Mike Williams (Clemson)

Extra Points: Haden, Giants, Bolts, Jaguars

No extension discussions have commenced between Joe Haden and the Steelers, but that seems to be where this is headed. After a pre-draft report indicated a Haden re-up could be in the cards this year, the veteran cornerback said he wants to re-sign with the Steelers. Haden expects conversations to take place when or around the time the Steelers report for training camp July 25, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac also anticipating extension talks at that point. Haden struggled with injuries and inconsistency at the end of his Browns tenure but has done well to stabilize one of the Steelers’ cornerback spots. Signing for three years and $27MM in 2017, Haden is going into his age-30 season. The Steelers, though, do not appear to have reservations about paying him for his early-30s seasons, per Dulac. Due largely to being an old-CBA first-rounder, Haden has earned more than $100MM in his career.

Let’s look at where some other teams stand exiting minicamp week:

  • After two years either marred by injuries or featuring constraints by his role, Mike Williams expects his usage rate to spike in 2019. The Chargers are thinner at wide receiver but have their 2017 first-round pick set to pick up the slack after Tyrell Williams‘ departure. “My role is going to expand with Tyrell leaving. I’m looking forward to that,” Williams said, via Chargers.com. “I feel I’m going to get a lot more opportunities than I did last year.” Williams saw the third-most snaps among Bolts wideouts last year (732, more than 100 fewer than Tyrell Williams) but still caught 10 touchdown passes (after not scoring as a rookie).
  • The Jaguars will not see their full receiving corps available for a while. Marqise Lee missed all of last season and is not expected to return until nearly the end of training camp, Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com notes. Lee led the 2016 Jaguars in receiving and posted 702 yards in 2017, but a severe knee injury wiped out his 2018 slate. He joins Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and 2018 second-rounder D.J. Chark in a receiving corps that brings questions about the cogs’ roles.
  • An injury spoiled Jon Halapio‘s first season as the Giants‘ center starter, but it appears he stands to return to the role he held before going down last September. The former sixth-round pick started two games last season but saw the bulk of the first-team reps during Big Blue’s offseason work, with Pat Shurmur indicating (via the New York Post’s Jared Schwartz) the sixth-year blocker is back at 100%. Spencer Pulley graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 26 center last season; he mixed in with the Giants’ first-stringers this offseason.

AFC West Notes: A. Smith, Broncos, M. Williams

After jumping out to a 5-0 start this year, the Chiefs have lost four of their last five games, making themselves vulnerable to the surging Chargers and even the Raiders in the AFC West. The team’s offensive struggles have contributed to that swoon, and quarterback Alex Smith has fallen off a bit after a torrid first half. He is coming off a miserable performance in Kansas City’s loss to the lowly Giants last week, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the Chiefs would only turn to rookie first-rounder Patrick Mahomes if Smith were to get hurt. Smith will remain under center the rest of the year, though Kansas City still plans to shop him in the offseason as it prepares to usher in the Mahomes era.

Now for more notes from the AFC West:

  • New Chiefs CB Darrelle Revis will likely make his Kansas City debut next week, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
  • Paxton Lynch is back under center for the Broncos, and Rapoport (video link) says they want him to start the rest of the year so they can fairly evaluate what they have in last year’s first-rounder. The team will run a much simpler offensive scheme for Lynch than what it employed under former OC Mike McCoy, and Lynch has been encouraged to simply do what he does best, which is run around and improvise.
  • We learned earlier today that the Raiders are likely to fire OC Todd Downing at season’s end, and that McCoy is an obvious candidate to replace him. Within that story, we cited another La Canfora article in which the CBS scribe reported that the McCoy firing might have been just the tip of the iceberg for the Broncos. He suggests that there is speculation that head coach Vance Joseph could be out after just one year on the job, and at the very least, that Denver could shake up other parts of its coaching staff.
  • Broncos GM John Elway has taken a lot of heat for his club’s 3-7 record in 2017, but Mike Klis of 9News.com says that criticism is largely unwarranted. In an interesting piece that pits Elway’s draft results against those of his long-tenured colleagues, Elway comes out near the top of the heap of NFL general managers, which makes Klis believe he will be able to turn the ship around in 2018.
  • We learned Friday that Chargers rookie wideout Mike Williams avoided an ACL tear during his team’s Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys, and Rapoport tweets that Williams has been diagnosed with a bone bruise. While Williams is expected to miss next week’s contest against the Browns, he will be week-to-week thereafter, which is a big deal for a team that has forced its way back into the playoff hunt.

