.
  • In more positive injury news, Panthers star tight end Greg Olsen is continuing to make progress recovering from a broken foot he suffered back in September, reports Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). Rodrigue further notes that Olsen looks to be on track to return Sunday, which would be huge addition for an offense that already traded away Kelvin Benjamin and lost wide receiver Curtis Samuel for the season.

NFC Notes: Winston, 49ers, Cards, Pryor

The woman who accused Jameis Winston of groping her in an Uber vehicle in 2016, via Buzzfeed report earlier today, said only she and Winston were in the car at the time. But Winston’s representatives assert there were several people in the car, with the Buccaneers quarterback sitting in the backseat, NFL.com reports. Winston’s statement pointed to there being multiple passengers in the vehicle as well. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links) listened to the voicemail an Uber representative sent Winston, with the phrase “you or someone else in your vehicle engaged in inappropriate behavior” used. This led to Winston being banned from Uber but also has the third-year passer’s representatives saying there were more people in the car than the accuser’s account suggests.

Here’s the latest from the NFC.

  • The knee sprain Drew Stanton suffered will lead to the Cardinals starting a third quarterback this season. Bruce Arians said Blaine Gabbert will start Sunday against the Texans, marking the first time since October 2016 Gabbert will have started a game. Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com notes it will be a game-time decision for who will be Gabbert’s backup. Stanton, who sprained a knee against the Seahawks, being healthy enough to be an in-case-of-emergency option will make him the No. 2. If not, recently signed Matt Barkley will serve as the backup. This marks the second time in four seasons the Cardinals have needed to start three quarterbacks. This happened in 2014, when Carson Palmer, Stanton and Ryan Lindley opened with that playoff-qualifying team’s first unit.
  • John Lynch said the 49ers don’t need to see Jimmy Garoppolo start a certain number of games in order to make a judgment about him for the future. The rookie GM the franchise’s view of the longtime Patriots backup has been enhanced by Garoppolo’s first few weeks in San Francisco despite him not seeing game action yet. “We know what we like about Jimmy Garoppolo. And that’s only been strengthened by the time that’s he’s been here,” Lynch said (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). “We’re just going to let these things play out. People have had all these ideas about why we got Jimmy. We got Jimmy because we think he has big-time ability at the quarterback position. And we believe so much – to get where we need to get – you have to have a franchise quarterback. We think he’s got that ability. Whether that happens, when that happens, we’ll see. But we certainly like his future with the 49ers.”
  • Both Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Reed will miss the Redskins‘ Week 11 against the Saints, and Pryor’s ankle injury looks like one that could shelve him for multiple weeks. Pryor will see Dr. James Andrews about his ankle, Master Tefatsion of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). Signed to a one-year contract, Pryor has been demoted from Washington’s first unit and now hopes he can return this season — one that’s doubled as a grim contract year. Center Spencer Long will also miss Washington’s game in New Orleans.
  • On the subject of less-than-ideal contract years, Ziggy Ansah will miss a second straight game with a back injury, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com reports. Injuries have limited the Lions defensive end for the past two seasons and figure to be a key part of the discussion once his contract expires after 2017. He has four sacks — all coming in two games — this season.
  • Mike Remmers experienced a concussion protocol setback this week and will miss the Vikings‘ Week 11 game against the Rams, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Andrew Sendejo will also miss Sunday’s game, the safety being out due to groin and hamstring pain. Rashod Hill and Anthony Harris will respectively replace the ailing duo in Minnesota’s starting lineup.

Latest On Lions’ Ziggy Ansah

Lions defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah is expected to be available for Week 1 despite spending the entire offseason on the physically unable to perform list, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com.Ezekiel Ziggy Ansah

Ansah’s current ankle injury is especially concerning given that the 28-year-old missed three games in 2016 with ankle and shoulder issues. Additionally, Detroit can’t afford to lose any more front seven pieces, as Kerry Hyder, Brandon Copeland, and Jordan Hill are already out for the season with injuries. Defensive lineman Khyri Thornton and Armonty Bryant will also miss time, albeit due to suspension and not health questions.

The Lions ranked just 25th in adjusted sack rate a season ago, and Ansah’s struggles were a large factor in that finish. After posting 14.5 sacks in 2015, Ansah registered just two quarterback takedowns last year and posted his worst Pro Football Focus grade since 2013 (No. 48 edge rusher among 110 qualifiers). While sacks aren’t always indicative of a pass-rusher’s effectiveness, Ansah also ranked just 71st among NFL defenders with 20 pressures.

