Ron Rivera

Commanders Move Down To 53, Keep RB Brian Robinson On Active Roster

Teams have until 3pm CT to trim their rosters to the regular-season 53-man limit. The Commanders have done so but did it without moving Brian Robinson off the roster.

Shot twice in the lower body Sunday, Robinson underwent surgery. Ron Rivera also expressed optimism the third-round rookie could play this season. Washington is following through on these hopes, keeping the rookie running back on its active roster. Here are the moves the Commanders made to reach the 53-man max Tuesday:

Released:

Waived:

Placed on IR:

By keeping Robinson on their active roster, the Commanders opened the door to him not only playing in 2022. The team needed to carry the Alabama product through to its 53-man roster today in order to place him on short-term IR. An IR placement today would have ended Robinson’s season.

One of the gunshot wounds Robinson sustained hit his knee, but the bullet did not seriously damage ligaments, tendons or bone, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com reports (video link). It is not a lock Robinson returns this season, per Garafolo, but the team is keeping its options open.

Robinson playing as a rookie would be obviously be a remarkable development. Prior to being shot, the Day 2 draftee had made a serious charge at the Commanders’ starting running back role. The team’s primary starter over the past two seasons, Antonio Gibson, remains on the roster, as do J.D. McKissic and Jonathan Williams. Robinson being moved to IR later this week will sideline him for at least four games — likely much longer, in this case — but allow him to return later this season, should he be cleared to do so.

The Chiefs, per ESPN.com’s Field Yates (on Twitter), also submitted a claim for Blanton recently, when the Rams waived him. It will be interesting to see if the young tight end generates any interest this week. Martin has generated consistent interest on the wire. The Commanders, who drafted the guard during the Bruce Allen regime, have made two waiver attempts to land him. The second one, earlier this month after the Jaguars cut Martin, was successful. It would not surprise if Martin is brought back via the practice squad — as several of Tuesday’s cuts will be — but he could also bring more interest on the wire.

Chase Young Expected To Miss Start Of Regular Season

One of the top storylines in Washington this offseason has been the progress defensive end Chase Young makes as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. The injury kept him sidelined during the spring, and, as expected, has landed him on the PUP list to start training camp. His Week 1 availability is now very much in question as well. 

Head coach Ron Rivera said, via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra, that the 23-year-old is “probably going to miss a little bit of time” to start the regular season. He added that Young’s ACL tear is “a little more severe” than that suffered by tight end Logan Thomas, who is himself likely to miss the opening few games of the campaign.

“Chase and I had a conversation,” Rivera continued, “and I said, ‘Look, don’t push yourself. This is not just about this season, but it’s also about the future.'” Referencing the setbacks felt by Curtis Samuel after the Commanders tried to bring him back early, Rivera also said, “what we’ve done, we’ve backed up, looked at everybody, and said, ‘hey, we know there is a timeframe that you say look, OK, this is when we’ll get this guy back.’ But we’ve got to be really careful with [Young] just because of who he is for us.”

The 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year was limited to nine games last year, one which saw him fall short of his statistical performance the season prior with just 1.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. Young will have lofty expectations upon his return, but if the Commanders place him on IR to start the campaign, he will be sidelined for at least four games. The progress he makes in the coming weeks will thus be worth closely monitoring.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches

The NFL experienced a busy offseason on the coaching front. A whopping 10 teams changed coaches during the 2022 offseason, with the Buccaneers’ late-March switch pushing the number into double digits.

Fourteen of the league’s 32 head coaches were hired in the past two offseasons, illustrating the increased pressure the NFL’s sideline leaders face in today’s game. Two of the coaches replaced this year left on their own. Sean Payton vacated his spot in second on the longest-tenured HCs list by stepping down from his 16-year Saints post in February, while Bruce Arians has repeatedly insisted his Bucs exit was about giving his defensive coordinator a chance with a strong roster and not a Tom Brady post-retirement power play.

While Bill Belichick has been the league’s longest-tenured HC for many years, Payton’s exit moved Mike Tomlin up to No. 2. Mike Zimmer‘s firing after nine seasons moved Frank Reich into the top 10. Reich’s HC opportunity only came about because Josh McDaniels spurned the Colts in 2018, but Indianapolis’ backup plan has led the team to two playoff brackets and has signed an extension. Reich’s seat is hotter in 2022, however, after a January collapse. Linked to numerous HC jobs over the past several offseasons, McDaniels finally took another swing after his Broncos tenure ended quickly.

