Malik Hooker

AFC South Notes: Hooker, Funchess, Lee

Colts safety Malik Hooker will be back in the lineup for the first time since Week 3, according to Mike Chappell of Fox 59. Hooker was close to returning last week against the Texans, but instead was held out to allow for a completely recovery. Now, per the report, Hooker is “a full go.”

Hooker had damaged his meniscus in Week 3 against the Falcons and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, right in line with a return this week. Coming off an impressive victory over Houston, the Colts are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South at 4-2 and will be happy to get a starter back in their secondary.

Here is some more news from around the AFC South:

  • Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters that wide receiver Devin Funchess should return to practice next week, according to Mike Wells of ESPN.com. Funchess was placed on injured reserve after suffering a clavicle injury in the team’s season opener. The Colts signed Funchess to a one-year, $10MM contract this offseason, but have yet to reap much on-field production for their signing. Prior to the injury, Funchess had three receptions for 32 yards.
  • The Jaguars expect a wide receiver of their own, Marqise Lee, to be back next week according to head coach Doug Marrone, via John Oesher of Jaguars.com. Lee missed all of 2018 with a torn-ACL, but had a strong track-record of success from 2017-2018, where he accumulated 119 receptions for 1,553 receiving yards. In his return this season, Lee was beginning to work his way into the rotation when he came down with an ankle injury that has had him out since Week 6.

AFC Rumors: Chiefs, Colts, Burfict, Allen

Although Tyreek Hill returned to practice this week, the Chiefs‘ offense will continue to operate without its premier wide receiver Sunday. The Chiefs ruled out Hill, but Damien Williams is expected to return to action, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Kansas City’s starting running back missed the past two games with a knee injury, leading to LeSean McCoy and second-year back Darrel Williams splitting time in the backfield. Damien Williams amassed 154 scrimmage yards and scored in the Chiefs’ divisional-round win over the Colts last season. Signs point to Hill returning in Week 6.

Shifting first to the team traveling to Missouri for this week’s Sunday-nighter, here’s the AFC’s latest:

  • Darius Leonard will miss his third consecutive game due to a concussion. Both Colts starting safeties will be out, with Clayton Geathers (concussion) joining Malik Hooker on the mend. Hooker is recovering from a knee injury. T.Y. Hilton got in a second straight limited practice, putting Indianapolis’ top wideout in line to return, but rookie receiver Parris Campbell underwent a procedure on his knee and will be out for an unknown time period, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Campbell has played in each Colts game this season but missed preseason time with a hamstring malady.
  • The Bengals were expected to take their lumps this season. The Broncos‘ 0-4 start has surprised. But executives around the league are not anticipating a firesale for either franchise. “I agree they absolutely should be shopping players (ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline), but I have my doubts,” an NFL exec told CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. “We’re applying reason and logic, but I’m not sure those teams will fully embrace what needs to be done.” Denver, which did trade Demaryius Thomas before last season’s deadline, has standouts from its previous Super Bowl team on expiring contracts — Chris Harris and Emmanuel Sanders. The Bengals house veterans A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. But Green is still recovering from injury and the latter two are early into 2018 extensions.
  • Josh Allen logged a full practice Friday, putting the Bills‘ starter on a path toward returning Sunday against the Titans. Allen suffered a concussion against the Patriots. Matt Barkley would start if the Bills, who have a Week 6 bye, play it safe with their offensive centerpiece.
  • Vontaze Burfict faces a rest-of-the-season suspension that could well end his career. The polarizing Raiders linebacker’s appeal is scheduled for Tuesday, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets his argument will be based around the lack of precedent for a 13-week suspension ensuing because of one hit. However, the NFL said in its letter to the oft-suspended linebacker this ban was issued for a pattern of on-field decisions, rather than merely his collision with Jack Doyle. This considered, Burfict’s argument may not be successful.

Colts’ Malik Hooker To Miss 4-6 Weeks

Colts safety Malik Hooker will be out for 4-6 weeks with a torn meniscus, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. For now, the club will turn to fourth-round rookie Khari Willis

It’s a tough blow to the Colts’ secondary, but they might be able to survive without him as they ride a two game winning streak. Regardless, his toughness will be missed – Hooker actually re-entered after suffering the injury against the Falcons and finished the game.

Next up for the Colts, sans Hooker – a Week 4 matchup against the Raiders in Indianapolis. After that, they’ll face the Chiefs, Texans, Broncos, Steelers, and Dolphins.

