Trey Pipkins

Chargers WRs Keenan Allen, Mike Williams Expected To Play In Week 11

Sunday could mark the first time this season that Chargers wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams start and finish a game together. As Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reports, both players were full participants in practice on Friday and are expected to play in the Bolts’ Week 11 matchup with the division-rival Chiefs.

Allen sustained a hamstring injury in the season opener, and he has reaggravated the injury multiple times. He returned for Los Angeles’ Week 7 loss to the Seahawks, though he appeared in just 23 snaps and caught two passes for 11 yards. The hamstring problem flared up during the club’s Week 8 bye, and he has missed the last two contests as a result.

Williams, meanwhile, suffered a high ankle sprain during the above-referenced Seattle matchup and was forced to leave the game early. Like Allen, Williams has been sidelined for the last two games.

When healthy, the Allen-Williams tandem is one of the best WR duos in the league, and their compensation reflects that. In March, Williams signed a three-year, $60MM contract featuring $40MM in guaranteed money, and he was living up to that deal prior to the injury. In seven games, the Clemson product has posted 37 catches for 495 yards, putting him on pace for his second consecutive campaign of 1,100+ yards. Though his 2022 13.4 YPR rate represents a step back from his recent output, his catch percentage has increased from 58.9% in 2021 to 62.7% this year.

Allen signed his $20MM/year deal in September 2020, an accord that made him the second-highest-paid wideout in the league at the time. That marked the second extension the Chargers authorized for Allen since they selected him in the third round of the 2013 draft, and he has largely justified the team’s faith in him. From 2017-21, Allen averaged over 101 receptions and 1,180 yards per season, all of which culminated in Pro Bowl nods. He has never been the home run threat that Williams is, but he is about as reliable as a receiver can be.

Although the 2022 season has been a wash for Allen thus far, a return to his typical form would be a significant development for a Chargers club that is 5-4 and currently just outside the AFC playoff picture. Per Thiry, the team is also set to welcome back right tackle Trey Pipkins III, who missed LA’s Week 10 loss to the 49ers due to a knee injury.

Chargers DL Austin Johnson Out For Season

One of the Chargers’ key pieces in an effort to bolster their run defense this offseason, Austin Johnson will be sidelined for the rest of the year. Brandon Staley said a knee fracture will keep the veteran defensive lineman out.

Johnson also sustained MCL damage during the Bolts’ Week 9 win in Atlanta, Daniel Popper of The Athletic tweets. The seventh-year veteran is signed through 2023, having agreed to a two-year, $14MM pact early in free agency.

Thirtieth against the run last season, the Chargers reassembled their interior defensive line this year. They added Johnson, ex-Ram Sebastian Joseph-Day and fifth-round pick Otito Ogbonnia to the equation. Los Angeles still rosters Jerry Tillery, but the former first-round pick suffered a back injury weightlifting last week. Tillery missed Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Despite the upgrade efforts, the Bolts rank 29th against the run after eight games. Johnson’s injury certainly will not help matters.

Johnson, 28, elevated his value during a two-year stay with the Giants. The former Titans spot starter worked as a backup in 2020 but started all 17 Giants games last season, leading to a nice free agency payday. Johnson’s Chargers deal included $10.63MM guaranteed. While that does not ensure he will be back with the team in 2023, when an extensive rehab effort will now be required, the seventh-year vet did well to collect some guaranteed cash beyond the first year of his contract.

The Chargers also lost right tackle Trey Pipkins during their Falcons matchup. Pipkins aggravated an MCL sprain, Staley said. Pipkins still has a chance to play in Week 10, per Staley. Illustrating how no two injuries are alike, 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell has lost half the season to an MCL sprain.

A former third-round pick, Pipkins has bounced in and out of L.A.’s lineup. This year, however, he won a training camp competition against Storm Norton to commandeer the right tackle gig. Pipkins has started every Chargers game this season. Norton, last year’s primary right-side starter, replaced him Sunday. The Chargers are already playing shorthanded up front, with Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater likely out for the season due to a biceps tear.

