Jack Conklin

Extra Points: Davis, Vea, Pats, Lamp, Colts

Prior to Vontae Davis‘ now-infamous halftime retirement, the 10-year NFL veteran cornerback told Bills defensive backs coach John Butler, “I’m done” while he was in uniform late in the first half. This one-sided conversation, per Davis (via The Undefeated’s Domonique Foxworth), occurred in the final minute of the half. Lafayette Pitts replaced Davis in the game and ended up having to play a larger role after halftime once Davis did not return for the second half.

I didn’t expect them to understand,” Davis said, via Foxworth, of his teammates’ reaction to his abrupt NFL exit. “That moment was shocking to me as well. … My intention was not to hurt my teammates. In that moment, my intuition was telling me I don’t belong on that field anymore.”

The Bills received a roster exemption after the 30-year-old defender’s retirement, and they placed Davis on the reserve/left squad list, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. While Davis sounds about as far away from a player who’d attempt a comeback, his placement on this list would not allow it — with the Bills or another team — this season.

Shifting back to some active NFLers, here’s what’s new going into Week 3:

  • Jack Conklin‘s 2018 debut is unlikely to take place Sunday, Titans insider Paul Kuharsky tweets. In the final part of his recovery process from a torn ACL sustained in January, Conklin appears likelier to suit up in Week 4 against the Eagles than Sunday against the Jaguars. The Titans didn’t have Conklin nor Taylor Lewan in Week 2, but Tennessee’s left tackle has been cleared to return from a concussion he sustained in the season opener. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly, however, remains out. An illness forced Kelly to be hospitalized before last weekend’s game.
  • Another AFC South tackle won’t play Sunday, but Anthony Castonzo‘s second hamstring setback in as many months has not caused the Colts to consider placing him on IR. Indianapolis’ left tackle remains week-to-week in his recovery, Frank Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter). Were Castonzo to land on IR, he would not be able to return for eight weeks.
  • Three Patriots deemed unlikely to play will, in fact, sit out New England’s Week 3 game in Detroit. The Patriots announced Trey Flowers, Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe are out against the Lions. The team did not declare Marcus Cannon or Josh Gordon out. Cannon returned to practice this week and made progress, pointing to the right tackle’s return.
  • Vita Vea‘s calf strain will delay his debut for another week. The Buccaneers‘ first-round pick is out for Monday night’s Steelers game, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Vea did practice on Saturday, doing so for the first time in a month, so the defensive tackle’s NFL debut appears imminent.
  • The Chargers continue to bring Forrest Lamp along slowly. The 2017 second-round pick has not yet debuted, and Anthony Lynn said (via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times) Lamp isn’t ready for action yet. “It’s just that Forrest was an athletic guard,” Lynn said. “He moved a lot and we pulled him in space. He doesn’t feel that speed yet. He feels like he’s a step behind.” Lamp tore an ACL a few days into his rookie training camp and underwent an arthroscopic procedure in May. The Bolts are already down Joe Barksdale for another week. They’ve been playing guard-tackle Michael Schofield in Lamp’s spot, and Sam Tevi started in Barksdale’s right tackle position last week in Buffalo.

AFC Injury Notes: Titans, Ben, Berry, Bolts

Marcus Mariota experienced difficulty gripping the ball after suffering a Week 1 elbow injury, but he could well return for the Titans this week. However, he doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Blaine Gabbert stands to see time as well as an apparent result. Mike Vrabel said he expects to use both of his quarterbacks against the Texans, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (on Twitter). Mariota hasn’t made much progress since his injury in Tennessee’s opener and was still experiencing tingling in his throwing arm as of Wednesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, making this an interesting situation for a Titans team with playoff aspirations. If Mariota fails to progress by Sunday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Titans sitting him. Gabbert filled in for an injury-ransacked Cardinals team last season, making five starts (including a 12-7 win over the Titans). He completed 11 of 22 passes in a loss to the Dolphins last week.

Here’s the latest on the AFC injury front heading into Week 2:

  • A higher-profile AFC passer does look to be in better shape going into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger practiced fully on Friday, Mike Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter), pointing him toward being available in Sunday’s Steelers-Chiefs tilt. An elbow malady caused Big Ben to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Joshua Dobbs would start against Kansas City if Pittsburgh’s franchise passer can’t go.
  • When Mariota and/or Gabbert take snaps Sunday, they’ll do so with second-string tackles. Jack Conklin won’t be ready to debut, and Taylor Lewan is out as well after suffering a concussion, McCormick notes.
  • Eric Berry‘s ninth NFL season remains on hold while he battles a heel ailment. The All-Pro Chiefs safety did not practice on Friday and is doubtful to suit up in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Andy Reid (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, on Twitter). Berry’s battled this heel trouble, on the opposite foot of the torn Achilles he suffered in September 2017, for over a month.
  • As expected, Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers-Bills game Sunday. Right tackle Joe Barksdale won’t suit up, either, ESPN’s Eric Williams tweets. A knee injury’s affecting Barksdale. Sam Tevi is likely to start for the Bolts at right tackle. Second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell replaced Bosa as a starting defensive end last week.