Hooker graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 overall safety last season, a marketed improvement from his seven-game rookie slate. So far this year, he has one interception and ten tackles through three games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Colts, Jets, Browns, Titans

After two offseasons featuring extensive injury rehab, Malik Hooker has been a full-fledged participant in the Colts‘ latest program. Surgeries to repair hernia and hip issues delayed Hooker’s Colts work after the franchise used a first-round pick on him in 2017, and rehab from the ACL and MCL tears Hooker suffered that season sidetracked him last year. Nothing is impeding the third-year safety at the moment.

This is probably the best I’ve felt since I left college,” Hooker said, via Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “Probably even better than that. For me to finally be able to have a whole offseason to work my body, it’s been great.”

Hooker dealt with nagging hip and foot injuries, the former sidelining him for two regular-season games and the latter keeping him off the field for Indianapolis’ divisional-round loss in Kansas City. Hooker graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 14 overall safety last season, a marketed improvement from his seven-game rookie slate. A full offseason of work figures to benefit the ascending talent.

Here is the latest from the AFC, shifting first to the other Colts safety starter:

  • While Hooker is having a rare stretch free of injury talk, Clayton Geathers is resting after an offseason knee surgery. The fifth-year safety, who recently re-signed with the Colts, said (via Erickson) he underwent a “cleanup” procedure this year. Knee trouble plagued Geathers for much of last season, the defender categorizing it as “a battle” to make it to game days weekly. This marks the second straight offseason Geathers underwent knee surgery. Foot and neck problems have severely constrained the former second-round pick as well during his career. Geathers has not played more than 12 games in a season since 2015, but he said he is feeling better after this latest surgery.
  • The Jets wrapped up their Joe Douglas interview Sunday and, despite the Eagles executive being the favorite to land the vacant GM job, the team will follow through with its Champ Kelly meeting. The Bears’ assistant director of player personnel began his interview process by dining with Jets brass Sunday night, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets, before interviewing Monday. Kelly marks the last of the scheduled interviews, following Douglas, Seahawks co-player personnel director Scott Fitterer and Saints director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot in doing so.
  • If the Browns do end up trading Duke Johnson, they appear to have found a successor in second-year UDFA Dontrell Hilliard. Browns running backs coach Stump Mitchell praised Hilliard’s ability as a passing-down back and potential slot receiver — essentially Johnson’s role — and Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com believes the Browns are confident Hilliard could replace the veteran incumbent. She suggests the team could fetch a fifth-round pick for Johnson, long the subject of trade rumors, but notes Browns brass likely deems that too low a return. Hilliard played in 11 games last season, catching nine passes for 105 yards.
  • The left side of the Titans‘ offensive line appears set, with Rodger Saffold set to play in between Taylor Lewan and Ben Jones. As for the guard who lines up next to right tackle Jack Conklin, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com tabs Kevin Pamphile as the favorite at this point. Pamphile started 35 Buccaneers games from 2014-17 and was a full-time first-stringer in ’16 and ’17. The former fifth-round pick started two Titans games last year. The Titans did use a Day 2 pick on a guard, No. 82 overall choice Nate Davis out of Charlotte.

AFC Notes: Titans, Roman, Kingsbury

Matt LaFleur‘s defection to Green Bay leaves Tennessee without an offensive coordinator. They have not conducted any known interviews and are operating deliberately. GM Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel have met several times this week discussing what the best course of action should be, so interviews are likely coming soon. Whichever way the Titans go, they will be asking Marcus Mariota to learn a fourth offensive system in his five-year career. Ken Whisenhunt ran the Titans’ offense in 2015, before being fired, then Mike Mularkey took over before giving way to LaFleur. Robinson appears to want to retain some of LaFleur’s concepts, however.

I think if that can happen so that there is some carry-over, some familiarity there, so that not just Marcus but all of our players on offense, the less that we have to put on their plate to learn the different terminology, the different concepts, if there’s carry-over, then I think they can build upon what they’ve kind of gone through the last year,” Robinson said, via Eric Bacharach of The Tennesseean. “So we’ll do our best to try to keep as much continuity as possible carrying over into the offseason and certainly into next season.”