As 2022’s training camps approach, here are the NFL’s longest-tenured HCs:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007; extended through 2024
  3. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008; extended through 2025
  4. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010; extended through 2025
  5. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013; extended through 2025
  6. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017; extended through 2025
  7. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017; extended through 2023
  8. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017; extended through 2025
  9. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018; signed extension in February 2022
  10. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018; extended through 2026
  11. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019; extended through 2027
  12. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  13. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019; extended through 2026
  14. Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team): January 1, 2020
  15. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  16. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  17. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020
  18. Robert Saleh (New York Jets): January 15, 2021
  19. Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons): January 15, 2021
  20. Brandon Staley (Los Angeles Chargers): January 17, 2021
  21. Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions): January 20, 2021
  22. Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles): January 21, 2021
  23. Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos): January 27, 2022
  24. Matt Eberflus (Chicago Bears): January 27, 2022
  25. Brian Daboll (New York Giants): January 28, 2022
  26. Josh McDaniels (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  27. Kevin O’Connell (Minnesota Vikings): February 2, 2022
  28. Doug Pederson (Jacksonville Jaguars): February 3, 2022
  29. Mike McDaniel (Miami Dolphins): February 6, 2022
  30. Dennis Allen (New Orleans Saints): February 7, 2022
  31. Lovie Smith (Houston Texans): February 7, 2022
  32. Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): March 30, 2022

NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Commanders, Staff, Toney, Giants, Eagles

The Cowboys and Commanders each ran afoul of NFL offseason rules during their OTA workouts this year. As a result, each team will lose 2023 practice time and each squad’s head coach received a six-figure fine. Both Mike McCarthy and Ron Rivera received $100K fines for workouts deemed over the line, the Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins and ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano note (Twitter link). Washington will be short two OTA days in 2023 due to excessive contact. This marks the second consecutive year McCarthy received a fine for offseason overwork. He received a $50K fine last year, with the Cowboys being docked $100K and a 2022 OTA for 2021 violations. The Cowboys will be docked one OTA day in 2023. OTAs do not hold the role they once did, and teams have begun to limit offseason activities on their own. The Eagles will go into training camp after not holding a mandatory minicamp. But Dallas and Washington will need to make minor adjustments to their 2023 offseason schedules.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • Injuries wrecked the Giants‘ offense last season, sidelining starters at just about every position. Some new issues cropped up this offseason. Neither Kenny Golladay nor Kadarius Toney participated fully at any point during Big Blue’s offseason program, per NJ.com’s Zack Rosenblatt, who adds Toney is dealing with a new knee injury (Golladay’s issue is unknown). Toney injuries have become a recurring problem for the Giants. Ankle, oblique and quadriceps issues limited Toney to 10 games last season, one that began after he missed most of training camp due to a hamstring problem. This year’s camp becomes more important for the 2021 first-rounder as a result of last year’s run of setbacks.
  • Toney still projects as part of Brian Daboll‘s first 53-man roster; Darius Slayton might not. The Dave Gettleman-era investment has been mentioned in trade rumors, and The Athletic’s Dan Duggan views the former fifth-round pick as unlikely to be part of this year’s Giants edition (subscription required). The Giants are likely to continue shopping Slayton up until cut day, Duggan adds, as he would be their No. 5 receiver if everyone is healthy. Almost no one in the team’s top four (Golladay, Toney, Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson) being healthy could point to Slayton staying. Shepard is still recovering from the Achilles tear he suffered last season. A two-time 700-yard receiver, Slayton is due a $2.54MM salary in 2022.
  • Both Shane Lemieux and Nick Gates were lost for the season early in the Giants’ miserable 2021 slate. While Lemieux is favored to start at left guard this season, Rosenblatt notes Gates might not return to action at all this season. This is not an out-of-the-blue development. Then-HC Joe Judge said Gates’ leg fracture sustained in Week 2 of last season could be career-threatening. That said, a report earlier this year gave Gates better odds at returning. The Giants gave Gates — a 16-game center starter in 2020 — a two-year, $6.82MM extension two years ago. But offseason addition Jon Feliciano is ticketed to take over at center.
  • The Eagles lost nearly all of their high-ranking front office staffers this offseason, seeing four of them leave for assistant GM gigs elsewhere. One of those, Andy Weidl, is now Omar Khan‘s right-hand man in Pittsburgh. Weidl worked with the Eagles for more than six years, and although he took over the team’s VP of player personnel post after Joe Douglas became the Jets’ GM in 2019, Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes Howie Roseman did not give Weidl as much input as Douglas had. This became an understandable source of friction for Weidl. The Eagles went in a different direction with their new Roseman right-hand men, promoting staffers without traditional scouting backgrounds (Jon Ferrari and Alec Hallaby) to assistant GM posts.

