Zack Moss

AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/12/21

Here are the latest NFL minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

  • Signed to reserve/futures contract: LB John Daka

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Football Team

AFC East Notes: Gase, Patriots, Moss, Bills, Slater, Jets, Darnold

Adam Gase became a polarizing figure during his stint as the Jets’ head coach, to put it kindly. His tenure was nothing short of a disaster as New York finished 2-14 this year, and media and fans alike are united in their dislike of him. That being said that might not be enough to damage Gase’s rep in league circles, and it sounds like he could have some opportunities in front of him. Even before Bill Belichick recently sung his praises ahead of Week 17, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes that he had already heard Gase’s name connected with the Patriots.

Volin thinks Gase would make sense as the Patriots’ new quarterbacks coach with Jedd Fisch taking the head coaching job at Arizona, or potentially the new OC if Josh McDaniels left. As he points out, there are legit ties here. Both Gase and McDaniels got their first coaching jobs as student assistants on Nick Saban’s staff at Michigan State in 1999. Then Gase was McDaniels’ receivers coach when McDaniels became head coach of the Broncos. With Gase being the Dolphins’ coach before landing the Jets job, he’s spent the past handful of years going up against Belichick twice a year in the AFC East. This hire would certainly raise a lot of eyebrows if it happens.

Here’s more from around the division:

  • The Bills escaped a tough test from the Colts on Saturday, but it looks like they’ll be without a key piece moving forward. Running back Zack Moss will miss time with an ankle injury, and the fear is his postseason may be done, Mike Garafolo tweets. Moss had to be carted off the field, so the fact he’s not 100 percent done for the playoffs could actually be a positive. The third-round rookie from Utah split time in the backfield with Devin Singletary all season, and had seven carries and four catches agains Indy before going down. Singletary will now be the featured back moving forward. Moss finished his rookie season with 112 carries for 481 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. It’s certainly not ideal, but Buffalo’s Super Bowl chances will still hinge on Josh Allen‘s arm and not the ground game.
  • Special teams ace Matthew Slater has had a storied career with the Patriots, but it could be coming to an end. Slater is uncertain about playing in 2021 and will take some time before deciding about retirement, per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com. “I’m at a point in my career now where I don’t know how much football I have left and I think as a young guy I was always thinking about the next season, the career you hope to have,” Slater said. “Now, obviously, I’m on the back nine.” If this is it, he’ll hang up his cleats after an extremely decorated career. Slater has won three Super Bowls with New England, made nine Pro Bowls, and seven All-Pro teams. It would also represent the end of an era, as the team captain is one of the few guys left other than Belichick from the old-guard Patriots.
  • As for the Jets, they’ll have the most pivotal offseason of any team in the division. First order of business is deciding what to do with Sam Darnold, and in turn the second overall pick, as we’ve already heard they’ll be trading one of them. There will surely be a lot of speculation leading up to the draft, and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay is saying he thinks New York will pass on taking a new quarterback, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. “I know [Jets GM] Joe Douglas. I obviously played with him in college. We have a good relationship,” McShay said. “I know he grew up in the Ozzie Newsome organization with the Ravens. If it’s not going to be Trevor Lawrence, it’s going to be move down, if possible. If not, let’s protect [Darnold] and get guys around the player we think can be our franchise.” As for Douglas, he was complimentary of Darnold at his end of year press conference, but wouldn’t commit to him long-term. This is just one of what will be many datapoints, but right now it seems like Darnold has a good shot to be under center in 2021.

Bills Sign RB Zack Moss

The Bills have officially signed third-round running back Zack Moss, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Per the terms of his slot, Moss will earn $4.6MM over the course of his four-year deal.

Moss could have gone much higher 2019 draft, if not for season-ending knee surgery. Before he went under the knife, he racked up 1,096 rushing yards off of 179 carries, good for an average of 6.1 yards per attempt. When he came back last year, he went off for 1,400 yards with a 6.0 ypc average.

Moss’ knee checked out well in a pre-draft exam and the Bills believe that Moss is ready to be a difference-maker at the pro level. In Buffalo, Moss will team with Devin Singletary to form a 1-2 backfield combo.

With Moss officially in the fold, the Bills have now wrapped their entire 2020 draft class. Here’s the full rundown, via PFR’s tracker:

2-54: AJ Epenesa, DE (Iowa): Signed
3-86: Zack Moss, RB (Utah): Signed
4-128: Gabriel Davis, WR (UCF): Signed
5-167: Jake Fromm, QB (Georgia): Signed
6-188: Tyler Bass, K (Georgia Southern): Signed
6-207: Isaiah Hodgins, WR (Oregon State): Signed
7-239: Dane Jackson, CB (Pittsburgh): Signed

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Utah RB Zack Moss

The surgically-repaired knee of Utah running back Zack Moss check out well in a recent exam, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. His agent tells Schefter that all 32 NFL teams have been notified of the results, which could boost his stock over the next few weeks. 

Moss went under the knife in 2018, which prevented an early jump to the pros. Before that, he racked up 1,096 rushing yards off of 179 carries, good for an average of 6.1 yards per attempt. Moss didn’t show any ill effects last year, either – he went off for more than 1,400 yards with a 6.0 ypc average.

All together, Moss ran for over 4,000 yards at Utah, including three straight seasons of 1,000 yards or more. Still, his injury history might make some evaluators skittish. Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins, Florida State’s Cam Akers, and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor could all come off the board before him.

Still, even if Moss isn’t a Day 1 selection, he’ll likely be a Day 2 pick for a team in need of backfield help. Moss offers power at around 220 lbs and he’s quicker than most ‘backs his size.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.