Injury Notes: Berry, Giants, Titans, Falcons

Some teams will be opening their seasons without key defenders. Here’s the latest from the Week 1 injury front:

  • The nagging heel issue Eric Berry‘s been dealing with will likely keep him out of Week 1. Andy Reid (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, on Twitter) does not expect his All-Pro safety to be available when the Chiefs play arguably their toughest AFC West game of the season — a road tilt against the Chargers. Berry’s been held out of practice this week. He missed the Chiefs’ final 15 games of last season with an Achilles tear, his second severe NFL injury. Berry’s right heel’s plagued him in recent weeks, and was also an issue in Kansas City’s 2017 training camp; the ninth-year safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last season. He hasn’t practice since August 11. Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker are K.C.’s likely safety starters, per Teicher.
  • Suffering a high ankle sprain in practice late last month, Olivier Vernon will not be available for the Giants on Sunday. Vernon will miss New York’s Week 1 game against Jacksonville, Pat Shurmur said (via SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano). This will pose a problem for the Giants’ pass rush, which is now without Jason Pierre-Paul. This could push rookie Lorenzo Carter into Big Blue’s lineup Sunday, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, who adds the Georgia-developed edge defender may play plenty regardless of his first-string status.
  • The Titans will be missing some key players but may also have one back sooner than expected. Derrick Morgan‘s meniscus issue hasn’t stopped him from practicing this week, and the ninth-year edge player practiced fully on Thursday to put him in line to start Sunday. However, the Titans will begin their season without Jack Conklin, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com tweets. Evans and Landry were Tennessee’s top two 2018 draft picks.
  • Keanu Neal‘s Week 1 injury (an ACL tear) proved to be the biggest health news thus far on Friday, and the Falcons may not seek an outside replacement. Damontae Kazee is likely the next man up for the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, rather than Atlanta going after former Dan Quinn charge Earl Thomas or UFA Eric Reid.
  • Joey Bosa may miss Week 1 as well, and the Chargers‘ dynamic pass rusher was spotted in a walking boot on Friday, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bosa will be out for Sunday’s game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bosa missed the preseason with a foot injury, but Wang notes (on Twitter) that ailment healed and that the third-year defensive end is week-to-week because of a different malady on that same foot. While the Bolts have maybe the NFL’s best edge-rushing tandem in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they aren’t especially deep at that position.
  • Jesse James will start at tight end for the Steelers on Sunday against the Browns. Vance McDonald will miss Pittsburgh’s opener, per Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews (Twitter link). A foot injury shelved McDonald during the preseason, halting the tight end’s offseason momentum as he prepares for his second Steelers season.

Titans Cut Roster Down To 53

Starting right tackle Jack Conklin will return to the Titans’ active roster after missing training camp due to his ACL tear in Tennessee’s second-round playoff game. He will be taken off the PUP list, pointing to an early-season return rather than a six-week absence.

Many other Titans will have to head elsewhere. Tennessee announced its cuts, trimming the roster from 90 to 53 players. Here is the full list of cuts:

Placed on IR:

South Rumors: Conklin, Colts, Panthers

As expected, the Titans placed Jack Conklin on the PUP list at the outset of training camp. The third-year right tackle tore an ACL in Tennessee’s divisional-round loss to New England in mid-January. Given that barely six months have passed, this could be expected. Mike Vrabel said this was a possibility as his team concluded minicamp, and Conklin confirmed this was a methodical process.

Here’s the latest from the Titans, along with some of their top rivals.

