Alaric Jackson

OL Notes: Smith, Texans, Rams, Bears

The Cowboys are going with a “best five” configuration up front, shifting course months after Jerry Jones discussed a plan of keeping Tyler Smith at tackle. Smith is back at guard, but he may not be a lock to start the season on time. The second-year blocker suffered a hamstring strain, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News tweets. Jones expects Smith to play in Week 1; the 2022 first-round pick did not miss a game last season. Dallas has lost its starting left guard in free agency in each of the past two offseasons, seeing Connor Williams and Connor McGovern defect to the AFC East.

One of the backup options, Josh Ball, is on IR. Ball is battling hip and groin pain, and the Morning News’ Michael Gehlken notes he is expected to miss around two months. A 2021 fourth-rounder, Ball is not expected to need surgery. The Cowboys kept eight O-linemen, with rookies Asim Richards and T.J. Bass joining Chuma Edoga as backups.

Here is the latest from NFL O-lines:

  • Texans right tackle Tytus Howard returned to practice earlier this week, working out with a cast on his injured left hand. While the fifth-year lineman is on the verge of returning, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes George Fant is expected to play in place of Howard in Week 1. Howard, who signed a Texans extension in July, underwent surgery to repair a broken hand in early August. Fant worked as a regular Jets starter — at left and right tackle — throughout the 2020 and ’21 seasons; injuries limited him to seven games last year.
  • Josh Jones filled in for D.J. Humphries as the Cardinals’ left tackle last season, but the recently traded blocker is back at guard. The Texans have Jones in place as their starting left guard going into the season, Wilson tweets. Jones is replacing 2022 first-rounder Kenyon Green, who is on season-ending IR. Jones spent the 2021 season as a primary Cardinals starting guard. The Texans will also be without center Juice Scruggs to start the season; the second-rounder is on short-term IR with a hamstring injury.
  • The Rams gave Joseph Noteboom a three-year, $40MM deal to replace Andrew Whitworth in 2022, but after another season-ending injury, Whitworth’s would-be heir apparent lost his job. The Rams are going with Alaric Jackson at left tackle, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, who adds Noteboom is back at guard (subscription required). Noteboom worked at guard early in his career and was mentioned as a guard option this offseason, but he had played on the outside since becoming Los Angeles’ swing tackle in 2020. The Rams also added Kevin Dotson from the Steelers, and while Dotson has started 30 career games (including 17 last year), Rodrigue adds the team views him as a depth piece. A former UDFA, Jackson started six games last season before becoming one of the many Ram blockers forced off the field due to health issues. Blood clots ended Jackson’s 2022 slate.
  • Previously set to shift back to center, Cody Whitehair is at guard to start his eighth Bears season. Teven Jenkins‘ injury will shift Whitehair to left guard and Lucas Patrick to center, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune notes. Recent trade acquisition Dan Feeney is in place as Chicago’s backup center. Jenkins is on IR to start the season. Whitehair spent the past four seasons at guard but began his career with three slates at center. Patrick has played both guard and center. The 2022 free agency addition was ticketed to start at center last season, but injuries limited the ex-Packer to seven games.

Rams Considering Joe Noteboom At Guard, Shift Logan Bruss To Tackle

Rumored ahead of training camp to be holding four position battles along their offensive line, the Rams have made one notable change up front and are considering another. Their top 2022 draft choice is now at a new position, while the left tackle they re-signed for more than $13MM per year is not a lock to be Matthew Stafford‘s blindside protector to begin this season.

Logan Bruss is moving back to his college position of right tackle, per Sean McVay, who indicated this switch — which The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue notes (via Twitter) came about because of injury issues at the spot — will likely be for good. Bruss, who was transitioning to guard before ACL and MCL tears nixed his rookie year, is set to back up Rob Havenstein at right tackle — the Rams’ lone solidified starting O-line post coming into camp. The Rams chose Bruss in the 2022 third round.

While Bruss (25 right tackle starts at Wisconsin) is moving to a backup role, the Rams are also considering the prospect of Joe Noteboom not opening the season at left tackle. Introduced earlier this offseason, the notion of Noteboom at guard is now firmly in play, per McVay.

We want to find the best five,” McVay said. “But I think every one of those positions is incredibly valuable and really whatever we deem is the best fit for the five players at the two tackles, two guard spots and center. But I think Joe is a guy that can start at guard or tackle and he’s played at a high level so players like him are very rare that have the ability to do that. … Whether or not he ends up doing that or playing tackle, we’re still kind of working through that.”