Mike Williams Avoids ACL Injury

The Chargers received encouraging news about receiver Mike Williams on Friday night. Despite some concern that the talented rookie playmaker would “miss time” thanks to an injury he suffered on Thanksgiving, the team has learned that Williams did not injure his ACL, reports Dan Woike of The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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“He’s still being evaluated right now, doctors and trainers. We’ll see where he goes from there,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “…As of now, I’ve just been told ACL, that’s been ruled out, which was very good news for me. I think we can deal with the rest, and lot of it may depend on pain tolerance as well.”

The former Clemson star exited Thursday’s game against the Cowboys after just one snap as he was seen limping off the field in a great amount of pain. The injury appeared to be non-contact.

While Friday’s news is encouraging for the wideout, it’s still been sort of a lost year for the 2017 seventh overall pick. Williams missed the Chargers first five games with a back injury and was just beginning to integrate himself more in the Los Angeles offense.

However, the news could have been much worse for all involved as there’s now a better chance that the injury is less serious than first anticipated.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Fear Mike Williams Will Miss Time

Just as the Chargers are making a serious push to do something no non-Chargers team has done since the AFL-NFL merger — make the playoffs after starting 0-4 — their first-round pick has encountered familiar trouble.

Mike Williams left Thursday’s game with a knee injury, and while this is a different malady than the back ailment that shelved the talented pass-catcher for much of the offseason and into the early portion of his rookie slate, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter) the team is concerned about Williams’ setback.

Williams will undergo an MRI on Friday, per Rapoport, who adds the Chargers are worried he will miss game time. That said, the team believes as of now Williams did not damage his ACL during the Bolts’ Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys.

The Clemson product who missed most of the 2015 season with a neck injury has been eased into his run with the Chargers. He’s played in six games and has only been targeted 15 times, catching nine passes for 84 yards. The Bolts are deep at wide receiver, though, with Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin also supplementing Keenan Allen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Pagano, 49ers, Chargers

The Raiders switched out defensive coordinators in firing Ken Norton Jr. and promoting John Pagano. Jack Del Rio said this week no one should feel comfortable about their statuses, but Pagano may be secure moving into 2018. Del Rio expects Pagano to have a role on the ’18 Raiders, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes (on Twitter). Of course, this would likely hinge on Del Rio being retained for a fourth season. After guiding the team to major improvements in 2015 and last season, Del Rio has overseen the Raiders become arguably the NFL’s most disappointing team this season. But he signed a contract extension earlier this year; that would point to the current HC receiving another year to attempt to make good on this Reggie McKenzie-assembled nucleus. Pagano will inherit a defense that ranks 26th. The Del Rio- and Norton-helmed units of the past two seasons ranked 26th in each.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions on Thanksgiving.