  • Tennessee also placed tight end Phillip Supernaw on the PUP list while also slotting second-round pick Rashaan Evans and free agent wideout addition Michael Campanaro on the non-football illness list. The Titans’ rookies and quarterbacks opened camp Sunday, and each of these players is eligible to be reinstated for full work by the time full practices begin Thursday.
  • Titans linebacker Kevin Dodd wound up on the reserve/did not report list.
  • The Colts added multiple veterans up front this offseason, with Matt Slauson and Austin Howard now in the mix for starting roles as stopgaps. Indianapolis boasts some depth at guard now with Slauson, the recently re-signed Jack Mewhort and No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson on the roster. Mewhort’s re-up and the Slauson addition, though, did not deter the Colts from selecting Braden Smith in the second round. The franchise’s goal is for Smith, an Auburn alum, to be the long-term starter at right guard opposite Nelson, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star notes. Though, Holder cautions his development figures to take longer than Nelson’s. Once entrenched as a Colts guard starter and a candidate for a long-term extension, Mewhort suffered significant injury setbacks in 2016 and ’17 to limit him to a one-year, $1.5MM deal with just $300K guaranteed. Slauson is signed for one year and $2.5MM. One member of this tandem could begin the season in an unfamiliar backup role.
  • It looks like Denico Autry has a path toward either a full-time starting role or a prominent backup job with the Colts. Chris Ballard raved about the defensive end/tackle’s skill set this weekend. “Let me tell you the one you need to watch: It’s Autry,” Ballard said. “Denico Autry is legitimate. He’s long; he’s strong; he’s passionate. I am really excited to watch him play. He’s made up of all the right stuff.” Autry (career-high five sacks last season) served as a rotational player with the Raiders, lining up as an end and a tackle during his four-year run in Oakland.
  • A host of players are vying to replace Andrew Norwell on the Panthers‘ starting line. Amini Silatolu, Taylor Moton and former Viking Jeremiah Sirles are among them, with Jordan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer noting Ron Rivera has expressed optimism about the prospect Silatolu can man the first-string post opposite Trai Turner. Silatolu started 15 Panthers games as a rookie in 2012 but hasn’t been a first-stringer on more than three occasions in a season since 2014. Rodrigue adds that Moton may be the top challenger but may also be used as a tackle and be in line to succeed Daryl Williams in the event he follows Norwell’s path as a UFA defection in 2019.

Jack Conklin Addresses Rehab Timeline

Last month, Mike Vrabel said Jack Conklin could begin Titans training camp on the PUP list. The third-year tackle discussed his recovery this weekend but did not confirm he’d be ready by the first Vrabel-era camp commences.

While Conklin stopped short of proclaiming himself ready to go, which can be expected since he tore an ACL in mid-January, he said no setbacks have occurred during his recovery.

I am still rehabbing, but things are going well, no setbacks,” Conklin said, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. “It is hard having a new staff, not able to be out there running around. But I have a great team and the staff has done a great job of getting me (healthy). I am excited.”

Conklin added that he’s down to 310 pounds from 320, with Wyatt pointing out that may be a better fit for the new offense the Titans will run under new OC Matt LaFleur. The Titans are exercising patience with their right-edge starter.

You don’t want to come back too early and hurt it again,” Conklin said. “You want to make sure you are full health and ready to go. If I come back too early, I am not only hurting myself, but I am hurting the team. If I can’t play at the level I need to perform at, there’s really no reason I should be out there playing. I think I need to earn my way back health-wise and practicing and that is something I am working toward and something I am excited to get back to.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Chubb, Conklin, Jags, Jets

Recently hired to coach some of his former teammates, DeMarcus Ware will likely be tasked with the early development of Bradley Chubb. Ware said during an interview with the Talk of Fame podcast the Broncos‘ first-round pick can have the type of career he had. But the future Hall of Famer identified Chubb’s larger frame as a different element that will thrive alongside Von Miller.

Chubb is probably 6-4, 270,” Ware said during the interview. “He’s the guy who can come in and be that power guy and really help Von out. The attributes that he really brings to the game — stopping the run and being able to be that strong-side guy for Von — that’s what you need. (The Broncos) have that tag-team again.”

