Packers starting linebacker Oren Burks is believed to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes. More tests are expected to determine the next course of action, Demovsky hears.
The second-year linebacker sustained the injury, originally believed to be a shoulder injury, in the first quarter of Green Bay’s preseason opener vs. the Texans. When asked on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not provide an update on whether the injury would cost the linebacker significant time.
“Honestly, I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said. “It’s kind of wait and see, but I hope not.”
A third-round selection in 2018, Burks appeared in 14 games as a rookie, starting four. He logged 24 tackles and was expected to take over as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez in 2019. Though Burks was slated as a starter, it is essentially a part-time role in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, which calls for a hybrid safety at times to fill the role.
After playing behind AaronRodgers and RussellWilson, Cardinals quarterback BrettHundley is looking forward to providing teammate Kyler Murray with some essential wisdom. However, the 26-year-old made it clear that he’s not just going to hand the starting gig to the first-overall pick.
“The knowledge that I have, I’m able to pass it along to [Murray], especially through this journey of his because the NFL isn’t a sprint. It’s a long distance marathon,” Hundley said (via Jelani Scott of NFL.com). “For me, my goal has always been to start, no matter what position it’s in. I don’t play to be second. So I think that’s my number one goal, to get that starting job, and at the same time, it’s a competition for a reason.”
Hundley’s only extended stint as a starter came in 2017, when he started nine of his 11 appearances for the Packers. That season, Hundley completed 60.8-percent of his passes for 1,836 yards, nine touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also added another 270 rushing yards and two scores on 36 carries.
Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…
With Aaron Rodgers apparently tuning out Mike McCarthy‘s play calls, many pundits wondered how the Packers quarterback would handle a brand-new head coach. Well, Albert Breer of SI.com says the franchise quarterback is working with MattLaFleur on a compromise. LaFleur’s system is intended to take decision-making off the quarterback’s list of responsibilities, all while allowing the offense to run quickly and more efficiently. The team is planning on using the “double call” method that was made popular by Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, although they’ll also provide Rodgers with the freedom to adjust from there. As Breer writes, the ideal scenario is “giving Rodgers the option, but not the obligation, to make changes on the fly.”
Breer writes that the Panthers had an under-the-radar front office hiring this week when they added TaylorRajack as their new director of analytics. The 27-year-old previously served on the Eagles’ analytics staff, and Philly has quickly established themselves as one of the NFL leaders in advanced stats. Breer notes that Panthers coach RonRivera has previously embraced the use of analytics, while new owner DavidTepper made it a priority in his front office.
49ers kicker RobbieGould isn’t backing off his trade demand, and he provided some insight on the situation earlier today.
The freedom Aaron Rodgers may or may not have to change plays at the line of scrimmage has become an issue in Green Bay, and first-year Packers HC Matt LaFleur explained the concern he has with enabling his decorated quarterback to have the kind of pre-snap autonomy he did under Mike McCarthy.
“One thing we have to work through is the audible thing,” LaFleur said, via Michael Silver of NFL.com, of his conversations with Rodgers. “We’re running a system I first picked up while working with Kyle (Shanahan) in Houston a decade ago, and we’ve never really had a quarterback who’s had complete freedom to change plays at the line, because that’s not really the way the offense is set up. But, I mean, this is Aaron Rodgers. He’s had a lot of freedom to make those calls, and deservedly so. Now, how do we reconcile that, and get to a place where we put him in the best position to succeed?”
LaFleur would prefer Rodgers only have one play he can check to, while the 15th-year passer would like more leeway. The former Rams and Titans OC cited the pre-snap movement he’s bringing to Green Bay as a reason for the potential constraints Rodgers will face.
“We move a lot more. There’s a lot more motion. There are a lot more moving parts,” LaFleur said, via Silver. “And so if you just let the quarterback have that freedom to just get to whatever, I’m afraid it would slow our guys down. Now, he is a special talent and he’s got an incredible mind, so as we move forward throughout this process he’s getting more freedom. It’s just, where is that happy medium?”