Ansah will $12.724MM in 2017 under the terms of his fifth-year option, but Detroit has interest in signing him to a long-term extension. Of course, after inking quarterback Matthew Stafford through the 2022 campaign, the Lions can use a 2018 franchise tag as leverage over Ansah during negotiations, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press details. That tender will likely be worth north of $17MM next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Gordon, Cowboys, Ansah

Suspended Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon is currently without an agent, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Joby Branion terminated their relationship “a couple weeks ago,” a source told Florio. Branion succeeded Drew Rosenhaus, who parted ways with Gordon several months back, as Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes (on Twitter). Branion had been working to help get Gordon reinstated, a bid the NFL denied Thursday. The league’s decision came on the heels of a recent conversation between Gordon and commissioner Roger Goodell, per Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, who adds that Gordon is working out in Gainesville, Fla., and seems to be in good shape physically (Twitter links).

More from around the league:

  • Before the Cowboys chose Michigan defensive Taco Charlton with the 28th pick in the draft, they spoke with the Ravens about trading up to No. 16 for Missouri DE Charles Harris, reports Charean Williams of the Star Telegram. However, the teams’ discussions died when the Ravens’ target, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, was still on the board for their pick. Harris ended up going 22nd overall to the Dolphins.
  • The Cardinals released Daryl Washington on Thursday, but the linebacker told Mike Jurecki he’d have wanted to stay with the team had it been willing to pay him a salary higher than the league minimum (Twitter link). Understandably, Arizona wasn’t interested in making any kind of a real investment in Washington, who hasn’t played a down since 2013 because of repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. The league reinstated Washington last month.
  • Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah says that he will ask Ndamukong Suh for advice on contract talks, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. “I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but I will,” Ansah said. The Lions are hoping to lock Ansah down with a contract extension, despite a down year in 2016.
  • Wide receiver Eddie Royal, whom the Bears released Thursday, is still recovering from the turf toe that ended his 2016 campaign early, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. While Royal is making progress from December surgery, he’s not ready to return to the field, per Rapoport.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Questions About Ziggy Ansah’s Age Emerge

There have been whispers about Ezekiel Ansah‘s true age ever since he was drafted in 2013. The Ghana native, some have said, was actually born in 1987, which would mean that he is on the cusp of his 30th birthday rather than his 28th birthday. When the latest round of rumors picked up, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com reached out to the Lions for clarity. Ezekiel Ziggy Ansah

We believe our published information is accurate — born May 29, 1989,” a team spokesman said in a text message.

As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) notes, teams around the league viewed Ansah’s passport back during the draft process and confirmed his age. This may not be a 100% foolproof way to verify the age of a player born outside of the U.S., but it’s the best info that the league has as its disposal and the belief remains that he was born in 1989.

Ansah certainly doesn’t want any questions about his age to linger as the team looks to sign him to a long-term extension. The difference between 30 and 28 may seem like splitting hairs to some, but it makes a major difference in the NFL and a discrepancy here would likely cost Ansah millions of dollars.

Ansah was hampered by ankle and shoulder issues in 2016, but he should be in for a bounce back year if he stays healthy. In 2015, Ansah recorded 14.5 sacks and earned his first career Pro Bowl nod.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Lions, 49ers, Packers

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan was “mind-blown” when the Ravens traded him to the Eagles on Tuesday, he told reporters, including Zach Berman of Philly.com. Jernigan didn’t expect to be a long-term fit in Baltimore after it re-signed nose tackle Brandon Williams to a massive contract last month, but he figured he’d remain there in 2017. Now that he’s in Philadelphia, Jernigan is excited to line up next to Fletcher Cox and play in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz‘s scheme. Schwartz told Jernigan he has “big plans” for the 24-year-old, who set career highs in starts (15) and sacks (five) in 2016. “This is my first time ever being told, ‘Go,’ “ Jernigan said. “I’ll prove my point.”