Returning from an October 2022 Achilles tear, Noteboom is attached to a three-year deal worth $40MM. The Rams paid up to keep Noteboom in the wake Andrew Whitworth‘s retirement. Whitworth’s fill-in at that high-profile blocking post to close his career, Noteboom attracted a free agent market that led to the $13.3MM-per-year accord. The Rams used a few left tackles following Noteboom’s injury — one of many maladies to affect Los Angeles’ O-line during a disastrous Super Bowl title defense — and one of those options (Alaric Jackson) is pushing the incumbent for the job.

Using the increasingly popular “or” distinction to denote a position battle, the Rams’ depth chart lists Jackson as a co-left tackle starter. A 2021 UDFA, Jackson made six starts for the team last season. But a blood clot issue ended the Iowa alum’s season.

Jackson joined Tristan Wirfs as Iowa’s starting tackles in 2018 and ’19. The lower-regarded prospect started as the Hawkeyes’ left tackle from 2018-20, earning first-team All-Big Ten acclaim in 2020. This did not lead to a high profile coming into the 2021 draft, but the Rams have seen enough from the 25-year-old blocker to give him a legitimate shot at unseating Noteboom.

A “best five” scenario may well involve Noteboom shifting to right guard, where the depth chart lists Tremayne Anchrum — a 2020 seventh-rounder who started one game for the team last season — as the present first-stringer. With second-round pick Steve Avila set to start at the Rams’ other guard spot, Noteboom — who previously played guard before settling into the role as Whitworth’s apprentice — could return to an inside spot to accommodate Jackson. Anchrum joins Noteboom, Bruss and Jackson in coming off a season-ending injury — a fractured fibula.

NFC West Notes: Cardinals, Rams, Nwosu

It has long been expected Kyler Murray will miss time to start the season. The Cardinals have not kept a great secret regarding their rebuilding strategy, and even if the team’s new regime had assembled a team on the contender radar, rushing a dual-threat quarterback in a return from an ACL tear would not be a good idea. Murray addressed this matter recently, and ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss notes the two-time Pro Bowler was not sure he can make it back by Week 1. The fifth-year passer, who is aiming to return by the season’s outset, refused to put a timetable on his recovery.

The Cardinals placed Murray on the active/PUP list, which could be a precursor to his being stashed on the reserve/PUP list. The latter designation requires a four-game absence to start the year. Colt McCoy, who missed time this offseason due to an elbow ailment, sits as the presumptive Week 1 starter if Murray can’t go. McCoy will turn 37 just before the regular season. Though, the team also rosters David Blough and drafted Clayton Tune in Round 5.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The player Murray advocated for in the first round, Paris Johnson, is working with Arizona’s first-string offensive line to start camp. During their offseason program, the Cardinals had not determined if the No. 6 overall pick would play guard or tackle. For now, the Ohio State product has lined up at tackle. Johnson began camp at right tackle, opposite D.J. Humphries, and has remained there into August, per GOPHNX.com’s Bo Brack and Weinfuss (Twitter links). The Cardinals re-signed Kelvin Beachum, their three-year right tackle starter, to a two-year, $5.15MM deal in March. With Will Hernandez and Elijah Wilkinson working as the team’s first-string guards, it will be interesting to see how the Cards proceed with Beachum and contract-year blocker Josh Jones, who replaced Humphries at left tackle after a midseason injury.
  • Staying on the subject of O-lines, both Joseph Noteboom and Alaric Jackson are back in action after moving past their respective issues (Achilles tear, blood clots), per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic (subscription required). The two have split time at left tackle in camp. Jackson is battling Joseph Noteboom for the Rams‘ left tackle job. While Noteboom was mentioned as a guard candidate — if he loses out on the blindside gig to Jackson — Rodrigue adds the loser of this battle is likely ticketed for a swing backup role. That would be quite the fall for Noteboom, who signed a three-year deal worth $40MM in 2022. Due to an offseason restructure, Noteboom is not a realistic cut candidate.
  • Uchenna Nwosu‘s three-year, $45MM Seahawks extension will pay out $16.6MM in full guarantees, according to OverTheCap. The deal moved the edge rusher’s 2023 cap hit down, by about $3MM, to $10.1MM. In 2024, Nwosu’s cap hit will drop, checking in at $8.1MM. His 2025 number spikes to $21.5MM. Nwosu’s 2025 base salary checks in at $14.5MM, and ESPN.com’s Brady Henderson notes $6MM of that total is guaranteed for injury at signing (Twitter link). That $6MM shifts to a full guarantee by February 2024, giving Nwosu partial security a year out. An incentive-based escalator (based on Nwosu’s sack totals) is in place for 2026, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson adds, with Henderson noting it could increase the ’26 payout by $6MM (Twitter links)
  • After four seasons in Kliff Kingsbury‘s Air Raid offshoot, the Cardinals look to be prepared to take advantage of their tight end depth under new OC Drew Petzing. The ex-Browns staffer is preparing to lean on two-tight end formations featuring both Zach Ertz and Trey McBride, Adam Caplan of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. Chosen in last year’s second round, McBride caught 29 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown as a rookie. The Colorado State product played 599 offensive snaps as a rookie, but much of that work came after Ertz’s midseason ACL tear. McCoy confirmed (via Weinfuss) the Cards should be expected to line up in 12 personnel more frequently than they did under Kingsbury.