Let’s look at the latest news out of the North divisions:
Although Kyle Rudolph received the outcome he wanted — a four-year, $36MMVikings extension — he acknowledged the prospect of a Patriots trade. But it’s still unclear if the teams engaged in discussions. “Obviously the speculation is going to be there because of their situation at my position and then our team’s cash/cap situation and my salary,” Rudolph said, via SI.com’s Albert Breer. “So there was kind of just a natural, like, ‘Hey, Kyle’s familiar with the offense, he played for a coach (Charlie Weis, at Notre Dame) that was a coordinator there.” After signing Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson, then cutting ASJ and nixing the Michael Roberts trade with the Lions, the Patriots still face the prospect of not having a proven tight end during Watson’s suspension.
The buzz about Donte Moncrief becoming Ben Roethlisberger‘s No. 2 target continues, with Mark Kaboly of The Athletic (subscription required) calling it a “slam dunk” the former Colts and Jaguars wideout will be the Steelers’ WR2. It still figures to be a collaborative effort replacing one of this generation’s best players, Antonio Brown, but it looks like Moncrief’s offseason has him in position to lead that charge.
Artie Burns‘ standing in Pittsburgh is certainly not on the same level, and the Steelers face a decision on the underwhelming first-round cornerback. The team has until the third day of training camp to waive Burns and save $800K, but Kaboly notes that if the fourth-year corner has not yet been cut, the Steelers are probably planning to give him another shot. Regardless, Kaboly expects this to be Burns’ final year in Pittsburgh.
Tasked with adjusting to a new offense for the first time in his tenure as an NFL starter, Aaron Rodgers showed a bit of resistance to Matt LaFleur‘s new attack this week. At least, the Packers‘ future Hall of Fame quarterback does not want to be limited at the line of scrimmage. The first-year head coach’s system does not feature the same kind of pre-snap flexibility Rodgers previously enjoyed.
“I don’t think you want me to turn off 11 years. There’s stuff that not many people in the league can do at the line,” Rodgers said during an interview with NFL.com’s Michael Silver (Twitter link). “That’s not a humble brag. That’s just a fact.”
LaFleur said earlier this offseason the plan will be for Rodgers to either run the called play or switch to one alternative, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel anticipates some pushback on this. A detailed story this offseason examined Rodgers’ checkered history with Mike McCarthy, so the Packers are facing a crucial season — one in which their two-time MVP turn 36 — so getting their passer and head coach on the same page figures to be essential. While LaFleur said this week he does not want to minimize Rodgers’ penchant for off-script brilliance, it does appear the Packers have some sorting out to accomplish.
Here is the latest news out of the North divisions:
Although Teryl Austin‘s title with the Steelers is senior defensive assistant/secondary, the former Lions and Bengals DC will have another key game-day responsibility. Austin will be Mike Tomlin‘s unofficial replay-review coach. Austin said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he will watch every play that generated a replay review from the 2018 season to prepare for his new role. Tomlin has won just two of his past 14 challenges, dating back to the beginning of the 2016 season, Dulac notes, adding the 13th-year coach is 0-for-12 on fourth-down challenges during his career.
As for Austin’s role instructing Pittsburgh’s secondary, the Steelers have deviated from a plan that meant for their new hire to coach one position and secondary coach Tom Bradley another. They are sharing responsibilities leading that unit, per Dulac.
Another North-division surprise factor: large Bears tight end Bradley Sowell. The converted tackle’s switch to tight end appears legitimate, with Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com called the 6-foot-7, 312-pound veteran a legitimate threat for regular playing time — rather than this being a gimmicky or in-case-of-emergency position change. Sowell played tight end on 30 snaps last season but may be working toward a usage bump.
