Justin Hollins

West Notes: Carr, Broncos, Rams, 49ers

Derek Carr left Thursday night’s AFC West matchup early because of what Jon Gruden called a “significant” groin injury. The veteran Raiders quarterback’s rest-of-season status can be considered in doubt. Carr is facing a 10- to 14-day return timetable, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes. This puts his availability for next week’s pivotal Dolphins game in question, though Rapoport adds Carr will push to return for what could be an elimination game against another fringe AFC contender. Carr has not missed a game due to injury since 2017. The former MVP vote-receiving passer has only missed two regular-season games in seven years. Marcus Mariota played well in relief of Carr on Thursday, and Carr’s status going into next weekend stands to give the Dolphins some extra work due to the differences in the Raiders QBs’ skill sets.

Here is the latest from the West divisions, moving first to another team’s quarterback situation.

  • Drew Lock has shown some potential as a long-term answer this season — including last week in Charlotte — but ranks 28th in QBR and has thrown 13 INTs in 10 games. The Broncos sat out this year’s veteran QB market, but Troy Renck of Denver7 notes the team is likely to bring in a veteran to compete with Lock (or potentially replace him) next year. A similar batch of vets — Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston — on track to be available again would qualify as competition, and the Broncos were also high on Sam Darnold in 2018. A trade for Matthew Stafford, a scenario Renck mentions, would be to replace Lock. The Broncos have used four different Week 1 starting QBs since Peyton Manning‘s retirement, moving from Trevor Siemian to Case Keenum to Joe Flacco to Lock.
  • Sean McVay is not ruling out an Andrew Whitworth regular-season return, and it sounds like the Rams having their left tackle back for the playoffs is realistic. “Andrew is doing great,” McVay said. “He continues to amaze me. He’s somebody we could potentially really push to have him play whether it’s the (Week 17) Cardinals game or next week. If we’re fortunate enough to get an opportunity to play after the regular season, I think that’s the goal, but nothing’s guaranteed for us.” Whitworth suffered MCL and PCL tears Nov. 15 but was believed to be ahead of schedule on his recovery timetable.
  • A Rams positive COVID-19 test resulted in offensive lineman Bobby Evans and safety Nick Scott landing on the reserve/COVID list; they will miss Week 15, McVay said (via ESPN.com’s Lindsey Thiry, Twitter links). The Rams also held starting center Brian Allen and rotational pass rushers Justin Hollins and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo out of practice Friday, though McVay expects the latter trio to play Sunday.
  • The 49ers‘ Arizona arrangement will extend through season’s end. Santa Clara county extended COVID-19 restrictions that have prevented the 49ers from playing at Levi’s Stadium, but the Cardinals will permit their division rival to use the stadium for their Week 17 game against the Seahawks, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com notes. The 49ers will also be in Glendale next week but will do so as the road team against the Cardinals.

Rams Claim LB Justin Hollins, Add 15 To Practice Squad

The Rams left their roster at 52 players after cutdown day, and the team filled the roster spot with a player familiar with their new defensive coordinator.

Los Angeles submitted a waiver claim for Justin Hollins, a linebacker whom Denver cut Saturday, and the 2019 draft pick will rejoin Brandon Staley. The Broncos used Hollins at both inside and outside linebacker spots last season; Staley coached Denver’s outside linebackers in 2019.

This will bring another ex-Staley pupil to L.A. The Rams already signed Leonard Floyd, whom Staley coach in Chicago, to be a starter. Hollins, a fifth-round pick out of Oregon, profiles as a depth piece.

The Rams also set their practice squad Sunday. All 15 players were in camp with the Rams this year, so for those hoping to go in fresh for the Hard Knocks finale next week, this is the spoiler warning.

Here is how the Rams’ practice squad looks:

Broncos Move Roster To 53

The Broncos parted ways with 24 players to trim their roster to the 53-man regular-season limit. Here are the players the team cut to get to 53.

Waived:

Released:

Placed on IR:

The Rypien cut will leave the Broncos with two active-roster QBs — Drew Lock and Jeff Driskel — while the Fumagalli and Fort decisions mean Jake Butt made Denver’s active roster. Viewed as a long shot to do so after the team made multiple tight end additions this offseason, Butt made it through camp healthy to start his contract year. The former Michigan standout has suffered three ACL tears in his career.

Denver drafting three wideouts made matters difficult for their lesser-known holdovers, but Winfree — a 2019 sixth-rounder — profiles as a practice squad candidate. The Broncos will carry rookie seventh-rounder Tyrie Cleveland onto their active roster.