NFC Coaching Notes: Rams, Hankerson, Lions, Commanders, Packers, Giants

University of Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen has received heaps of interest around the football world, turning down several college jobs and an NFL job to stay in Lexington. But it sounds as if Coen may soon receive an offer he can’t refuse.

In one year at the helm of the offense, Coen took the Wildcats from 115th in yards per game to 50th. He also improved the scoring offense from 107th in the country to 35th, quickly making him one of the hottest names in college coaching.

It just about looked like Kentucky was going to be able to hold on to their game changer, but, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, they are bracing for the possibility of Coen leaving to return to the Rams in Los Angeles. Prior to his year in Kentucky, Coen spent three years on Sean McVay‘s offensive staff, and a chance to rejoin McVay may be too good to pass up.

Here are a couple more coaching notes from the NFC starting with the promotion of a former Hurricane:

  • With wide receivers coach Wes Welker heading to Miami, the 49ers have offered the position to offensive quality control coach Leonard Hankerson, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. After a five-year career as an NFL wide receiver out of the University of Miami, Hankerson coached wide receivers at UMass and Stephen F. Austin before joining the staff in San Francisco last year.
  • The Lions have parted ways with inside linebacker coach Mark DeLeone this week, according to Justin Rogers of The Detroit News. The son of offensive line coach legend George DeLeone, Mark was hired by Detroit last year after time with the Jets, Chiefs, and Bears. They have two internal candidates who could potentially fill the role: defensive quality control coach Stephen Thomas, who coached inside linebackers in his time at Princeton, and director of football research David Corrao who coached linebackers for the Dolphins during his time in Miami from 2008-2015.
  • With longtime assistant coach Pete Hoener retiring, the Commanders are hiring veteran coach Juan Castillo to handle tight ends, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Castillo is rejoining Ron Rivera, who coached with him for the five seasons Rivera was in Philadelphia from 1999-2003. Castillo has also spent time with the Ravens, Bills, and Bears in various roles on the offensive staff.
  • With their outside linebacker coach Mike Smith leaving to pursue other opportunities, the Packers have hired Jason Rebrovich as his replacement. The 20-year NFL coaching veteran has had stints with the Bills and Jaguars coaching players like Josh Allen, Calais Campbell, and Yannick Ngakoue. In addition, the Packers also announced the return of former offensive coordinator Tom Clements to replace Luke Getsy as quarterbacks coach, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Clements coached for the Packers’ offense for 11 years before retiring after two years with the Cardinals.
  • The Giants have hired Angela Baker as a minority coaching fellow and offensive quality control coach, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. Baker is the second female to be added to Brian Daboll‘s staff after Laura Young followed Daboll from Buffalo, where she worked as player services coordinator, for the position of director of coaching operations. The Giants are quickly trying to become a more progressive staff. In 2020, Hannah Burnett was hired as the team’s first full-time female scout.

Commanders Set To Be “Selectively Aggressive” In QB Pursuit

The Washington Commanders have a new name, new uniforms and, in all likelihood, are soon to have a new quarterback. It’s no secret that the team is looking for an upgrade on Taylor Heinicke, but as ESPN’s John Keim writes, the team’s roster is better suited this year than last to aggressively acquire a new signal caller. 

As Keim details, management is satisfied that the team is in a better place to pursue an upper echelon QB than it was in 2021. Last year, Washington offered a first- and third-round pick to the Lions for Matt Stafford, but were outbid by the Rams. Not long after, they unsuccessfully tried to trade up to get Justin Fields in the draft. Even though the team still only won seven games in this campaign, general manager Martin Mayhew used the term “selectively aggressive” to describe the organization’s plans in attaining an upgrade at the game’s most important position.

