Mike Williams (Clemson)

AFC West Notes: Fisher, Chargers, Abram

The Chiefs will be down one of their top players Sunday, with Tyreek Hill out for the foreseeable future. But they now have another offensive cornerstone player questionable because of a late-week injury. Eric Fisher suffered a groin injury during Kansas City’s Friday practice and is now questionable, Adam Teicher of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). The former No. 1 overall pick has not missed a start since his rookie season, in 2013, so it will look a bit strange if he is not manning his left tackle post in Oakland. The Chiefs have former Browns first-rounder Cameron Erving as a possible backup option; Erving did not play last week in Jacksonville. They also have former guard-tackle starter Jeff Allen on their bench and traded Carlos Hyde for Texans tackle Martinas Rankin.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Mike Williams played 16 games last season after an injury-plagued rookie year, but the 2017 top-10 pick has run into knee trouble. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said (via ESPN.com’s Eric Williams, on Twitter) the wideout starter will be a game-time decision against the Lions. The Bolts are thinner at receiver than they were last season, with Tyrell Williams having defected to the Raiders. But they still have Travis Benjamin, however, and brought back Dontrelle Inman. Both backups have contributed to Chargers aerial success during their time in southern California.
  • Who would say no if the Chargers and Redskins discussed a swap of holdout talents? The Chargers are not expected to have Melvin Gordon until at least midway through the season, and Trent Williams has shown no signs of ending his holdout. The latter has shown no interest in playing for the Redskins again, however, while Gordon is open to suiting up in Los Angeles this season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explores this hypothetical, which would include the left tackle-deficient Bolts acquiring a player with two years left on his deal. One season remains on Gordon’s rookie pact, which the Chargers are no longer renegotiating.
  • Johnathan Abram‘s season is almost certainly over, but the rookie Raiders safety received some good news. Abram’s surgery revealed he had only suffered a torn rotator cuff, not a torn labrum, which will limit his rehab time to five or six months, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Gates, Rivers, Chiefs

Despite losing Hunter Henry to yet another serious injury, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn did not seem optimistic on a potential reunion with Antonio Gates, according to Eric D. Williams of ESPN. “I have not been in contact with Antonio,” Lynn said. “I’m not sure what his situation is.”

After Henry’s injury last year, Gates was brought back to the only organization he’s ever known, serving mostly in a backup role. Appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers, Gates totaled 28 receptions for 333 yards, with only two touchdowns.

In the interim, the Chargers seem content with expanding the roles of tight ends Virgil Green and Sean Culkin while Henry recovers from his injury. Green is coming off a lackluster 2018 campaign, where he hauled in 19 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown, while appearing in all 16 games for the Chargers. Despite this, he is expected to start, with Culkin serving in a back up role.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • For the second straight day, wide receiver Mike Williams was absent from Chargers practice, and is not looking good for Sunday’s game against the Lions, according to Eric D. Williams. Lynn has been concerned about the knee of Mike Williams, and another missed practice tomorrow would not bode well for his chances of suiting up this weekend.
  • On the most recent edition of the RapSheet + Friends Podcast, quarterback Philip Rivers spoke with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport about a number of topics, including his current contract. “I really just feel at peace about that. Tom [Telesco] and I had really good conversations throughout the last couple months. I think it’s sincere, the both of us, really desire I’m still a Charger in 2020,” Rivers told Rapoport. “I think that sincerity will make it all work out. Had it worked out before the regular season got started, I’d have been fine with it, but it didn’t. Shoot, hey let’s just wait and it kinda worked best for both sides to do that. I really feel good about it. I’m in a good place.” Rivers is in the final year of a four-year, $83.25 million contract extension he signed in August 2015.
  • In an effort to create cap space, Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher‘s contract was restructured, which included the conversion of his $9.54MM base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will be prorated from 2019 to 2021, dropping his 2019 cap hit to about $6.4MM, according to Yahoo Sports’ Terez A. Paylor. Paylor also reports that linebacker Anthony Hitchens‘ restructure, which included the conversion of $5.6MM of his base salary to a fully guaranteed roster bonus that will also be prorated from 2019 to 2022, created roughly $4.2MM in cap room.

West Notes: Hawks, Brown, Raiders, Bolts

Pete Carroll said the Seahawks indeed looked into Antonio Brown once the Raiders released him on Saturday, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN. Carroll said he and GM John Schneider always communicate on potential moves but added, “Not everything is always as it seems and you’ve got check into stuff and figure out what’s going on.” Carroll also gave the impression that a stronger Seahawks pursuit of the four-time All-Pro may not have mattered, indicating Brown was intent on signing with the Patriots. “He was headed to New England. He was going,” Carroll said. The Seahawks and Browns were the two other teams mentioned as interested in Brown.

Now for more from the league’s west divisions:

  • More than a year after pleading guilty to insider trading, Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks has still not been sentenced and will not be any time soon, according to Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith. Kendricks’ sentencing, which has already been delayed for nine months, was delayed again and is now scheduled for November 21. Kendricks started for the Seahawks this past Sunday against the Bengals, tallying seven tackles (one for loss).
  • Jon Gruden scoffed when asked about Brown’s lawsuit, as Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Authentic relays (Twitter link). “I’m not aware of anything,” Gruden said. “If you want to ask about him you can call his employer.” The civil suit surfaced three days after Brown agreed to terms with the Patriots.
  • Adding to the Chargers’ injury woes, Anthony Lynn said today that he is concerned about the knee of wide receiver Mike Williams, ESPN’s Adam Schefter relays (Twitter link). Earlier today, it was reported that tight end Hunter Henry had suffered a tibia fracture to his left knee and would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. The Bolts are already without starting left tackle Russell Okung and All-Pro safety Derwin James. Williams dealt with injury trouble as a rookie but played in 16 games last season.
  • Seahawks first-round pick L.J. Collier returned to practice today for the first time since spraining his ankle early in camp. Carroll said the TCU defensive end product has a chance to make his debut Sunday against the Steelers, Henderson adds. The Seahawks stand to have their entire defensive line healthy soon, with Ziggy Ansah also on the verge of making his Seattle debut. Ansah was limited Wednesday.

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.