Olivier Vernon

Giants Activate DE Josh Mauro

A familiar staple of James Bettcher‘s recent defenses will make his Giants debut on Sunday. The team activated defensive end Josh Mauro on Saturday.

To make room on their 53-man roster, the Giants waived wide receiver Stacy Coley. Jawill Davis is expected to return kicks for the Giants, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com tweets.

Mauro played on each of Bettcher’s three Cardinals defenses, starting 24 games during Bettcher’s stay as Arizona’s DC. Although Mauro is more of a run-stopping presence at end (two career sacks), any additional qualified personnel being available stands to help a Giants team that’s again going to be without Olivier Vernon. Afflicted with a troublesome high ankle sprain, Big Blue’s top pass rusher will miss a fifth straight game.

The NFL suspended Mauro four games for violating its policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

New York claimed Coley earlier this year after Minnesota waived the second-year wideout. He returned two kicks and two punts against the Texans in Week 3, but Davis served as the Giants’ kick-return man against the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Injury Notes: Rodgers, Falcons, Eagles

Aaron Rodgers will enter Sunday with a questionable designation on the Packers‘ injury report. The two-time MVP can improve his chances of playing, obviously, by practicing Saturday — when the Packers do more than the typical walkthrough — but not doing so won’t prevent him from playing. Mike McCarthy said he’d have no issues deploying Rodgers even if he doesn’t practice all week, per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. The 13th-year Green Bay coach said his quarterback feels better than he did at the beginning of the week. Despite Rodgers’ performance on Sunday against the Bears and his history of playing through left knee pain, he’s not a lock to face the Vikings.

Here’s the latest from the NFC’s injury situations.

  • Another key Falcons cog won’t be available Sunday. After the losses of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones, Atlanta won’t have the services of starting running back Devonta Freeman. He’s been declared out due to the knee injury he suffered against the Eagles. Tevin Coleman will start. The Falcons have rookie Ito Smith and recently signed Brian Hill in place as backups.
  • Once again, the Giants won’t have their top pass rusher available. While the Giants are hoping to have Olivier Vernon in Week 3, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter), his high ankle sprain will keep him out against the Cowboys.
  • Trai Turner‘s stay in Panthers concussion protocol will result in him missing this week’s game against the Falcons. He’s been declared out, putting Carolina down three starting offensive linemen — Turner and tackles Matt Kalil and Daryl Williams, both of whom residing on IR — going into its NFC South opener.
  • The already-banged-up Eagles didn’t come out of Week 1 unscathed. Darren Sproles will miss Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers. The 34-year-old passing-down back sustained a hamstring injury against the Falcons. He’ll join Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffery among Philadelphia’s high-profile Week 2 absences.
  • Already without IR-stationed cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, the Bucs won’t have Brent Grimes available to cover Eagle wideouts, either. Tampa Bay used two second-round picks on corners, Carlton Davis and M.J. Stewart, and could see an extended glimpse of the rookies’ development to this point in their careers.
  • The Lions49ers game will see the visitors without top guard T.J. Lang and the hosts missing deep threat Marquise Goodwin. Both players have been declared out. Kyle Shanahan said (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, on Twitter) Dante Pettis will start in place of Goodwin.

Injury Notes: Berry, Giants, Titans, Falcons

Some teams will be opening their seasons without key defenders. Here’s the latest from the Week 1 injury front:

  • The nagging heel issue Eric Berry‘s been dealing with will likely keep him out of Week 1. Andy Reid (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, on Twitter) does not expect his All-Pro safety to be available when the Chiefs play arguably their toughest AFC West game of the season — a road tilt against the Chargers. Berry’s been held out of practice this week. He missed the Chiefs’ final 15 games of last season with an Achilles tear, his second severe NFL injury. Berry’s right heel’s plagued him in recent weeks, and was also an issue in Kansas City’s 2017 training camp; the ninth-year safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last season. He hasn’t practice since August 11. Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker are K.C.’s likely safety starters, per Teicher.
  • Suffering a high ankle sprain in practice late last month, Olivier Vernon will not be available for the Giants on Sunday. Vernon will miss New York’s Week 1 game against Jacksonville, Pat Shurmur said (via SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano). This will pose a problem for the Giants’ pass rush, which is now without Jason Pierre-Paul. This could push rookie Lorenzo Carter into Big Blue’s lineup Sunday, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, who adds the Georgia-developed edge defender may play plenty regardless of his first-string status.
  • The Titans will be missing some key players but may also have one back sooner than expected. Derrick Morgan‘s meniscus issue hasn’t stopped him from practicing this week, and the ninth-year edge player practiced fully on Thursday to put him in line to start Sunday. However, the Titans will begin their season without Jack Conklin, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com tweets. Evans and Landry were Tennessee’s top two 2018 draft picks.
  • Keanu Neal‘s Week 1 injury (an ACL tear) proved to be the biggest health news thus far on Friday, and the Falcons may not seek an outside replacement. Damontae Kazee is likely the next man up for the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, rather than Atlanta going after former Dan Quinn charge Earl Thomas or UFA Eric Reid.
  • Joey Bosa may miss Week 1 as well, and the Chargers‘ dynamic pass rusher was spotted in a walking boot on Friday, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bosa will be out for Sunday’s game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bosa missed the preseason with a foot injury, but Wang notes (on Twitter) that ailment healed and that the third-year defensive end is week-to-week because of a different malady on that same foot. While the Bolts have maybe the NFL’s best edge-rushing tandem in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they aren’t especially deep at that position.
  • Jesse James will start at tight end for the Steelers on Sunday against the Browns. Vance McDonald will miss Pittsburgh’s opener, per Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews (Twitter link). A foot injury shelved McDonald during the preseason, halting the tight end’s offseason momentum as he prepares for his second Steelers season.

Olivier Vernon Has High Ankle Sprain

The Giants’ pass rush was slated to look quite different entering this season, given the trade of Jason Pierre-Paul and switch to a 3-4 defense. It may start the year missing its most prominent component as well.

Olivier Vernon is dealing with a high ankle sprain, Pat Shurmur said during a radio interview with WFAN 660 (via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, on Twitter).

Vernon was carted off a Giants practice field late last month but was believed to have avoided a serious injury. While a high ankle sprain isn’t considered an especially serious setback, it can take some time to surmount. Although Vernon’s status for Sunday’s Giants-Jaguars game isn’t known, Shurmur said his top pass rusher is a fast healer. That said, he probably shouldn’t be expected to be 100 percent if he is able to play in Week 1.

Vernon experienced ankle trouble last season. He missed four games — his first four absences as a pro — because of it.

James Bettcher‘s implemented his 3-4 scheme in New York, shifting Vernon from defensive end to outside linebacker. Vernon missing time would thrust Connor Barwin or Lorenzo Carter into a starting role opposite Kareem Martin, with each of these players not being quite on Vernon’s level in terms of pass-rushing consistency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Ravens, Vernon, Elflein, Jets

The Ravens were expecting big things from defensive tackle Willie Henry this season, but they may have to wait a few weeks to see him contribute. Head coach John Harbaugh said on Saturday that the 24-year-old recently underwent surgery to repair an umbilical hernia.

“It’s not football related, but maybe had been there and just kind of opened up on him a little bit. He had surgery for that, so he’ll be a few weeks,” Harbaugh said (via Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com).

After sitting out his entire rookie campaign, the 2016 fourth-round pick showed some promise in 2017 after sitting out his entire rookie campaign. In 14 games (three starts), Henry compiled 33 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and five passes defended. With Henry out of the starting lineup, the Ravens will likely turn to Chris Wormley or rookie Zach Sieler.

Henry won’t be the only Ravens player forced out of the lineup. Harbaugh also said tight end Hayden Hurst recently had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot, and recovery could take three to four weeks.