Head coach Ron Rivera is similarly confident in the rest of the roster: “I look at things with rose-colored glasses”, he said. “I’m an optimist. As you look at things you go, ‘I feel pretty good about this'”. His two years in Washington have seen the team only put up a 14-19 record, but a late-season four-game winning streak in 2021 offered reason for optimism moving forward.

Keim writes that the Commanders “will explore deals” at each tier of signal caller. While that could involve the likes of Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, someone like Derek Carr could be more of a realistic option. He adds that the “sweet spot” might be Jimmy Garoppolo, due to the relative affordability of the final year of his contract. Acquiring the 30-year-old could keep a core with a strong offensive line (pending the future of All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff, who played on the franchise tag and is not close to a long-term extension) and a talented collection of skill position players intact.

While it would be unorthodox to make QB the final, rather than the first, position to be targeted in roster building, doing so could place Washington back in contention for at least a second playoff berth in three years. To make that possible, the front office has been “studying its options for a while” with regards to an upgrade at QB. Rivera remains positive that the other required pieces are already in place: “Our personnel is more than good enough… I believe in our team. I believe in what we can be”.

Washington Interested In Trading Up For Quarterback?

Although Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick and extended Taylor Heinicke this offseason, the team remains in need at the sport’s most important position. The franchise may be prepared to trade up for a quarterback.

Ron Rivera is interested in moving up for a passer, according to ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline. Washington is believed to be high on Trey Lance, but there may be a catch. The WFT is not overly interested in giving up a mountain of draft capital to climb from No. 19 to No. 4, but Pauline notes a quarterback sliding to around the No. 8 spot would be appealing to the franchise. However, a climb to the Falcons’ No. 4 slot should not be entirely ruled out.

Three QBs will be gone by No. 3, and the Falcons are in play to select the fourth. No draft has begun with four straight quarterbacks going off the board, and the Falcons are also interested in dealing down the board. Many believe, however, Atlanta will select Kyle Pitts. The Bengals will not take a quarterback and do not sound too interested in trading out of their No. 5 slot. Trading in front of the Broncos (No. 9) could behoove Washington, and it will be interesting to see if the Panthers (No. 8) pull the trigger on the fourth- or fifth-QB prospect. That scenario is not off the table, even after Carolina acquired Sam Darnold, though the Panthers now loom as a team that could trade down.

Washington also may have to compete with the Bears, though Pauline adds that, in addition to trade-up rumors, they will be in the mix for a second-round quarterback. It cost the 49ers two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-rounder to move up nine slots this year. Should one of the top five QBs slide toward the bottom of the top 10, that would still require a considerable haul — given the value these passers are carrying. Lance not being the 49ers’ pick at 3 could prompt Washington to make its move. Justin Fields is expected to be available beyond No. 3 as well.

Rivera said Friday the team’s offseason moves — such as signing Fitzpatrick, Curtis Samuel and William Jackson — created more flexibility going into the draft.

I think [execs] Martin [Mayhew] and Marty [Hurney] and their guys really helped put us in a position where we’ve got to really look at drafting best player available, but always keeping in mind what we feel the true need is,” Rivera said, via NBC Sports Washington. “I think what our front office did and what we were able to do in free agency really helped us. I think we freed ourselves up because of what they did.”

Washington has Fitzpatrick signed for 2021; he will turn 39 later this year. Heinicke is signed through 2022, and Kyle Allen could be under team control through the ’22 season as well. He is attached to an ERFA tender. However, none of these players profiles as a long-term option. Washington, after missing on its past two efforts to acquire a true QB solution (Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins), may be keen on addressing the issue in Rivera’s second draft.

Martin Mayhew To Be Washington’s GM

Jan. 22: Mayhew will indeed be the GM, and Hurney’s official title will be Executive Vice President of Football/Player Personnel, as Rapoport tweets. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network says that both men will report to head coach Ron Rivera, who is still heading football operations (Twitter link).

Jan. 21: Washington was connected to hires of both Marty Hurney and Martin Mayhew this week, with the former being expected to lead the team’s front office. This structure may not be Washington’s preferred hierarchy, however.

It could be Mayhew in line to become Washington’s GM. The former Lions GM is the candidate Washington will go with as general manager, according to ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Mayhew, who was with the 49ers for four years, will receive a second chance in a GM post.

Washington will still hire Mayhew and Hurney, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, but the latter will be part of a Mayhew-led front office (Twitter link). The ex-Panthers GM will serve as a high-ranking Washington staffer. The Panthers fired Hurney in December, ending his second stint as their front office boss.