Latest On Rams OL Joseph Noteboom

Plenty of questions remain unanswered along the offensive line for the Rams heading into 2023, after the unit was devastated by injuries last season. The left tackle spot is one to watch, and veteran Joseph Noteboom should be a key member of the competition at that position.

The 28-year-old was tapped as the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth successor on the blindside, and he began the 2022 campaign as the starting left tackle. Noteboom suffered an Achilles tear, however, which ended his campaign and added to the injury woes along the O-line for Los Angeles. He continues to rehab the injury, and his performance upon return could go a long way in determining his usage in 2023.

The former third-rounder will have competition in the form of Alaric Jackson, who was himself limited to eight contests last year. The pair drew similar evaluations in terms of PFF grades in 2022, and they are set to take part in an open competition for the left tackle role. Depending on how that plays out, Noteboom could find himself occupying a different role.

Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic writes that the TCU product is not guranteed to continue at left tackle (either as a starter or backup) moving forward (subscription required). A position change could be in play, something which might see Noteboom play at either right tackle or left guard. He has experience at both spots at the NFL level, but much more so in the latter role. His most recent LG snaps took place in 2020, though that position is likely earmarked for second-round rookie Steve Avila.

As Rodrigue notes, the Rams appear committed to retaining Noteboom on the books after he signed a three-year, $39MM deal last March. That pact raised expectations for him entering the campaign, but his Achilles rehab, along with the presence of Jackson, could threaten his first-team standing come the regular season. At the left tackle spot (and others), the Rams’ positional battles in the summer will be worth monitoring.

Latest On Rams’ Offensive Line

The Rams’ offensive line staffing issues extended to the point three in-season signings — Matt Skura, Ty Nsekhe, Oday Aboushi — needed to step into starting roles last season. Skura and Nsekhe ended up making eight starts for a team mired in a near-season-long blocking crisis.

None of these veterans remain with the team, as it will attempt to reconstruct a line with capabilities near the level of its 2021 Super Bowl-winning group. As of OTAs, however, only one spot appears locked down. Rob Havenstein, the only constant for Los Angeles up front last season, is on track to man the team’s right tackle spot for a ninth season. Beyond the St. Louis-era holdover, competition will ensue in the coming months.

Although the Rams re-signed Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen last year, neither may be a lock to enter the season as a starter. Allen will compete for the center job he has held for three of the past four seasons — excepting a full-season 2020 absence — while Noteboom, per The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue will likely vie for the left tackle gig with Alaric Jackson, one of the other Rams to suffer a season-ending health issue last year (subscription required).

Noteboom, Jackson, Allen, David Edwards, Tremayne Anchrum and 2022 third-round pick Logan Bruss were lost for the season. Week 1 right guard Coleman Shelton missed time as well, leading to numerous O-line combinations during a disastrous Super Bowl title defense. Of this group, all are back except Edwards, a three-year guard starter who signed a low-cost deal with the Bills in March.