Let’s check out some more injury updates from around the NFL…

  • Olivier Vernon was carted off the Giants practice field today after suffering a left ankle injury. However, it sounds like the talented outside linebacker will be alright, as ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports (via Twitter) that Vernon’s x-rays came back negative. If the 27-year-old is forced to miss any time, it’d be a big loss for the Giants. The linebacker has compiled 15 sacks in two seasons with the team, including a 2017 campaign when he collected 37 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 12 games.
  • Vikings center Pat Elflein is currently dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, but head coach Mike Zimmer recently said that the lineman wouldn’t begin the season on the PUP list. However, that might not end up being the case. Chris Tomasson of St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets that the organization is set to get a medical update on Elflein tomorrow. According to the reporter, the team now isn’t expecting the lineman to be ready for the start of the regular season. The center started all 14 games as a rookie last season. The Vikings recently traded for Brett Jones for some reinforcement at the position.
  • Jets running back Elijah McGuire won’t be ready for the start of the regular season, tweets Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Head coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that the team is considering placing the 24-year-old on the short-term injured reserve to start the year. McGuire looked solid during his rookie season, compiling 315 rushing yards and one touchdown on 88 carries (he also hauled in 17 catches for 177 yards and one score). The running back’s injury may allow the team to hold onto another player at the position behind Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, and Thomas Rawls.

NFC Notes: Vernon, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins

As part of new defensive coordinator James Bettcher‘s blitz-happy, aggressive 3-4 defense, the Giants will be moving Olivier Vernon from a defensive end to a pass-rushing outside linebacker. As a result of this change, Matt Lombardo of NJ.com believes the 27-year-old will end up being the key to a successful Giants defense.

“We know [Olivier Vernon] is a dynamic guy,” Bettcher said. “He’s a guy that can rush from different angles, a guy that you can move around and put in different matchups. And he’s embraced everything that we’ve done to this point. I’ve loved working with him and I think he’s making some great progress, not just in this scheme, but I think as I’ve looked at him as a player, he’s sharpening his tools right now.”

Since joining the Giants prior to the 2016 season, Vernon has compiled 15 sacks. While the defender averaged more sacks during his final three seasons with the Dolphins, Lombardo believes the position change should boost the former third-rounder’s numbers.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFC…

  • If the Seahawks want to push for a playoff spot next season, ESPN’s Brady Henderson believes five players will have to lead the way: quarterback Russell Wilson, free safety Earl Thomas, linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Frank Clark, and receiver Doug Baldwin. Thomas is a particularly surprising inclusion considering his uncertain status for next year. However, consider the losses of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, Thomas’ savvy could be particularly valuable to a younger Seahawks defense.
  • Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jenna Laine looked at the players who would be crucial to a Buccaneers playoff run: quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, wideout Mike Evans, defensive tackle Vita Vea, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. The 6-foot-4, 347-pound Vea is of particular intrigue, as Tampa Bay will be eyeing match-ups with a handful of notable quarterbacks and running backs next season.
  • Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington says no one would be surprised if the Redskins add an offensive guard before the regular season begins. If their supplemental picks go as planned, the organization should be armed with 11 selections in next year’s draft, so the writer believes the team could bail on one of the picks for some reinforcement on the offensive line. Following an underwhelming season, guard Shawn Lauvao would probably be the current member of the line who is most at risk of losing his starting gig.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Jeffery, Redskins

Moving to a 3-4 defense, the Giants traded Jason Pierre-Paul to a team that uses a 4-3 scheme. But the Giants do not view Bradley Chubb‘s seemingly superior fit for a 4-3 look as a deal-breaker. New Giants DC James Bettcher doesn’t believe Chubb having played only in a 4-3 setup as enough of a deterrent for the team to automatically pass on him. However, Chubb is 6-foot-4 and 269 pounds, a large frame for an outside ‘backer.

Look at Markus Golden who came out of college in Missouri as a 4-3 defensive end who had his hand in the ground,” Bettcher said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “Comes out and two years later has double-digit sacks in this scheme. You talk about Chandler Jones who was in New England as a 4-3 defensive end and came to this scheme. It’s just like anything else, there are new things you have to learn, but it’s still playing football. It’s still rushing off the edge.”

Of course, the Giants aren’t exactly going to say Chubb is out of the question for their scheme, since the N.C. State talent could entice a pass rush-seeking team to trade up. The perceived gap between Chubb and the rest of the edge-rushing class could create a market for the Giants’ No. 2 pick that goes beyond the quarterback position. But Bettcher at least is playing the part of a coach who does not believe that Chubb’s run as a 4-3 end will be too much of a deterrent for his 3-4 approach. Chubb visited the Giants on Thursday.

Here’s more out of the Big Apple, along with a couple of other NFC East cities.