The N.C. State-honed edge defender is noticeably bigger than fellow Miller sidekicks Shaquil Barrett or Shane Ray, and weighs more than Ware did during his Denver years. Whether that’s an impediment to speed rushes remains to be seen, but Chubb will factor into the Broncos’ pass rush immediately — especially considering Ray has encountered more wrist trouble. Since the Broncos primarily align Miller opposite of opponents’ right tackles, Chubb will have plenty of speed-rush opportunities on the blind side where Ware once played.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • Mike Vrabel expects all Titans to be ready for training camp, with the exception of Jack Conklin. The third-year right tackle tore an ACL in the team’s playoff loss to the Patriots and has not participated in offseason work. Vrabel mentioned the PUP list as a possibility to start camp, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com notes. Wyatt adds that it’s too early to tell if Conklin will be ready for Tennessee’s regular-season opener.
  • The Jaguars look set at quarterback, despite fairly consistent scrutiny. Cody Kessler is positioned to back up Blake Bortles, John Reid of the Florida Times-Union writes, adding the only way he can foresee the defending AFC South champions signing a veteran passer will be due to a Bortles injury or Kessler being overwhelmed by the job. Bortles has been an oft-derided player during his time in north Florida, but the Jags just re-signed him to a three-year extension and did not make a serious investment in competition for the fifth-year QB this offseason. Kessler has fared well in the offseason, per Reid, who also envisions seventh-round rookie Tanner Lee being practice squad-bound.
  • Acquired via draft-weekend trade, Henry Anderson is in the running to replace Muhammad Wilkerson in the Jets‘ starting lineup. Todd Bowles said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post) the former Colts defensive end would be on the field when the team deploys a four-man front, which would mean an important assignment given how often nickel sets are utilized. The Jets also signed Courtney Upshaw recently and are planning to use third-round defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd as an end as well. Upshaw was a Ravens lineup regular from 2013-15 but settled in as a Falcons backup the past two seasons. Jettisoned by the Colts because of their impending move to a 4-3 look, Anderson started eight of the nine games he suited up for last year.

South Notes: Titans, Conklin, Saints, Falcons

A look at the AFC and NFC South:

  • Titans right tackle Jack Conklin is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in January and head coach Mike Vrabel says he doesn’t anticipate seeing him being on the field this spring (Twitter link via Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com). Training camp would be the earliest that Conklin can start individual drills. There’s no word of Conklin missing regular season action, but it’s a situation to keep an eye on. While Tennessee’s offensive line regressed as a unit in 2017, Conklin still stood out, grading as the No. 12 offensive tackle in the league, per
    Pro Football Focus.
  • It sounds like defensive tackle Jay Bromley and offensive lineman Michael Ola, who were signed earlier this month by the Saints, have a real chance at making the final cut. “Both guys we have a vision for,” coach Sean Payton said this week (via Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune). “They’re positions that are hard to find once the season gets started.”
  • The Falcons will work out offensive lineman Kevin Bowen on Wednesday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweetsBowen recently auditioned for the Texans, but left Houston without a deal.

Titans OT Jack Conklin Suffered Torn ACL

Titans right tackle Jack Conklin suffered a torn ACL in Tennessee’s Divisional Round loss to the Patriots, head coach Mike Mularkey announced today.Jack Conklin (vertical)

Conklin, 23, has played nearly every offensive snap for the Titans since being selected eighth overall in the 2016 draft. While Tennessee’s offensive line regressed as a unit last season, Conklin still stood out, grading as the No. 13 offensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus, which gave Conklin excellent marks in both the run and pass game.

Given the recovery timeline associated with a torn ACL, Conklin may not be healthy when the 2018 regular season gets underway in September. As such, he’s potentially a candidate to be placed on the physically unable to perform list, which would mandate a minimum absence of six games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Impact Rookies: Tennessee Titans

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with Dave-Te Thomas’ insight on the Tennessee Titans’ draft class:

First Round – Jack Conklin, OT (Michigan State, No. 8 overall)

It was apparent after last season that the Titans needed to address their lack of depth on defense, but they also had to add speed on offense. Ultimately, Tennessee started the draft by placing a higher priority in protecting their franchise quarterback and opted to build a formidable front line that already featured two first rounders and four starters selected by the team since the 2013 draft phase. Jack Conklin (vertical)

The Titans watched Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil slide down the board, but he wasn’t the tackle that they wanted when they traded up from No. 15 to No. 8. When they owned the first overall pick in the draft, many draft experts expected that Tunsil was a shoe-in, but all along the Titans were eyeing either Conklin or Notre Dame standout Ronnie Stanley.

Being a Top Ten choice does not always spell instant success, at least where offensive tackles are concerned. Among the 179 offensive tackles to ever be drafted in the first round, four never even played in any NFL games and seven others never started any contests during their pro careers. Since the 1970 draft, five other first round offensive tackle selections never reached double-digit starting figures.

Still, Conklin’s future looks bright and his presence is doubly appreciated following Byron Bell‘s season-ending ankle injury. His injury leaves the door open for Conklin to immediately step in as the new starter at right tackle, joining 2013 first round right guard Chance Warmack, 2014 first round left tackle Taylor Lewan, 2015 third round left guard Jeremiah Poutasi, and 2013 fourth round center Brian Schwenke up front.

Second Round – Austin Johnson, DT (Penn State, No. 43 overall)

Dick LeBeau is placing more emphasis on the 3-4 game this season and second round pick Kevin Dodd is currently sidelined with a foot injury, which means that the team could experiment with Jurrell Casey playing on the edge and DaQuan Jones on the opposite side. That would leave Johnson to battle Al Woods for time in the middle of the front wall.