Here is the latest from the AFC:

  • Eric Berry, Spencer Ware and Malik Hooker are out for today’s ChiefsColts divisional-round game. Berry is still dealing with the heel trouble that has sidetracked his career, and Ware is out with a hamstring malady. Hooker started against the Texans but missed practice this week with a foot ailment.
  • The Ravens’ Greg Roman promotion partially stemmed from ensuring he would not accept another OC role in the AFC East. The Dolphins sought the former Bills offensive coordinator for their OC role, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. HC frontrunner Brian Flores had Roman on his staff list. Another name to pop up on Flores’ early list: Kliff Kingsbury. The now-Cardinals HC appears to have had a path to Miami as Flores’ play-caller, Breer adds (on Twitter). But despite his sub-.500 Texas Tech record, Kingsbury received a much bigger promotion than the Dolphins had in mind.
  • Jets staffer Tyler Tettleton will join the Browns as an offensive quality control coach, per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports (on Twitter). Tettleton was a graduate assistant at Oklahoma for two years during Baker Mayfield‘s tenure in Norman.

Colts Rumors: Brissett, Castonzo, Hooker

Colts owner Jim Irsay said earlier this week that he wouldn’t consider trading backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett in exchange for a first-round pick, and it sounds like new head coach Frank Reich agrees, as Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes. “We actually talked right at the beginning of camp, and I just cannot emphasize enough how fortunate we are to have Jacoby,” Reich said. “I think this guy’s one of the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL, and we have two of them on this team. It will be a different role for him. We talked about that, and Jacoby is a real pro in every sense of the word.” Brissett, who started 15 games for Indianapolis a season ago, will now act as the club’s No. 2 option behind Andrew Luck, who is recovering from a shoulder injury which cost him the entire 2017 campaign.

Here’s more on the Colts:

  • Left tackle Anthony Castonzo re-injured his hamstring last week and will now be “miss a little bit of time,” Reich told Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. Castonzo, who began camp on the physically unable to perform list while dealing with the same injury, has only missed five total games through seven NFL seasons. At this point, it’s unclear if Castonzo is in danger of missing regular season action, but the Colts don’t have much tackle depth behind him. While Indianapolis spent the offseason reinforcing the interior of its offensive line, tackle wasn’t necessarily addressed in the same fashion. Currently, journeyman J’Marcus Webb, who was signed at the end of July, is filling in on the blindside.
  • Speaking of Colts injuries, safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers could both be ready for Week 1 after dealing with their own health questions marks, per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Both Hooker, who is recovering from a torn ACL, and Geathers, working his way back from January knee surgery, opened training camp on the PUP list but have since been moved to the active roster. If Hooker and/or Geathers aren’t available to begin the season, the Colts will turn to Matthias Farley (who started 15 games in 2017) or T.J. Green to carry the load.
  • On the Colts’ first unofficial depth chart of the preseason, 2017 second-round pick Quincy Wilson was not listed as a starter at cornerback. Instead, journeyman Pierre Desir and former undrafted free agent Kenny Moore are the current top options in the Indianapolis secondary. In a separate piece, Holder looks at the unlikely ascendance of Moore, whom the Colts picked up via waivers last September.

AFC Notes: Colts, Steelers, Perriman

An Anthony Castonzo stay on the PUP list due to a midsummer hamstring tweak was among the Colts‘ late-offseason concerns, but that won’t end up taking place. The Colts did not end up placing their top left tackle on the PUP list, per Mike Chappell of CBS 4 (Twitter link). However, Chappell notes (via Twitter) Indianapolis did follow through with placing safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers on the PUP. Both were expected to land there, with Hooker (torn ACL, MCL in October) being a bit further away from a return.

Here’s the latest from the AFC on the final offseason Sunday for most teams.