  • A team that’s largely regarded linebacker as a second- or third-tier position for many years, the Giants have now committed a staggering amount to that position compared to how it was represented on the 2017 payroll. Former first-round pick Alec Ogletree, and his $10.5MM-per-year deal that ranks third among all off-ball ‘backers, is now in the fold. And, somewhat quietly, the Giants added outside linebacker Kareem Martin for $5MM per year. Last season’s Giants did not have close to that capital allocated to any of its linebackers. Big Blue’s linebacker spending is also spiking considerably as well because of Olivier Vernon‘s relocation to outside ‘backer, Rock writes. Vernon’s $17MM-AAV figure is second only to Von Miller at this position.
  • Out until at least training camp because of rotator cuff surgery, Alshon Jeffery was confronted with the possibility of this surgery occurring last summer and nullifying his 2017 season. Having just signed a one-year Eagles deal and eyeing a big payday, Jeffery did not think that arrangement was going to work for him. “I was like, ‘No, there’s no way you’re going to do that,” Jeffery said (via Les Bowen of Philly.com) of a 2017 surgery. “We got to figure out another situation.'” Despite playing through a significant shoulder malady, Jeffery caught 57 passes for 789 yards and nine touchdowns. He added three more TDs in the playoffs.
  • It’s not out of the question that 2018 is Josh Norman‘s last year with the Redskins, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington writes. Although the Redskins would still have $6MM in dead money if they were to release Norman after this season, they’d create $8.5MM in cap space. Norman’s 2019 cap figure is $14.5MM. He remains the league’s highest-paid cornerback despite two free agency periods having passed since his Washington agreement. While it’s fairly early to navigate against the 2019 cap, Washington is projected to hold the second-lowest amount of cap space next year.

East Rumors: Williams, Patriots, JPP, Jets

Trent Williams has encountered a patella issue, one that caused him to briefly exit Monday night’s Redskins-Chiefs game. The Pro Bowl left tackle will not need surgery to correct the problem, but Williams is “week-to-week,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Washington has not ruled Williams out for its Week 6 game, per Rapoport. The eighth-year tackle underwent an MRI on Wednesday, and the exam ruled out a long-term injury. A near-future absence would obviously cause issues for the team. Swing tackle Ty Nsekhe is out after undergoing core muscle surgery, so the drop-off if Williams can’t go against the 49ers could be significant.

Here’s the latest from the Eastern divisions, shifting to New England.

  • Rob Gronkowski extended his streak of seasons without 16-game participation to six by missing Thursday night’s Patriots-Buccaneers tilt with a thigh injury, but the Pats expect their all-world tight end back by Week 6, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter). The same goes for Rex Burkhead, per Schefter. Burkhead hasn’t played since Week 2, but the team is expecting its newly acquired dual-threat back to be available against the Jets next weekend.
  • Missing Thursday’s game will deprive Gronkowski of collecting the $10.75MM salary the Patriots set as his ceiling on the now-incentive-laden 2017 arrangement. By failing to play in 90 percent of the Pats’ snaps this season, Gronk is in danger of falling to the $8.75MM tier of his contract, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes (on Twitter). The 28-year-old tight end could still rise back to that top tier, but he’d have to earn first-team All-Pro honors. That’s obviously still in play for Gronkowski, a three-time All-Pro, but he will have to make it through most of the Pats’ remaining regular-season games to be strongly considered for such acclaim. He will need to play on 80 percent of New England’s snaps this season or total 1,000 receiving yards or 12 touchdowns to earn $8.75MM. The salary drops to $6.75MM if Gronkowski can’t meet one of those benchmarks.
  • A sprained shoulder has put Jason Pierre-Paul‘s Week 5 availability in question, but the Giants defensive end said this issue is not new for him. He intends to play against the Chargers, Howie Kussoy of the New York Post reports. JPP said he’s been dealing with shoulder problem for “a while.” Both Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon missed Thursday’s practice, and with Vernon leaving early with an ankle injury the past two weeks, Big Blue’s other starting defensive end is in danger of missing his first NFL game in a six-season career.
  • The Jets could be down nickel cornerback Juston Burris on Sunday after the No. 3 corner hurt his foot in practice, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. With fellow reserve corner Darryl Roberts unlikely to play in Cleveland, the Jets could be scrambling here if Burris can’t go. New York, though, still has veteran Marcus Williams in the event the younger talents can’t play behind Morris Claiborne or Buster Skrine. A former steady contributor on whom the Jets placed a second-round RFA tender, Williams has not played a defensive snap this season. Both Burris and Roberts have played 90.