The former journalism major graduated from school early and was eligible to compete at the 2016 Senior Bowl, where he put on quite a performance throughout the week-long practices. Johnson ranked second among interior defensive linemen in the major college ranks and finished third overall on his team with 70 tackles. That was the most tackles for a Penn State defensive lineman since Jimmy Kennedy (87) in 2002. He also recorded 6.5 sacks among his fifteen stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2015.

With his thick-cut frame, Johnson can play either the zero-gap or line up as a traditional under-tackle when the team utilizes the 4-3 scheme. He’s proven last season that he can be very stout at the point of attack and you have to be impressed with his balance and coordination when attacking the rush lanes, along with his great leg drive and core strength to anchor vs. double teams.

Second Round – Derrick Henry, RB (Alabama, No. 45 overall)

DeMarco Murray is a ball-hungry veteran intent on proving that last season’s debacle in Philadelphia was a one-time thing. If Murray looks strong off the bat, it remains to be seen how playing time in the backfield will be divvied up. Murray only had 193 carries (3.6 avg) last season, but he had his best year when he carried the rock for 392 times for Dallas in 2014.

Henry is a one-time starter who needs room to operate and build his acceleration. He will have the benefit of seeing fellow Tide backfield mate, Jalston Fowler, serving as the team’s lead blocker out of the backfield, but he will still have to vie for “scraps” that Murray leaves on the table. Further complicating the touches available for Tennessee players is the fact that Bishop Sankey, David Cobb, Dexter McCluster, Antonio Andrews, and David Fluellen will all be fighting for the two available slots behind Murray on the depth chart, though Sankey could be traded. Only time will tell if Henry can be a successful runner in the NFL and the same goes for his opportunity level in 2016.

Third Round – Kevin Byard, FS (Middle Tennessee State, No. 64 overall)

Kevin Byard (vertical)Ever since LeBeau became a coordinator, he has surrounded himself with smart, instinctive safeties. Last year, the Titans made a great move by securing the services of former Bills strong safety Da’Norris Searcy. Now, in Byard, they believe they have a ball-hawk free safety to pair with to Searcy’s hard-hitting style. Byard has nineteen interceptions to show for those ball-hawking skills at MTSU, but despite his pedigree and fine performances in practice at the 2016 Senior Bowl, he was not invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. The Titans realized what he can offer, as he not only set the school all-time theft mark, but also returned those interceptions for 377 yards and four touchdowns.

Byard’s arrival does not mean he will be the instant starter at free safety, which is where Arizona castoff Rashad Johnson resides. His versatility (he played every secondary position in college) will see him be called upon to play the slot corner spot in passing situations and he could also be utilized as a Cover-2 linebacker vs. the run. All that stands in his way for playing time is a challenge from veteran Marqueston Huff, along with Daimion Stafford and Lamarcus Brutus for the two safety spots on the second unit.

Fifth Round – Tajae Sharpe, WR (UMass, No. 140 overall)

To hear Marcus Mariota and the offensive coaches during mini-camp, you’d think that they’d hit the lottery with this fifth round find. Nagging injuries limited the UMass receiver to eleven games last year, but he still pulled in 111 balls, breaking the school season-record. He also holds the career marks with 271 receptions for 3,348 yards. His addition gives Mariota another big, physical possession-type receiver, one with very reliable hands and excellent route-running ability.

Sharpe’s arrival could take playing time away from 2015 second rounder Dorial Green-Beckham, who will now compete with aging veteran Harry Douglas for outside receiver chores. Kendall Wright should line up outside on the right side, and Sharpe expected to challenge Miami castoff Rishard Matthews for the slot receiver role. The team plans on keeping five receivers, putting Douglas and 2013 second round pick Justin Hunter on the bubble. Ben Roberts, Tre McBride, Reece Horn and Andrew Turzilli all appear to be “warm bodies” for training camp at this position.

Fifth Round – Sebastian Tretola, OG (Arkansas, No. 193 overall)

Bell’s loss also gives Tretotala a great opportunity for playing time. Bell was also projected to serve as the top reserve guard, but that role will likely fall to the former Razorback. What Tretola lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with his high level of aggression, especially in the running game. He should easily steal away playing time from fellow Titans reserve blockers, Josue Matias, Andy Gallik, Quinton Spain, and Nick Ritcher. That quartet holds one distinction: none of them were ever drafted. The Titans also signed Ben Jones away from the Texans, but he was mainly brought in to challenge Schwenke for the center spot.

Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service which has provided insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog. 

 

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.