  • August extensions have been one of the Steelers‘ traditions over the years, and an unlikely candidate for a significant pay bump’s emerged. Chris Boswell joined the Steelers midway through the 2015 season, but his production last year (35-for-38 on field goals, four game-winning makes en route to the Pro Bowl) and contract-year status make him a prime preseason-extension candidate, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Steelers applied a second-round RFA tender (2.9MM) to Boswell this year, and Rutter believes it will take a guarantee in the $9MM-plus range to keep Boswell in Pittsburgh. Only two kickers — Stephen Gostkowski and Justin Tucker — received eight-figure guarantees, with the Bears’ Cody Parkey guarantee sitting in third.
  • Despite a light investment at linebacker to replace Ryan Shazier, don’t automatically look for the Steelers to deploy Terrell Edmunds as a hybrid safety just yet, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Kaboly expects the first-round pick to play in the William Gay role as a dime contributor as a rookie, with UFA linebacker add Jon Bostic or second-year man Tyler Matakevich replacing Shazier.
  • In what is Breshad Perriman‘s last chance to make an impact with the Ravens, he may be on the outside looking in to make the team, Jeff Zreibec of The Athletic notes. In addition to being behind new additions Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, Zreibec notes the 2015 first-round pick is “certainly” trailing Chris Moore and Tim White as well. (Moore is a career backup, and White is a former UDFA who has yet to play in an NFL game.) Considering rookies Jaleel Scott (Round 4) and Jordan Lasley (Round 5) also may be ahead of Perriman, this is a bind for the one-time highly regarded prospect. Ravens officials, however, wonder how much different the Central Florida product’s career would be had he been able to be on the field during the team’s past training camps rather than missing most of those sessions due to injuries, per Zreibec. Perriman looked on the verge of a promising season after shining in the 2017 offseason program, but a hamstring tear put the kibosh on those hopes. Baltimore picked up an option bonus of $649K earlier this week, but that will merely buy the fourth-year pass-catcher this preseason to try and make one final impression.
  • Phillip Lindsay now serves as a wild card in the Broncos‘ running back room. The Colorado product who blazed to a 4.39-second 40-yard dash clocking at his pro day received interest from several other teams before opting to stay in Denver, Mike Klis of 9News notes. The Denver native’s $15K signing bonus marked the third-highest in John Elway‘s eight-year tenure at the helm. Klis writes Vance Joseph plans to evaluate the 5-foot-7 speedster for a Darren Sproles-type role as a third-down back and return man. The Broncos have struggled on returns since parting ways with Trindon Holliday after the 2013 season. Primary 2017 return man Isaiah McKenzie fumbled six times as a rookie. The Broncos added two rookies — third-rounder Royce Freeman and seventh-rounder David Williams — to a backfield mix that includes veterans Devontae Booker and De’Angelo Henderson.

Hooker, Geathers Likely To Land On PUP List

While Andrew Luck is expected at long last to be ready to go at Colts training camp, three of his teammates aren’t likely to join him at the Frank Reich-led practices’ outset.

Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo, along with safeties Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers, are likely to begin training camp on the PUP list, Mike Chappell of CBS 4 notes.

Castonzo’s issue is merely a hamstring he tweaked this offseason, per Chappell, who adds he should be back soon. Hooker, Indianapolis’ top safety, was not expected to be ready in time for camp. But Chris Ballard provided an update on his initial draft pick as Colts GM.

The second-year Indianapolis GM said Hooker “should return” in time for the second half of the Colts’ preseason. This represents a more definitive timetable for Hooker, who tore an ACL and MCL Oct. 22, 2017. Previous updates were vague and didn’t have the Ohio State safety looking certain for Week 1.

While that’s still uncertain, Ballard supplied more clarity. Geathers, however, has encountered a new problem than the one that plagued him last offseason.

A neck injury shelved Geathers for 10 games last season, but he won’t be landing on the PUP because of it. He underwent knee surgery earlier this offseason and is working his way back, with Ballard indicating the fourth-year safety is 80 to 85 percent at present. Injuries have limited Geathers significantly during his career. He played in just nine games in 2016 and five last year.

The Colts report to camp Wednesday. Players who begin camp on the PUP list can be taken off and deployed in Week 1. If they land on the Reserve/PUP list at the end of the preseason, they are out for the season’s first six weeks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Rumors: Hooker, Steelers, Pats, Fins

In April, Malik Hooker‘s recovery timeline was not certain to allow for training camp participation. Now, the Colts might have to enter the season without their second-year safety. Hooker is not a lock to be ready to start the season, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes. The Ohio State alum is recovering from suffering a torn ACL and MCL, a sequence that ended his rookie campaign in late October. The Colts drafted Hooker in the 2017 first round despite injury concerns unrelated to the more severe maladies he sustained last season, and provided he can stay healthy, he’s certainly viewed as a long-term secondary cog in Indianapolis. The Colts are in slightly better shape at safety, though, than they were going into last season. Former UDFA Matthias Farley enjoyed a quality season after ascending to the starting lineup. T.J. Green and Clayton Geathers represent the top depth pieces. Green played 382 snaps last season, seeing more time after Hooker’s injury.