NFC Notes: Huff, Eagles, 49ers, Giants

Wide receiver and kick returner Josh Huff, who was released today by the Eagles, issued the following statement to ESPN’s Adam Caplan: “First, I want to apologize to Mr. Lurie and his family, my coaches and teammates, and all Eagles fans. I’m sorry that any action by me brought negative light to this organization. I want to thank the Lurie Family, Howie, this community and the entire Eagles organization for the opportunity I’ve had for the past 3 years. Most important, I want to let the fans and community as a whole know that I understand the responsibility I have as a professional athlete, and I will take all measures necessary to correct mistakes I have made.”

More from the NFC:

  • Could 49ers head coach Chip Kelly reunite with Huff? Kelly previously coached Huff at Oregon and with the Eagles, but he says that he hasn’t gotten an opportunity to pore over the details of the wideout’s arrest. Kelly also hasn’t gotten to speak with GM Trent Baalke, who was on a scouting trip this week, as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. “I have no idea what happened,” Kelly said. “I haven’t followed any of it. I know he got arrested two days ago, but I haven’t followed any of it.” Ultimately, Kelly says it’s too soon to say whether he’d have interest in signing Huff.
  • Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon said Thursday that he’s “obviously not” satisfied with his production in Year 1 of the five-year, $85MM mega-deal he inked as a free agent in the offseason (via Tom Rock of Newsday). Vernon, whose contract includes $52MM in guarantees, has just one sack in seven games this season, though the ex-Dolphin has been playing with a hand injury. “I would like him to be 100 percent, but I am not so sure it is there right now,” said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. To his credit, Vernon has played in just under 91 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps this year. He also ranks a solidly above-average 19th among Pro Football Focus’ 111 qualified edge defenders in overall performance.
  • The NFL hit former 49ers defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey with a 10-game suspension on Thursday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). It’s unclear what led to the ban for Ramsey, who retired in July. The 49ers chose Ramsey in the seventh round of the 2014 draft out of Boston College, but he didn’t appear in a game in either of his two seasons with the club.
  • Saints first-round defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins looks poised to finally make his NFL debut this week.

More Reactions To Von Miller’s Extension

The Broncos and Von Miller finally agreed to an extension yesterday, with the new contract being worth $114.5MM over six seasons. We’ve already taken a look at some reactions to the contract, but let’s see what the Broncos organization had to say about the extension…

  • Executive VP of Football Operations/GM John Elway said Miller was rewarded for his past performance and his anticipated future production. “Von’s earned this contract not only for what he’s done in the past but for what we believe he’ll do in the future,” Elway told Aric DiLalla of DenverBroncos.com. “This was a long process that ended the way we all wanted—with Von being part of the Denver Broncos for many more years. Our team had a tremendous year last season, and the way Von performed the final few weeks was such a big part of our Super Bowl run. Going forward, we expect great things from Von not only on the field but with the responsibility he has as a leader on the team. I’m proud of how we’ve handled this situation and give credit to everyone on our staff who helped get this done.”
  • Head coach Gary Kubiak indicated that he was happy that the negotiations were now behind them. “I know this took a lot of hard work from John and Von to get this done, and we’re thrilled that Von is going to be a Bronco for a long time,” Kubiak told DiLalla. “I’ve known him since he was a kid in college. Most of all, I’m proud of how far Von’s come as both a person and a player. It’s a great day for him and the organization. We’re all excited to get back to work with Von as a leader of our team.”
  • Finally, Miller was thrilled with finally inking that extension. “I’m super happy and excited to be back with my teammates for the next six years,” he told DiLalla. “This is something I really wanted—to stay with the Denver Broncos. I am so appreciative and grateful for this opportunity. I want to thank Mr. Bowlen, Joe Ellis, John Elway and Coach Kubiak for making this possible. I’m also thankful for the way my teammates and our fans have supported me. I’m excited for the future and ready to get back to work.”
  • After looking through Miller’s new six-year contract, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com says (via Twitter) Olivier Vernon‘s five-year contract was the way to go. Fitzgerald understands the desire to get paid, but he believes these players are limiting themselves by playing for $18MM during the sixth year of the contract.