The door to future controversy in Green Bay was pushed open a bit last month when a report emerged from Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggesting that new Packers HC Matt LaFleurwas not the sole decision-maker in filling out his first coaching staff. The report noted, for instance, that LaFleur wanted to hire Darren Rizzi as his special teams coach, but that the Packers offered Rizzi less money than he was seeking, so Rizzi ultimately signed on with the Saints.
Silverstein also suggested that LaFleur was “strongly encouraged” to retain defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and that other assistant coaching decisions may not have been left up to LaFleur. When combined with Green Bay’s already unusual power structure, in which LaFleur, GM Brian Gutekunst, and director of football operations Russ Ball all report directly to team president and CEO Mark Murphy, it would be easy to foresee some discord in the club’s front office down the line if Silverstein’s report is accurate.
Murphy, of course, insisted that LaFleur had full autonomy in the hiring process, and he elaborated on that point yesterday in his weekly piece for the Packers’ official website (while taking a shot or two at Silverstein’s journalism). Murphy said:
“Coach LaFleur had complete control over the hiring of his coaching staff. The report was the result of an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel based on interviews with 20 anonymous sources. I told the author that Coach LaFleur had complete control to hire his assistants, but he included comments to the contrary from an anonymous source. The editors said they wanted to present a “balanced” view of the hiring process. Interestingly, they never asked Coach LaFleur if he was able to hire his assistants, something he would have confirmed. The article was obviously very disappointing, and I find the increasing use of anonymous sources very problematic. I served as an athletic director for over 16 years and directly supervised hundreds of coaches, and never once told a coach who he or she should or should not hire. Hiring assistant coaches is one of the most important factors in the success of a head coach, and I’ve always felt it is foolish to restrict them in any way. “
Obviously, Murphy would not say anything different, and this could all be a non-issue if LaFleur’s first campaign as a head coach is successful. But if the 2019 season is another disappointment, then you can be sure that Silverstein’s report will be frequently cited and that the Packers’ structure will be called into question.
Matt LaFleur‘s hands-on approach in his first year as Packers HC will have to be tabled for a while. The torn Achilles LaFleur suffered this week will require immediate surgery, with Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reporting he will go under the knife Sunday. The 39-year-old coach was active in his first weeks leading the Packers, taking on an “enormous” load. But with the recovery from this surgery necessitating a potential six-month timetable, LaFleur’s methods will have to change. The coach was overseeing practice from a golf cart this week. This will certainly mark an interesting period for the Packers, LaFleur managing Achilles rehab while going through his first year as a head coach.
“A couple weeks ago I kind of tweaked my calf on the other side,” LaFleur said, via Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But this one, I knew immediately. It was way more forceful. I thought somebody hit me in the leg. I looked around and nobody’s by me. It’s just one of those deals. We’ll rebound. We’ll be back.”
Shifting to some of the players in the NFC North, here is the latest out of the division:
Kirk Cousins does not have any early retirement plans. In discussing the arrival of rookie center Garrett Bradbury, the second-year Vikings quarterback said he would like to play well into the 2020s. “I told him, ‘I’d like to work together for about the next decade,’ ” Cousins said, via Dane Mizutani of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I just tried to set that vision for him and say, ‘You be the guy here for the next decade and let’s not have to worry about having anybody else snap for the quarterback.” While it is uncertain if Cousins will be in Minnesota beyond 2020, the final year of his fully guaranteed deal, the soon-to-be 31-year-old passer would prefer he stay in the Twin Cities on what would be multiple additional contracts.
With Bradbury sliding in at center, Minnesota’s incumbent snapper will slide to guard. Pat Elflein has started 28 games at center since beginning his NFL career, but he said (via Mizutani) he is now working at left guard. Elflein last played guard at Ohio State. Elflein lining up on the left side would put free agent addition Josh Kline in line to start at right guard. Both will be adjusting to the Gary Kubiak–Rick Dennison zone-blocking scheme.