More from the NFC:

  • The Lions are planning to pursue a contract extension with defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which the 27-year-old would welcome. “OK,” Ansah told Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press. “That would be great.” Ansah is a year away from potentially hitting free agency; in the meantime, he’s slated to earn $12.734MM under his fifth-year option in 2017. Since going fifth overall in the 2013 draft, Ansah has tallied 32 sacks, though he posted a career-low two in 13 games last season.
  • Releasing cornerback Tramaine Brock on Friday is unlikely to significantly affect the 49ers’ draft plans, observes Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. The team was already cognizant of its need at corner, per Wagoner, who notes that this year’s draft class includes plenty of promising prospects. Arguably the best of the bunch, Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, visited the 49ers on Wednesday.
  • With Aaron Rodgers firmly entrenched under center, odds are the Packers will trade backup quarterback Brett Hundley over the next year-plus, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. Green Bay’s hope is that it will be able to flip Hundley for a pick more valuable than the fifth-rounder it used on him in 2015. Hundley has since attempted 10 passes, all of which came last season, and is entering his penultimate year of team control.
  • The Lions only have two QBs – Matthew Stafford and Jake Rudock – but it’s a “guarantee” they’ll add a third, general manager Bob Quinn informed Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. That won’t necessarily come via the draft, though Quinn did talk last offseason about the importance of regularly collecting youthful signal-callers. “I think it’s really good football business to acquire a young quarterback every year, or every other year,” Quinn said. “There’s such a value in the position, and nowadays in college football, there’s a lot of spread offenses, which means it’s a lot different than pro football. So it takes these young quarterbacks time to develop.”

Lions Planning Extension For DE Ziggy Ansah

While the Lions have defensive end Ziggy Ansah under contract in 2017 thanks to his fifth-year option, Detroit would like to lock up the fifth-year edge rusher for the foreseeable future. The Lions have interest in inking Ansah to a long-term extension, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, who cautions talks have not yet started.Ezekiel Ziggy Ansah

[RELATED: Lions, Matthew Stafford Begin Negotiations]

After posting 30 sacks during his first three years with the Lions (including 14.5 in 2015), Ansah registered only two quarterback takedowns last year. Bothered by ankle and shoulder injuries, Ansah didn’t put up a sack until Week 11, and garnered his worst Pro Football Focus grade since his rookie campaign (PFF rated Ansah as the No. 51 edge defender among 109 qualifiers).

Ansah, 27, will earn $12.734MM in 2017 before becoming an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Detroit will have the option of assigning Ansah the franchise tag next spring, but that would come with a high price tag. The 2017 franchise tender for defensive ends is worth $16.394MM, so increases in the salary cap could push that figure near $18MM in 2018.

A franchise tag wouldn’t come cheap, but neither will an extension, as Ansah and his representatives will likely to point to recent comparable edge defender contracts when negotiations get underway. Those deals might include Von Miller ($19.083MM annually), Olivier Vernon ($17MM), Chandler Jones ($16.5MM), and Jason Pierre-Paul ($15.5MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Bears, Lions, Gettleman, Baalke

Bears kicker Connor Barth missed a pair of field goals during his team’s six-point loss earlier today. Through five games, the 30-year-old has connected on five of his eight attempts, and Barth has been around the league long enough to recognize that the Bears will probably explore the kicker market.

“Nothing surprises me these days,” he told Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s the NFL. So just gotta go back to work. Like I said, those are kicks I usually make. I gotta make them.”

Coach John Fox was non-committal when discussing Barth’s roster status, but he wasn’t ready to lay all of the blame on his kicker.

“We look at everything every week,” coach John Fox said. “But I don’t think that’s on one guy, by any stretch.”

The veteran was signed by the Bears right before the season, with the 30-year-old replacing long-time kicker Robbie Gould.

We took a swing around the AFC earlier today, now let’s round up a few more notes from around the NFC…

  • Ezekiel Ansah has been dealing with a high ankle sprain since Week 2, but according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Twitter), tests have revealed that the injury is no more serious than that. Caplan reports that Ansah will not require surgery and the Lions are optimistic we will begin practicing soon.
  • Kyle Meinke of MLive.com does not expect Lions head coach Jim Caldwell to be fired mid-season, especially since he is still well-respected and even revered by his players. However, he will surely not survive into 2017 if the team does not show dramatic improvement over the remainder of the 2016 campaign.
  • The Panthers’ secondary is a mess right now, and as David Newton of ESPN.com writes, there is really no one else to blame but GM Dave Gettleman. Newton observes that the one area Gettleman hasn’t spent money on is the secondary. He has put together that unit in piecemeal fashion with midrange draft picks and older veterans who came cheap, letting starters like Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman walk because they didn’t fit into his financial plan. Now, Gettleman’s approach is starting to catch up with him.
  • Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com believes that 49ers GM Trent Baalke is on the hot seat, largely as a result of his repeated failure to address the team’s weaknesses at impact positions. The problem is that there is nothing Baalke can do to strengthen the team for the final 11 games, so if San Francisco does not improve on its own, Baalke’s tenure with the club could be over.