The Lions fired Mayhew in 2015, doing so despite the former Washington Super Bowl-winning cornerback helping Detroit to two playoff berths after the franchise sunk to the NFL’s basement during the 2000s. Mayhew spent a year with the Giants before joining John Lynch‘s 49ers staff. The 49ers promoted Mayhew to VP of player personnel in 2019 and stand to benefit from Mayhew’s Washington hire.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule changes last year will mean the team that loses a head coach or executive is entitled to third-round draft compensation. Because the Jets hired Robert Saleh, the 49ers’ third-round pick for Mayhew will come in 2023, according to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). The Saleh move will provide San Francisco with third-rounders this year and next. Overall, the haul stands to be three total Round 3 picks for the 49ers, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News tweets. These selections will come at the end of the round.

2021 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

This year’s NFL GM carousel figures to be more active than usual. The Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Texans, and Jaguars are all on the hunt for a new front office leader. And that’s only the official list. The real tally shows six clubs looking for a GM, since the Washington Football Team is expected to install a GM to work alongside head coach Ron Rivera. By mid-January, we could easily see a couple more jobs opening up — that’d put ~25% of the NFL on the market.

We’ll keep track of the GM candidates for each club here, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make general manager changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here’s the current breakdown:

Updated 1-19-21 (7:02pm CT)

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers 

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Washington Football Team

NFC East Notes: McCarthy, Eagles, Barkley

The Cowboys have spent this week clearing out some 2020 acquisitions, trading Everson Griffen and cutting Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley. Mike McCarthy does not currently have to worry about being a one-and-done coach. Jerry Jones expressed support for his 2020 HC hire, despite the team’s disappointing start.

One of the, without a question, reasons Mike McCarthy is the coach is because he’s been through it,” Jones said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan (via the Dallas Morning News). “… Certainly, we couldn’t have anticipated being at this stage with our team this year. But if I were going to hire for a head coach, that we’re going to be at this stage this year and work through this for the betterment of what’s in store for us for the rest of the year and for what’s for us in the future, I got my man.”

McCarthy has kept Kellen Moore as his play-caller and hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. While the Cowboys’ offense was surging with Dak Prescott, it has cratered without him. Dallas’ defense ranks 30th in DVOA. Jones retained Jason Garrett for nearly 10 full seasons and has given all but one coach (Chan Gailey) at least three full seasons. Considering McCarthy’s Super Bowl-winning pedigree, it would be shocking if Jones ousts him after one season.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • The Eagles are currently down four offensive linemen, each of their three top receivers, their top two tight ends and Miles Sanders. But they are, despite being 2-4-1, in first place in the NFC East. A Jay Glazer report prior to the Eagles’ Week 7 win indicated they told teams they would listen to offers for their best players, but ex-Eagles president Joe Banner said (via the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Paul Domowitch) Philly is interested in acquiring offensive line and linebacker help. The Eagles have been buyers in trades for years, and Ertz’s ankle injury halted trade talks. Despite the Eagles projected to be nearly $70MM over the 2021 cap, they may again be ready to acquire veterans.
  • On the subject of Eagles veterans, the news is not good for DeSean Jackson. Calling it a similar injury to Dallas Goedert‘s, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo said Jackson suffered a non-displaced ankle fracture and is expected to miss between six and eight weeks (video link). The 33-year-old deep threat has missed 16 games since returning to Philadelphia and looms as a near-certain 2021 cap cut, but Garafolo adds D-Jax does not intend to retire after this season.
  • Saquon Barkley‘s ACL reconstructive surgery is set for Thursday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Interestingly, the World Series delayed the Giants running back’s procedure. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the operation, but since he is also the Dodgers’ team doctor, he was in the final MLB bubble and off-limits until the Series’ conclusion, per Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. No word has emerged regarding if Barkley’s surgery will need to be further tabled because of Justin Turner’s positive COVID-19 test. Barkley suffered the injury Sept. 20. Despite this delay, doctors are hopeful he will be ready for training camp, NFL.com’s Andrea Kremer tweets.
  • Washington first-year HC Ron Rivera finished up his chemotherapy and proton therapy treatments Monday. While he still has follow-up appointments on tap, per ESPN.com’s John Keim, this marks a major development in the veteran coach’s recovery from lymph node cancer.