OL Rumors: Pipkins, Packers, Vikes, Falcons

Practically the only need the Chargers did not address this offseason was right tackle, where incumbent Storm Norton and backup Trey Pipkins waged a summer competition. It looks like there will be a change up front for the Bolts. Pipkins appears to have beaten out Norton for the gig, Daniel Popper of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The two are swapping roles, with Pipkins — a 2019 third-round pick — leaving his swing tackle post to try his luck as a starter again. Norton, who replaced Bryan Bulaga early last season and made 15 starts, worked with the second team throughout practice this week and saw time as the second-string left tackle as well. Pipkins, 25, has made 10 career starts. While the Chargers demoted him in 2021, they were impressed with his left- and right-side spot starts late in the season. The University of Sioux Falls product, who is going into a contract year, will work on a line full of free agency investments (Corey Linsley, Matt Feiler) and first-round picks (Rashawn Slater, Zion Johnson).

Here is the latest from the O-line scene:

  • Staying on the right tackle topic, Elgton Jenkins is expected to settle in there when he returns, per Albert Breer of SI.com. A high-end Swiss Army knife for the Packers, Jenkins made the 2020 Pro Bowl at guard and began last season as David Bakhtiari‘s left tackle fill-in. An ACL tear sidelined Jenkins in November. Jenkins would stand to command more in earnings with a quality right tackle season, though staying on the field in 2022 will position him for a lucrative deal no matter where he lines up. The Packers removed both players from the active/PUP list this month but do not yet know if Jenkins and Bakhtiari — who have not played together since December 2020 — will be ready for Week 1, Matt LaFleur reiterated Sunday. When healthy, a Bakhtiari-Jenkins duo would be one of the league’s best tackle tandems.
  • The Vikings are on the verge of having five homegrown first- or second-round picks as O-line starters. Second-round rookie Ed Ingram is “trending” toward being the Vikes’ right guard starter, Kevin O’Connell said (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson). Although Minnesota signed Jesse Davis and Chris Reed as potential stopgaps, Ingram has impressed since moving to first-team duty during camp. Ingram worked with Minnesota’s first team in joint practices against San Francisco, with Davis — who had taken some days off to rest a surgically repaired knee — shifting to the second team, Tomasson adds. Ingram was also held out of the Vikings’ preseason finale Saturday, and while O’Connell stopped short of locking the LSU product into the lineup, that is the likely scenario. Ingram would join 2021 first-rounder Christian Darrisaw, 2020 second-rounder Ezra Cleveland, 2019 first-rounder Garrett Bradbury and 2018 second-rounder Brian O’Neill on a fully homegrown Vikings line.
  • Free agent pickup Elijah Wilkinson looks to have commandeered the Falcons‘ left guard spot, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who notes the former Broncos and Bears blocker looks set to play ahead of 2021 third-rounder Jalen Mayfield. The Michigan product struggled as a rookie, ranking as a bottom-10 Pro Football Focus guard. Mayfield did start 16 games, so a demotion is certainly notable for player who started one with the Bears last season. Wilkinson’s most relevant NFL work came in Denver, when he served as Ja’Wuan James‘ primary replacement from 2019-20. Mayfield may already be on Atlanta’s roster bubble, per Ledbetter.

Chargers Rumors: RT, Davis, Palmer

The Chargers offensive line is almost perfectly set for the regular season. They return the left-side trio of tackle Rashawn Slater, guard Matt Feiler, and center Corey Linsley, who were all very impressive in the same roles last year. They used their first-round pick this year to fill the right guard spot with rookie guard Zion Johnson out of Boston College. 

The right tackle position is currently a battle between last year’s starter Storm Norton and reserve lineman Trey Pipkins III. Norton has vastly outperformed his undrafted status, but does leave something to be desired at the position. The Chargers are really hoping, though, that Pipkins will live up to his third-round draft stock from three years ago, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic.