Noteboom, who signed a three-year, $39MM deal ($16.5MM fully guaranteed) to succeed Andrew Whitworth, suffered an Achilles tear in mid-October. He is not yet a full OTAs participant but is expected to be full-go by training camp. The other in-house option at left tackle, Jackson, filled in for Noteboom but did not play past Week 9 due to a blood clot issue. The Rams cleared Jackson (six 2022 starts) earlier this spring, Rodrigue notes, giving the third-year UDFA an interesting opportunity. It would stand to reason Noteboom will be favored, given his contract and previous role as Whitworth’s top backup, though Rodrigue adds the former third-round pick could be a left guard option as well. Noteboom played guard in 2019, but a season-ending injury closed that path. Jackson played both guard and tackle last season, filling in for both Noteboom and Edwards, offering flexibility for the regrouping Rams this offseason.

Allen started at center throughout the Rams’ Super Bowl-winning season but suffered a Week 1 knee injury and saw a calf ailment end his season three games early. Suffering an ACL tear midway through the 2019 season and missing all of 2020 as a result, Allen played just seven games last season. While he worked his way back from the ACL setback en route to a two-year, $10MM deal, the guarantees on that pact have been paid out. Allen figures to match up with last year’s Week 1 right guard, Shelton, at center. Pro Football Focus graded Allen as the NFL’s 10th-best center in 2021; it slotted Shelton as a bottom-tier interior lineman last year.

While Shelton (13 starts last season) will also be an option at right guard again, the Rams have used their top pick on a guard in each of the past two years. Bruss, who suffered ACL and MCL tears during a preseason game, has received clearance to return. The Rams chose TCU’s Steve Avila 36th overall. Avila should be ticketed for a starting guard role. Bruss was in competition for the right guard gig last year, but Avila’s draft slot would make it a bit of a surprise if he was not penciled in to start in Week 1. A former seventh-round pick, Anchrum has minimal game experience and is coming off a September fibula fracture. He will likely vie for a swing job.

Over the past two offseasons, the Rams have lost considerable experience. Whitworth’s retirement and the free agency exits of Edwards and Austin Corbett have created an interesting (and mostly unproven) mix here. The Rams could have re-signed Edwards for next to nothing, as he is tied to a one-year, $1.77MM contract, but they will aim to build around Avila. The team, which also added new O-line coaches (Ryan Wendell, Zak Kromer), may field a new-look front five come Week 1.

Cooper Kupp To Undergo Surgery; Rams Lose Two More O-Linemen

NOVEMBER 20: Kupp is expected to miss six to eight weeks, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. As we are presently in Week 11 of the season, that timeframe means that, if the 3-6 Rams cannot climb back into the postseason race, Kupp will be shelved for the remainder of the year.

NOVEMBER 15: Cooper Kupp avoided missing any time after his Week 8 ankle injury, but his latest issue will force an extended absence. The All-Pro wide receiver is heading to IR, Sean McVay said Tuesday.

The Rams’ top weapon will undergo surgery to repair his high ankle sprain Wednesday. Kupp must miss at least four games. With the Rams having already had their bye week, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year will be out until at least Week 14. This will be Kupp’s longest absence since his 2018 ACL tear.

While that Rams team withstood Kupp’s knee malady and trekked to Super Bowl LIII, this edition has been Kupp-dependent throughout the season. Kupp’s 812 receiving yards are more than double the Rams’ second-leading pass catcher. The defending champions have neither been able to run consistently nor have they found UFA addition Allen Robinson as reliable as the likes of Robert Woods or Brandin Cooks, the since-traded receivers who helped the Rams’ 2018 team push past Kupp’s setback. Given a three-year, $46.5MM deal with $30MM fully guaranteed, Robinson has 29 receptions for 292 yards and two touchdowns this season.

Kupp, 29, has also become a different player since his previous injury. The former Division I-FCS prospect posted one of the all-time great receiving seasons in 2021, catching 145 passes for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He topped that triple crown regular season with 478 playoff yards. Only Larry Fitzgerald (546 in 2008) has accumulated more in one postseason. Kupp’s 2,425 cumulative receiving yards last season shattered an NFL record, and the Super Bowl LVI MVP parlayed that staggering leap into top-five receiver money.

The Rams tore up both Kupp and Aaron Donald‘s deals this offseason, despite each having more than one season remaining. Kupp’s $26.7MM-per-year deal runs through 2026. The contract included $35MM fully guaranteed, but an additional $35MM will shift from an injury guarantee to a full guarantee in March 2023. While Kupp returning late in the season is not out of the question, the 3-6 Rams going through one of the worst Super Bowl title defenses in NFL history may prompt the team to be cautious and shut him down.