Trey Burton will not participate in the Bears‘ final OTA sessions next week or their mid-June minicamp. Chicago’s top tight end underwent sports hernia surgery, Matt Nagy said (via NBC 5’s Mike Berman, on Twitter). The Bears hope he will be ready by training camp. Burton played all 16 games for the Bears last season, reaching career-high marks in receptions, yards and touchdowns (54/569/6).
The Packers have a huge season ahead of them. After an outstanding run of success, things got stale in Green Bay under Mike McCarthy, which resulted in his firing. The team desperately needs a boost of energy, and they’re hoping they found it in new coach Matt LaFleur. The 39-year-old is apparently wasting no time taking charge in his first offseason at the helm, as Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that the young coach is “taking on an enormous load” during OTAs. Dougherty says that LaFleur is hovering around the quarterbacks and coaching them up at every opportunity, which he describes as a notable departure from McCarthy, who left that up to his quarterbacks coach.
LaFleur is apparently sitting in on all the quarterbacks meetings, and Aaron Rodgers importantly is happy with the way he’s being coached up. Dougherty writes that Rodgers “appears to be embracing” LaFleur’s hands-on approach. That’s surely music to the ears of Packers fans, but Dougherty does caution that there’s some level of concern about everything he’s putting on his own plate and how much his devotion to the quarterbacks “will take away from LaFleur’s panoramic view of the team once camp and the season start.” That being said, a reinvigorated Rodgers is by far the most important thing to the team right now, so it certainly doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
Here’s more from around the league on a quiet holiday weekend:
The Jets have had a drama-filled offseason, to say the least. Immediately after Mike Maccagnan was fired, reports began trickling out that Adam Gase didn’t want either of the Jets’ pricey free agent acquisitions, running back Le’Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley. While the reports that Gase didn’t want the team to sign Bell have more or less been confirmed, it’s apparently not true that he didn’t want Mosley, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Cimini writes that Gase “was a strong proponent of signing Mosley,” and notes that Gase and Mosley even share the same agent, Jimmy Sexton. It sounds like the Jets have one less headache to worry about.
Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa has been a star ever since he entered the league. As a rookie he had 10.5 sacks despite missing the first four games of the season due to a contract holdout, and he’s been dominant off the edge ever since. But the Ohio State product was hobbled by a foot injury that cost him the nine games of last season, and he wasn’t quite the same after he returned. Speaking to the media recently after practice, Bosa conceded that the injury is still bothering him. “It’s just there. It’s just something I notice. It’s been getting better all offseason, so I could definitely see by camp or maybe even next year where it kind of starts fading away,” Bosa said, per Adam Maya of NFL.com. Foot injuries can be tricky, so it’s somewhat alarming that Bosa is still feeling soreness in his foot after this long, but Maya notes he did say it’s feeling “well enough for him to avoid a Lisfranc-type surgery.” This will be a situation to monitor this offseason.
Rookie tight ends often don’t play much right away. Tight end is widely regarded as the position that’s hardest to transition to from college to the pros, other than quarterback, and many take time to develop even if they’re drafted highly. It sounds like Lions rookie T.J. Hockenson could be an exception to that rule. Hockenson has looked good during OTAs, according to Tim Twentyman of the team’s official site, who notes that Detroit isn’t going to treat him with kid gloves, writing Hockenson will “see the field early and often.” The Lions got virtually nothing from their tight ends last season so they made it a priority to upgrade this offseason, signing Jesse James and drafting Hockenson eighth overall. It sounds like Hockenson is in line to start in his first season.
The Packers have had a drama-filled offseason. Various media reports have detailed extensive dysfunction in the organization during the final days of the Mike McCarthy era, and Aaron Rodgers has feuded publicly with old teammates like Greg Jennings. Green Bay is looking to put all the drama behind them this season, and seem to be very excited about starting fresh with new coach Matt LaFleur. Those around the team are hoping that LaFleur will provide some desperately needed energy to the team, and will help push and revitalize Rodgers.