Pipkins spent the offseason working out with Duke Manyweather, who works with offensive lineman in Dallas. Los Angeles will hope that Pipkins will be able to make the leap and take over the starting right tackle job to fill in their ideal offensive line. If not, they will likely rely again on Norton and focus any blocking help directly to that side of the line.

Here are a few other notes on position battles the Chargers face going into the preseason, according to Popper:

  • Cornerback Michael Davis is heading into his sixth year with the Chargers. After spending his first season and a half as a rotational cornerback in the Chargers defense, Davis took hold of a starting job and didn’t relinquish it. Not until this preseason, that is. With the free agent additions of Bryce Callahan and J.C. Jackson, Davis is facing some serious competition for his starting job. As training camp begins, it appears the Chargers have been running with Jackson and Asante Samuel Jr. on the first-team with Callahan coming in as the first option for nickel packages. It’s great news for the Chargers depth at cornerback, but tough for Davis who hasn’t been a backup since 2018.
  • With wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen set to return as quarterback Justin Herbert‘s top two receiving options, the question rises of who comes in as the third receiver. Los Angeles didn’t make any moves to acquire a new receiving threat this offseason, mainly due to the belief they hold that Josh Palmer will make a significant leap in his second NFL season. As a rookie, Palmer caught 33 balls (third-best for receivers on the team) for 353 yards (fourth-best for receivers on the team). The Chargers will continue to use running back Austin Ekeler‘s receiving abilities in the passing game and, after losing Jared Cook to free agency, they brought in Gerald Everett to start at tight end. But they hope to see Palmer really step up as a wide out so that they can terrorize opposing defenses with a three-headed monster of a receiving corps.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Several Teams Monitoring Eric Fisher

The Chiefs’ Orlando Brown trade appears to have closed the book on an Eric Fisher return, ending that era at eight years. Although Fisher has experience at right tackle, having played there as a rookie, the former No. 1 overall pick figures to head elsewhere.

Given Fisher’s resume and experience level, he profiles as an interesting option for a team in need at left tackle. Teams are monitoring the free agent blocker, with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com indicating the 30-year-old lineman has spoken to “numerous teams” this offseason (Twitter link).

Fisher will be an after-the-draft option for teams, per RapSheet. A torn Achilles led the two-time Pro Bowler to free agency; the Chiefs also cut All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz. Andy Reid said earlier this week the team could circle back to both, but Kansas City’s deal for Brown stands to cut off Fisher’s path back to western Missouri.

While scrutinized for years due to his draft slot, the former mid-major standout has proven reliable for a while. From 2014-18, Fisher did not miss a game due to injury. A core muscle issue limited him to eight regular-season games in 2019, but the Chiefs’ Super Bowl push — a nine-game win streak — began when Fisher returned to the lineup that November. Counting the playoffs, Fisher started 17 games last season. He graded as a top-20 tackle, per Pro Football Focus, in 2020.

Most teams have addressed this high-value position, but a few should be in the market for help. However, this draft features some first- and second-round options that will help some of the teams with deficiencies here fill the spots. The Colts have signed Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport this offseason but are still looking for a left tackle. The Steelers have not re-signed Alejandro Villanueva, who is entering his age-35 season. Washington is also searching for a left tackle.

Chargers GM Tom Telesco indicated he is bullish on Trey Pipkins, the Bolts have been busy restocking their O-line this year and appear in need here as well. Pipkins, who has started eight games over his first two seasons, graded outside PFF’s top 70 tackles last season. The 2019 third-round pick will likely have competition, at best, or a surefire replacement, at worst, going into the ’21 slate.