Additionally, the Rams encountered more injury trouble on their offensive line. Two of their latest batch of O-line starters — Alaric Jackson and Chandler Brewer — will be shut down. Jackson, who had worked at guard and left tackle this season, has a blood clot issue that will end his season. Brewer suffered an MCL sprain that, based on the Rams’ IR situation, will likely end his 2022 campaign. Jackson also missed Week 10 with a knee injury, but this blood clot issue — which will require blood thinner medication — has obviously become his central concern.

A former UDFA out of Iowa, Jackson has been a valuable contributor for a battered Rams front this season. After playing 61 offensive snaps as a rookie — for a much healthier Rams team — Jackson has started six games in his second NFL campaign. Pro Football Focus rates Jackson, who was not a Week 1 starter, just outside the top 40 among guards. He has seen time filling in for Joseph Noteboom at left tackle as well.

One of the many next men up for the Rams, Brewer — a UDFA out of Middle Tennessee State — has started the past two games at right guard. Brewer will undergo knee surgery, per McVay, likely ending his season.

The Rams have burned six of their eight injury activations already. The team now has Kupp, veteran left guard David Edwards and safety Jordan Fuller in the IR-return mix. McVay said Tuesday the Rams were hopeful to have Edwards, who has missed extensive time with a concussion, back this year. An Edwards return would leave just one injury activation available for the champs, who used two in Week 8 (Van Jefferson, Troy Hill) and three in Week 10 (guard Coleman Shelton, running back Kyren Williams, safety Quentin Lake), the rest of the way.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/16/22

Today’s minor transactions:

Atlanta Falcons

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Rams OL Tremayne Anchrum Out Indefinitely

The Rams have been dealt another blow up front. Tremayne Anchrum, who had just been promoted to the team’s starting right guard spot, suffered a fractured fibula which will require surgery and a stint on IR, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). 

The 2020 seventh-rounder operated exclusively as a reserve in his rookie season, and did not see the field at all last year. He competed with third-round rookie Logan Bruss and veteran Coleman Shelton for the starting role at RG this offseason. The former’s season-ending knee injury started a run of health concerns along the o-line for the defending champions.

Starting center Brian Allen is also battling a knee injury, though his recovery timeline is much shorter. It was that ailment which forced the Rams to move Shelton from guard to center, opening the door to Anchrum becoming a first-teamer. That was very short-lived, as he played just two offensive snaps during the team’s win over the Falcons. With Allen all-but assured to have returned by the time Anchrum is healed, the 24-year-old is likely destined to once again serve as a backup when he recovers.

Alaric Jacksonwho joined the Rams last season as a UDFA, took over after Anchrum’s injury. He will likely get the start next week as the team continues to shuffle an o-line dealing with numerous injury problems. The teams’ first divisional matchup will come on Sunday against the Cardinals.

NFL COVID List Updates

We are trying our best here at Pro Football Rumors to keep up with all of the updates throughout the league concerning players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. A lot of teams had high hopes during today’s testing as they were trying to get players activated in time for Sunday’s slate of games.

Here are updates as of 8:30 PM ET, Sat 12/18:

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: DT Eddie Goldman
  • OC Bill Lazor, DC Sean Desai, STC Chris Tabor in COVID-19 protocols

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: DB P.J. Locke

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Four Coaches in COVID-19 protocols

New York Giants

New York Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team

Rams Sign 9 UDFAs

The Rams had nine picks in this weekend’s draft, but three of them were seventh-rounders and only one was in the first 100 picks. As such, their undrafted free agent class should have plenty of opportunities to make good impressions. Los Angeles became the latest team to announce their group on Sunday, inking the following nine rookies to deals:

The Rams surprised everybody by drafting three receivers, but that didn’t stop them from signing another two. The fact they signed three safeties would seem to indicate one of those guys has a decent chance of cracking the roster. Warner might have a real shot since Aaron Wilson tweets that he got a $12.5K signing bonus. He’s also the brother of star 49ers linebacker Fred Warner, who the Rams are quite familiar with.

Jackson got a $20K signing bonus, Wilson tweets, and since the Rams also shocked everybody by not drafting an offensive lineman, he could gave a good chance as well. He was a first-team All-Big Ten selection this past year, and started 42 games at left tackle for Iowa. He was a projected sixth-round pick by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.