Apparently the Packers weren’t willing to cede too much control to the first-time head coach however. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that LaFleur “wasn’t the sole decision-maker” when it came to filling out his coaching staff. “Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was not forced on LaFleur, but the new coach was strongly encouraged to keep him,” Silverstein writes, and it sounds like other assistant coaching decisions may not have been left up to LaFleur. Team president Mark Murphy has strongly denied that LaFleur wasn’t allowed to pick his own staff.
Silverstein points out that the Packers currently have a chaotic power structure with LaFleur, GM Brian Gutekunst, and director of football operations Russ Ball all reporting directly to Murphy, and many in the organization worry that’s a dynamic that is going to lead to dysfunction. This isn’t a great start for LaFleur’s tenure, but winning a few games early on will make all of this worry go away pretty quickly.
Here’s more from the NFC:
The Giants plan on Eli Manning being their starter in 2019, they’ve made that very clear. But if he were thrust into action, New York’s coaching staff is already confident that sixth overall pick Daniel Jones would be ready to go from day one. “I think he’d be ready to go, that’s my personal opinion,” Giants offensive coordinator Mike Shula said when asked if Jones could be an instant starter in the league, per Tom Rock of Newsday. “I think he has that capability.” Defensive coordinator James Bettcher also had high praise for the rookie signal-caller after watching him take part in rookie minicamp. The selection of Jones was widely criticized as a reach, but the Giants’ coaching staff seems quite happy with their pick, for now.
Speaking of the Giants,the team signed offensive lineman Mike Remmers earlier today, and now we have details on the contract. It’s a one-year deal with a base value of $2.5MM, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). If he meets some play-time incentives, the value of the deal can increase to $4MM. Remmers started all 16 games at right guard for the Vikings last year, but his agent confirmed the Giants will be moving him back to right tackle, his original position. The Giants have put an emphasis on rebuilding their offensive line, and as of right now it looks like Remmers will be a starter on the outside opposite Nate Solder.
We heard all the way back in March that the Falcons were nearing a deal on an extension with Julio Jones, and then nothing ever materialized. Jones held out briefly last offseason because he’s severely underpaid at the moment, and all indications have been they would get a deal done this year, but there hasn’t been much progress recently. Jones stayed away from the team’s voluntary offseason workouts, but things still appear to be headed in the right direction. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said today he’s “very encouraged” by the talks he’s had with Jones’ agent, per Jeff Schultz of The Athletic (Twitter link). “Both parties are in a good place. There’s no timeline but I’m not worried. Julio will be around while we’re working on it,” he continued. In a separate tweet, Schutlz writes that Dimitroff said Jones will be at this year’s mandatory minicamp after skipping it last year, and Jones could even participate in some voluntary OTAs coming up.
With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.
Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.
So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?
The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.
By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards addedVance Josephand Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.
Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered toJameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.
The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference inMatt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.
LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.
Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggainswith him to the Big Apple.
Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.
The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OCalso hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriotsdefensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.
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Here’s the latest on the Packers and new head coach Matt LaFleur:
LaFleur will report directly to team president/CEO Mark Murphy, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Such arrangements can lead to problems sometimes in the NFL, but GM Brian Gutekunst is presumably on board with the plan.
LaFleur told reporters that he that he had the opportunity to speak with Aaron Rodgers prior to accepting the job. “I cannot wait to get to work with him. I think he’s equally excited,” LaFleur said of Rodgers (Twitter link via Olivia Reiner of the team website).
The Packers interviewed a number of candidates for the job, but Murphy was unimpressed by everyone outside of LaFleur “Quite honestly, no one stood out,” Murphy said (Twitter link via Pelissero). After talking with other coaches, they interviewed LaFleur in Nashville on Sunday afternoon and found him to be “the most prepared candidate.”