Fisher’s Achilles injury certainly sidetracked his career (and the Chiefs’ repeat championship aspirations), but the veteran should have a path to a starting job come training camp — so long as his recovery proceeds on track.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/21/20

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Promoted from practice squad: OL Danny Isidora
  • Waived: TE Kevin Rader

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Football Team

 

COVID-19 Latest: Bubble, Ravens, Vaccine

Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers nationwide, the NFL’s stance remains that postseason games will occur at team venues. Although no final decision has surfaced, NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills and union president J.C. Tretter providing anti-bubble statements provides a good indication no one- or two-site postseason will commence. This pours cold water on an in-case-of-emergency bubble scenario the league was considering last month. But no real bubble momentum has emerged since the pandemic began.

There’s not magic about a bubble. In fact, there’s the same challenges within a bubble. Let’s be clear: COVID-19 does not fear a bubble,” Tretter said. “The vulnerability inside a bubble is the same, which is full compliance of protocol at all times. We believe that it’s all about compliance, and compliance with the things that we know avoid risk is important, whether you’re all together in an isolated environment, or whether you’re in your community.

It’s all about the daily measures that work — mask-wearing, avoidance of sick individuals, rapid reporting of symptoms, good hand hygiene, physical distance, avoiding those high-risk exposures. Those principles won’t change.”

The NBA’s Orlando bubble produced zero positive COVID tests for several weeks, however, and Major League Baseball’s multi-site bubble setup did not produce a positive case until the Justin Turner saga in Game 6 of the World Series. While the NFL has bulked up its coronavirus protocols as the season has progressed, the league going without a postseason bubble stands to bring greater chances star players miss playoff games — especially with the coronavirus environment having changed since the NBA and MLB postseasons.

Here is the latest from the virus front:

  • The Ravens are steadily seeing players return to work after testing positive for the virus. The team activated Mark Andrews and Matt Judon from its reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, putting both starters in line to face the Browns on Monday night. Both players missed two Baltimore games.
  • Ditto for James Conner. After missing the past two Steelers games, Conner is back on Pittsburgh’s active roster after his positive virus test.
  • The Panthers placed eight players on their virus list earlier this week but have since moved one of them back to their active roster. While it is unknown which members of that octet are COVID-positive, Greg Little is not. The Panthers removed the second-year tackle from their virus list Wednesday.
  • Chargers starting tackle Trey Pipkins is back on the virus list. The Bolts placed the second-year blocker on their list for the second time this season. Because he was identified as a close contact of then-COVID-positive center Ryan Groy, Pipkins landed on Los Angeles’ virus list for one day in late October.
  • The NFL is proceeding as if a vaccine will not be available to its players and staff this season. Although multiple vaccines are in the final stages, Sills and the NFLPA concur players should not be receiving vaccines at the same juncture that front-line workers or at-risk members of the population will, Twitter links via the Washington Post’s Mark Maske and SI.com’s Albert Breer. Vaccines, however, figure to have a massive impact on the 2021 season.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/20

Here is the league’s avalanche of Halloween minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Chargers Sign Third-Round Pick Trey Pipkins

The Chargers have officially wrapped up their draft class, as the team announced they’ve signed offensive tackle Trey Pipkins to his rookie contract. Pipkins, the 91st pick in April’s draft, was the last player in Los Angeles’ class to sign.

Pipkins played at D-II school Sioux Falls, so not a ton was known about him entering the draft. The first player in program history to be drafted into the NFL, Pipkins was a D-II All-American last season. The Chargers likely didn’t anticipate Pipkins playing much early on when they drafted him, but he could be forced into action. Left tackle Russell Okung is dealing with a mysterious injury, which could give Pipkins an opportunity sooner than expected.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein viewed him as a developmental prospect, and someone who would need a good amount of time to sit and learn. As such, it won’t be good news for the Chargers if he’s thrust into action due to Okung’s injury.

Third round picks are often among the last to sign, because the CBA language concerning them is very vague. As of Thursday, there were only 26 picks left unsigned. You can view the contract status of every draft pick at our tracker here.