  • For those unable to watch Chargers-Cowboys, Nick Novak suffered a back injury but has returned to the game, limping back onto the field for a 22-yard field goal. Punter Drew Kaser was practicing kicks into a net on the sideline, but the Bolts eschewed a 30-yard field goal for a fourth-and-13 early in the second quarter prior to Novak’s return. Novak returned to the Chargers earlier this year after being cut by the Texans. The Bolts have struggled at kicker this season, with Novak already missing a kick today. This gives Los Angeles a 12-for-19 make ratio — worst in the NFL.
  • The Bolts have announced Mike Williams won’t return to their Thanksgiving game because of a knee injury. Williams now has another malady to surmount after a back ailment dogged him for much of the offseason.
  • The 49ers aren’t planning to part with Joe Staley in the near future. Despite the 11th-year player toiling for a rebuilding team in his age-33 season and being the annual subject of trade rumors, John Lynch said (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle) he and right tackle Trent Brown will be cornerstones for the next “couple, few” years. Brown is under contract through 2018 but can be extended after this season. Lynch’s comments appear to point to the team wanting to go that route. Staley’s deal runs through 2019 on incredibly team-friendly cap numbers ($7.7MM in 2018 and ’19).
  • Lynch said Joshua Garnett has changed his “body composition” in order to better function in Kyle Shanahan‘s zone-blocking scheme. Branch notes the 321-pound guard, who was known as a power blocker previously, could have returned from IR this season. Perhaps the 49ers wanted to use this year, once Garnett suffered a preseason injury, as an intentional redshirt for the purposes of the 2016 first-round pick adjusting to the new offense. Lynch said the 49ers encouraged the 6-foot-5 lineman to adjust accordingly, physically speaking, for Shanahan’s scheme, so it appears he will be in the picture in 2018 despite arriving under the Trent Baalke regime. Branch notes he figures to compete for a starting job next season.

AFC Notes: Pats, Gronk, Brady, Dolphins

The Patriots‘ decision to deactivate Rob Gronkowski for Thursday night’s game could cost him major money at the end of the season, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss points out. Gronkowski has played in 70.5% of the team’s snaps this season, which puts him on pace for the lowest possible incentives tier of $6.75MM. He can still reach the first ($10.75MM) and second tiers ($8.75MM) based on receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns, or All-Pro selection, but those markers will also be hard to reach without a certain volume of snaps.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered what is thought to be an AC joint sprain in his left, non-throwing shoulder, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He says he’ll play on Sunday against the Jets.
  • The Dolphins are expected to bring back assistant Dave DeGuglielmo to take over as the team’s new offensive line coach, Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).
  • Despite some recent optimism, it’s premature to say that Chargers first-round pick Mike Williams will be ready to make his NFL debut next week, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Cody Latimer, one of the Broncos‘ top special teamers, underwent a blood injection procedure in his right knee and could be out for the next game or so, Mike Klis of 9 News writes. Latimer has excelled as a kick returner so far this year with an average of 28.4 per attempt. He’s also a gunner on punt and kickoff coverage.
  • Former NFL safety Taylor Mays has signed with the CFL’s Roughriders, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The former second-round pick was most recently with the Bengals.

Chargers WR Mike Williams To Debut In Week 6

Chargers rookie wide receiver Mike Williams is set to make his NFL debut against the division-rival Raiders next week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Williams, whom Los Angeles selected with the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, missed the team’s first four contests with a back injury, and he will miss today’s matchup with the Giants. However, barring any setbacks, he will finally take the field in Week 6.

Mike Williams

The back problems, of course, not only forced Williams to miss the first few games of the regular season, but it kept him on the sidelines for the entirety of training camp as well. But he has been practicing in pads since Week 2, as Schefter writes, so he may be ready to make an impact right away.

Williams, a Clemson product, caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns for the national champion Tigers last year. It was believed at one point that his back could require season-ending surgery, but since that time, surgery was taken off the table and Los Angeles removed Williams from the PUP list so that he would not be forced to miss the first eight weeks of the regular season.

All reports for the past several months have been positive, which is welcome news for a Chargers club that has stumbled to an 0-4 record. While the playoffs are likely out of reach for the Bolts at this point, a significant contribution from Williams in 2017 would be a nice silver lining.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Raiders, Mahomes, Donald, Bolts

The Raiders decided to place second-round pick Obi Melifonwu on IR earlier this week, but the team is not counting on the safety missing his entire rookie season. Melifonwu is expected to return after eight weeks and be one of Oakland’s two IR-DTR players, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The UConn product is recovering from knee surgery and will use the season’s first two months to rehab. The Raiders have seen their top two draft picks struggle to see the field due to injuries thus far; Gareon Conley missed most of Oakland’s preseason work due to a shin malady. Both are eyed as contributors in a secondary that struggled throughout 2016.