Ben Levine contributed to this post.

NFC North Notes: Bears, Jeffery, Lions, Ansah

The latest on the NFC North’s two 1-3 clubs:

  • Bears receiver Kevin White‘s injury troubles could make it more difficult for the club to let fellow wideout Alshon Jeffery leave as a free agent after the season, Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times observes. White, whom the Bears chose seventh overall in the 2015 draft, missed all of last season with a tibial stress fracture and is now on injured reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain and a fractured fibula in Week 4. Jeffery, meanwhile, is raking in $14.6MM as Chicago’s franchise player after it was unable to reach a long-term deal with him in the offseason. The Bears will once again have the option of tagging Jeffery after this season, or they could either reach a long-term pact with the fifth-year standout or allow him to hit the open market. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report said in July that one reason the Bears drafted White was so they could avoid signing Jeffery to a lucrative contract, but the former’s inability to stay on the field might put a wrench in that plan.
  • The Lions are unlikely to have either defensive end Ziggy Ansah or tight end Eric Ebron against 3-0 Philadelphia on Sunday, reports ESPN’s Adam Caplan (via Michael Rothstein). Ansah has missed the majority of the season since succumbing to a high ankle sprain early in Week 2, thus depriving Detroit of its best pass rusher. Ebron, who banged up his knee and ankle in the Lions’ 17-14 loss in Chicago last Sunday, has played through multiple injuries this season. The 23-year-old has been productive, though, as he ranks third on the Lions in receptions (18) and second in yards (210).
  • Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan is progressing well since going down with a thumb injury in Week 2 and has a chance to return Sunday against the Colts, he said after practicing Thursday with a cast on his right hand (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com). “I led the SEC two years in a row in tackles at Kentucky with a cast on [to protect a wrist injury], so I’m pretty familiar [with playing with one],” the former Bronco stated. “I’m not very limited with the cast. It’s specially made, but I’m just trying to do everything I can to be out there with my teammates come Sunday.” Trevathan is among several key Bears who have missed this time this year, which has contributed to their poor start.

NFC North Notes: Cutler, Kalil, Lions

After Monday night’s ugly loss to Philadelphia, Rich Campbell of The Chicago Tribune writes that the end of Jay Cutler‘s tenure with the Bears felt as real as it ever has. Each year since former head coach Lovie Smith was fired at the end of the 2012 season, the Bears have asked themselves whether they prefer Cutler to an alternative, and each year, the answer has been yes.

However, after looking at the success that rookie Carson Wentz had against them last week, and as they prepare for rookie signal-caller Dak Prescott this week, the Bears’ quarterback calculus could change sooner rather than later. After all, it could be tough for GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox to continue with a 33-year-old quarterback who has a 50-49 record and only one playoff victory in seven-plus seasons in Chicago, particularly a quarterback they inherited who has no more guaranteed money left on his deal as of 2017.

The problem is that a quarterback has not been the best player on the board when the Bears have been on the clock in the past two seasons, and it would not have made sense for the team to reach for a signal-caller when they had a solid quarterback on the roster with guaranteed money still to be paid. But with no succession plan in place, the Bears may have no choice but to grab a QB in the 2017 draft and hope they can find someone to lift them out of their cycle of mediocrity.

Now let’s take a look at a few more notes from the NFC North:

  • With Matt Kalil on IR, many have wondered if the Vikings–who demonstrated they were “all in” on the 2016 season with the Sam Bradford trade–could deal for a replacement left tackle, like Cleveland’s Joe Thomas. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Minnesota will not make such a trade.
  • Earlier today, we learned there is a good chance that Adrian Peterson could return to the Vikings next year, despite much speculation to the contrary.
  • Lions DE Ziggy Ansah is expected to be out through at least next week as he continues to battle a high ankle sprain, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Ansah will get a second opinion on that injury later this week.
  • Lions LG Laken Tomlinson has had a very disappointing start to the season, but Kyle Meinke of MLive.com believes Detroit has no other choice but to continue relying on last year’s No. 28 overall selection, as 2016 fifth-rounder Joe Dahl does not appear ready to step into the starting lineup.