Here’s the latest from the AFC:

  • While Mason Rudolph is the player viewed as a possible Ben Roethlisberger successor at some point down the line, Landry Jones is the player the Steelers prefer as the short-term backup, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review notes. Jones has started five games for the Steelers the past three seasons, going 3-2 (with two of those wins coming against the Browns), but he’s entering the final year of his contract. Rutter adds that Rudolph showed promise in offseason workouts, despite having scant experience in non-shotgun sets, perhaps indicating he can push Jones. However, Joshua Dobbs‘ only avenue to stay with the Steelers seems to be an injury to one of the aforementioned passers or a practice squad slot. With quarterback depth not exactly booming across the league, Dobbs making it through waivers and onto the taxi squad may be a long shot. So, the Tennessee product may be preparing for his second and final Steelers camp.
  • The Patriots opting not to pick up Malcom Brown‘s fifth-year option may mean the defensive tackle is readying for his final Pats camp. Now that Danny Shelton‘s in the picture, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran envisions and either/or scenario with one of the contract-year players being on the 2019 team. Curran doesn’t see Brown enticing the Patriots to pay him what he’ll command if he doesn’t show more consistency, but the 37-game starter who has two Super Bowl starts would subsequently be an intriguing name on the 2019 market.
  • With Ryan Tannehill entering a crucial year regarding his future in Miami, the Dolphins may need to be doing some advanced scouting. The 2019 quarterback class is not viewed as spectacular by any means, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Drew Lock and Justin Herbert figure to be on the Dolphins’ radar if Tannehill falters or fails to stay healthy this season. ESPN.com’s Todd McShay has the Missouri and Oregon signal-callers as his Nos. 1-2 QBs for next year’s draft but places neither in his top-15 prospects, which is consistent with what we’ve heard thus far about the prospective ’19 crop.

South Rumors: Jaguars, Hooker, Texans

The Jaguars would have an interesting setup for Lamar Jackson, employing a recently extended starting quarterback but a long-scrutinized player whose long-term future with the team remains in doubt. Tom Coughlin said Friday the Louisville prospect was an “outstanding young man” and an “extremely talented athlete.” But Dave Caldwell said the team that pulls the trigger on Jackson would have to be ready to adjust its offense to accommodate the dual-threat talent.

He’s a rare athlete,” Caldwell said, via Phillip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union. “As a quarterback, he’s a good player. He won a lot of games at that position. [Drafting him] depends what your scheme is, what you want to do and how you want to play and how he fits. I can’t say he’s the prototypical pocket passer, but you can win games with a guy like him.”

Jacksonville holds the draft’s No. 29 overall pick and has not conducted a workout with Jackson, who may now be a full-fledged top-20 prospect.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Caldwell did not give an indication on which way he was leaning with regards to picking up Dante Fowler‘s fifth-year option. The Jacksonville GM said the team had not made a decision. Earlier today, Fowler’s price became clear. It will cost the Jaguars a massive sum ($14.2MM) to keep Fowler on their books for 2019 on his rookie contract.
  • On the subject of AFC South pass rushers, Brian Gaine is optimistic the Texans will extend Jadeveon Clowney this offseason. But Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports no deal is particularly close at this point. Clowney, Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack figure to see the others members of this trio’s deals affect theirs, and Von Miller may become the fourth-highest-paid defender by the time this offseason is over.
  • Gaine does not plan to deviate from Rick Smith‘s philosophy of setting the offseason as the window for extension agreements. John McClane of the Houston Chronicle notes the first-year Houston GM wants to finalize re-ups before the regular season. Clowney and Benardrick McKinney‘s proceedings will put this approach to the test this year.
  • Malik Hooker joined his Colts teammates for the start of their offseason program earlier this month but said (via Matt Taylor of Colts.com) he’s “not 100 percent by any means” as he recovers from a severe knee injury. Colts.com’s Andrew Walker writes training camp isn’t a certainty for the 2017 first-rounder, who went down in late October of last year with a torn ACL and MCL.
  • Former Broncos and Bears linebacker Lamin Barrow was driving the car at the time of the accident that ended with Buccaneers ‘backer Kendell Beckwith fracturing an ankle, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports. Barrow and Beckwith were LSU teammates. The crash occurred at around 1 a.m., April 12. The vehicle veered off a road and crashed into a gate, per Laine. Although authorities said Barrow did not show signs of impairment, he was given a citation for driving with a suspended license.