Here’s the latest coming out of the West divisions before the defending AFC West champion Chiefs debut against the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

  • For now, new Cardinals guard Alex Boone will serve as a backup. “He’s just learning,” coach Bruce Arians told reporters (Twitter link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com). “We’ll see. Right now, it’d probably have to be an injury or someone really fail badly. … We’ll see. Right now, it’d probably have to be an injury or someone really fail badly.” Boone started for five straight seasons, lining up as a first-teamer for the 49ers and Vikings.
  • Despite Patrick Mahomes‘ impressive preseason, the Chiefs‘ plan remains to shelve the rookie quarterback throughout the 2017 season, Rapoport notes (video link). Rapoport also said the possibility of Mahomes sitting to start next season remains in play, adding the team drafted the Texas Tech product knowing he’d be a one- or two-year project. Rapoport adds the Chiefs believed Mahomes was the draft’s best quarterback and they thought four teams would pull the trigger to select him had they not made the trade up to No. 10. Alex Smith‘s contract may also dictate the franchise’s decision. The Chiefs can save $17MM by moving on from their longtime starter after this season, but it’s clear they see a firm line between Smith and Mahomes’ present readiness levels.
  • Chargers rookie Mike Williams is now off the PUP list but has yet to resume running routes full speed, Anthony Lynn said (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk). Recovering from a back injury, Williams has resumed catching passes. Rapoport reported the first-round pick’s likely return date will be in October.
  • If the Rams are going to sign Aaron Donald to an extension, the deal will have to make the defensive lineman the NFL’s highest-paid defender. Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes the team understands this. Von Miller‘s six-year, $114.6MM contract represents that standard presently, and Ndamukong Suh‘s six-year, $114MM Dolphins deal is the high-water mark for interior defenders. Los Angeles is not expected to have Donald this week as his holdout stretches into Month 3.
  • Sebastian Janikowski‘s small pay cut — from $4MM to $3MM this season — induced Rapoport to suggest this adjustment would free up space for a potential Donald Penn payment (Twitter link). The Raiders left tackle recently returned to the team and is entering the final year of his contract, but it’s clear the 34-year-old blocker is not exactly a content employee.

Mike Williams To Come Off PUP List

The Chargers will take Mike Williams off the PUP list in advance of the regular season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

A lingering back injury had the first-round pick’s rookie season in doubt, but this move signals the Chargers believe he will be ready to contribute early in the season. Williams remaining on the PUP list would have shelved him for the first six weeks of the Bolts’ season.

The most recent news on the former Clemson star indicated a possible October return was in the cards, and Rapoport hears (Twitter link) that’s still the tentative plan. The herniated disc Williams suffered is still not believed to require surgery; he’s been rehabbing it for several weeks now.

Williams missed Los Angeles’ training camp and did not play during the preseason. The No. 7 overall pick returning would strengthen a Chargers offense that’s also getting Keenan Allen back. Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin would quietly form one of the league’s most intriguing wideout contingents — one that could be the deepest of Philip Rivers‘ career.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers’ Mike Williams Eyeing Oct. Debut

The Chargers are eyeing an October debut for first-round pick wide receiver Mike Williams, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears. That’s a good sign for Williams considering that the team was uncertain about whether he would be able to play at all in 2017. Mike Williams

The Chargers selected Williams with the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s draft. Los Angeles is hoping to slot Williams in as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver this year, providing support to top target Keenan Allen. For however long he is out, the Bolts will have to rely more heavily on Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams, and Dontrelle Inman.

Los Angeles will be closely monitoring Williams over the next few weeks to get a better handle on his timeline. If Williams needs to rest until Week 7 (October 22 vs. the Broncos), then starting the season the PUP list could be the way to go. However, if they think he can take the field sooner, they may refrain from doing that.

Williams, a 6’4″, 218-pound receiver, turned in a 98-catch, 1,361-yard, 11-touchdown season in 2016. The Chargers are hoping to see what he can do at the next level sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.