Bausby has bounced around the league for several years now, and the former Division II standout joined Mike Purcell in vaulting from the Alliance of American Football to a Broncos role last year. But the team kept UDFA Essang Bassey over Bausby this year.

LB Notes: Broncos, Burfict, Jets, Judon

As we wind down the final week of the 2019 offseason, let’s look at a few of the league’s linebacker situations. The Broncos are one of the two teams opening training camp next week, joining the Falcons, and they’ve had a quietly interesting year at this spot.

  • Denver passed on adding an inside linebacker to replace five-year starter Brandon Marshall, but the report of the team being ready to make a major investment at this spot was accurate. Not only did the Broncos plan to select Devin Bush at No. 10 overall, they wrote the Michigan linebacker’s name on a first-round card, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Broncos VP of player personnel Matt Russell told draft rep Derrick Thomas to write Bush’s name on their card but instructed him not to turn it in, Klis adds. They ended up trading the pick, which became Bush, to the Steelers for additional draft capital.
  • The Broncos plan to use Todd Davis and 2018 fourth-rounder Josey Jewell as their starting inside ‘backers, and while that may leave the team vulnerable in coverage, the coaching staff has hatched an idea to help combat that. Denver drafted Oregon edge rusher Justin Hollins in the fifth round, and instead of hoping he becomes strictly an off-the-bench pass rusher, the Broncos plan to deploy the four-year Duck as a base-set outside ‘backer and an inside player in nickel packages, Klis writes. Hollins ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, leading the team to see if he can be a solution to its problems covering tight ends in recent years.
  • Marshall and Vontaze Burfict will add veteran presences to the Raiders’ long-understaffed linebacking corps, and DC Paul Guenther said (via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair) Burfict’s arrival will free him up to utilize more of his playbook than he did last season. Burfict’s issues will not lie with the former Bengals DC’s playbook but rather staying on the field, which has proved to be a persistent issue for the talented player in his six-year career.
  • Avery Williamson will slide to the Jets‘ weakside linebacker spot to accommodate C.J. Mosley, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. The market-shattering free agent addition will become Gang Green’s defensive play-caller, though both are set to be three-down ‘backers in Gregg Williams‘ defense. In his previous Jets role, Williamson totaled a career-high 120 tackles and graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 18 traditional linebacker last season.
  • The contract Ravens outside ‘backer Matt Judon will likely focus on most in terms of establishing his value is likely Za’Darius Smith‘s Packers deal, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Judon’s 19 sacks in three seasons are more than Smith’s 18.5-sack total in four, the the latter parlayed his impressive contract year into a four-year, $66MM deal. It is not yet known if the Ravens and Judon have begun extension discussions, but both he and third-year inside linebacker starter Patrick Onwuasor are due for 2020 free agency.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/14/19

Here are the latest players to agree to terms on their rookie deals:

  • The Chiefs signed the latter of their two second-round picks, safety Juan Thornhill, on Tuesday. Thornhill, who arrived in Kansas City as the No. 63 overall pick out of Virginia, will attempt to move into the starting lineup alongside Tyrann Mathieu as a rookie. Thornhill intercepted 13 passes over his final three seasons with the Cavaliers. The only member of their six-man class left unsigned is third-rounder Khalen Saunders; third-rounders’ deals can be tricky with the current CBA.
  • Four more Seahawks draftees signed their four-year deals Tuesday. Wide receivers Gary Jennings (Round 4) and John Ursua (Round 7) signed. So did sixth-round picks Demarcus Christmas, a defensive tackle out of Florida State, and Travis Homer, Miami-produced running back. Jennings and Ursua, out of West Virginia and Hawaii, respectively, have better odds at contributing this season after Doug Baldwin‘s retirement. Jennings caught 13 touchdown passes last season, while Ursua snagged 16. D.K. Metcalf remains unsigned.
  • Two of the Broncos‘ Day 3 picks — fifth-round outside linebacker Justin Hollins and sixth-round wide receiver Juwann Winfree — became the team’s first 2019 draftees to sign. Hollins, an Oregon product who combined for 11 sacks across his junior and senior seasons, will likely be in good position to see time behind Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Broncos lost Shaquil Barrett in free agency and are unlikely to bring back Shane Ray. Winfree will join a young Denver receiving corps, which will likely have four first- or second-year cogs.
  • Only one Lions draft choice remains unsigned after sixth-rounder Travis Fulgham agreed to terms. The Old Dominion-produced wideout will vie for a reserve role behind Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. Third-round safety Will Harris has yet to sign.