AROUND THE NFL
Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com on QB MITCHELL TRUBISKY’s future:
The Chicago Bears are officially on the clock with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Almost three full seasons after Trubisky went second overall in the 2017 NFL draft, the Bears face the uncomfortable reality that, barring growth in Year 4, Trubisky is not a franchise passer, and most definitely not the player to end Chicago’s maddening streak of mediocrity at the position.
The Bears’ choice to trade up and draft Trubisky over generational talents Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson further compounds the organization’s problems, but make no mistake, Trubisky’s overall NFL body of work would still be considered a disappointment had he been the only quarterback taken that year in the first round.
How the Bears proceed with Trubisky (entering Year 4 of his original rookie contract) could define the franchise’s next five years after that.
“Right now there is too much uncertainty to extend him and too much inconsistency,” ESPN NFL front office insider Louis Riddick said.
“I still don’t trust that [his development is] where it needs to be relative to where the expectations are when you are drafted No. 2 overall. It’s definitely not where it needs to be in terms of signing him to a longterm extension.”
Mahomes and Watson dwarf Trubisky in terms of career statistics (in fewer starts) but the Bears’ quarterback has thrown more touchdowns (48) than interceptions (29) and passed for 8,347 yards with a 63.2 percent completion percentage.
However, when Chicago has asked Trubisky to step up against playoff-caliber opponents, Trubisky has bombed. The Bears lost every such game this season except the Week 14 game against the Dallas Cowboys when Trubisky passed for 244 yards, three touchdowns and rushed for a touchdown.
Trubisky arrives in Minneapolis for the regular season finale 28th in total QBR, tied for 27th in touchdown passes and 23rd in yards passing.
Trubisky ranks 32nd in average yards per completion (9.8) and average yards per pass attempt (6.1), per ESPN Stats and Information.
Chicago’s uneven quarterback play is more alarming when you factor in the defense. Last year, the Bears defense performed at a historically great level, leading the NFL in total takeaways, interceptions, interceptions returned for touchdowns, lowest opponent passer rating, fewest points allowed and fewest plays allowed of 20-plus yards. Blessed with short fields, Trubisky did enough to help Chicago win 12 games and host a playoff game.
Veteran coach George Edwards, who carries the title of defensive coordinator on a team for whom Mike Zimmer is the head coach, may be leaving the Vikings. This from ProFootballRumors.com:
Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards is in the final year of his contract and might not return in 2020, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM (on Twitter) hears. Edwards has been in Minnesota since 2014 and, this year, he’s helped orchestrate one of the league’s better defensive units.
In previous years, Edwards has been connected to head coaching vacancies, so it’s not clear whether the Vikings are looking to make a change or if its Edwards that wants to go elsewhere. Last offseason, Edwards interviewed for the Buccaneers’ vacancy that ultimately went to Bruce Arians. In 2018, the Bears sat down with Edwards before hiring Matt Nagy.
Before joining the Vikings, Edwards also spent time as the DC for the Bills and Redskins among his many NFL stops. With one game to go in the regular season, the Vikings rank No. 6 in points allowed and No. 14 in total yards allowed.
QB DAK PRESCOTT is not a sure thing for Sunday with the Redskins. Grant Gordon of NFL.com:
As one of only a few teams actually practicing on Christmas, the Cowboys were noticeably missing Dak Prescott.
After a right shoulder injury forced him to miss the first practices of his NFL career last week, Prescott was estimated not to participate in Wednesday’s practice on the team’s official injury report and coach Jason Garrett offered that the team would have the same approach this week as last week.
“Last week, we really took it day by day, and this week we’ll do the same thing,” Garrett said. “Obviously, he was able to play in the ballgame. Hopefully, we can get him on the same path where he’s able to go on Sunday.”
Though he wasn’t set to do much, Prescott was still in attendance.
“We don’t anticipate him being able to practice very much today,” Garrett said. “He’ll be out there — he was out there for the walk-through and was able to go through the walk-through today. But we don’t anticipate him practicing fully today. He’ll be limited at best.”
With a shot at winning the NFC East in the balance in Week 16, Prescott and the Cowboys lost to the Eagles, 17-9. It was the last chance Dallas had at controlling its own playoff destiny.
In the loss, Prescott struggled, turning in a 74.5 quarterback rating as he went 25-for-44 for 265 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Just how much the shoulder had to play in Prescott’s inefficiency was a topic Garrett wasn’t willing to tackle head-on.
“Guys, to be honest with you, no disrespect, but I don’t want to get into all that right now,” Garrett said. “We talked about the Philly game on Monday and now we’re on to getting ourselves ready for the Washington game. I understand that Dak’s a big story, and I understand why you’re asking the question, but we’ll take them day by day and hopefully he’ll be ready to practice at some point this week and ready to play on Sunday.”
A similar response was to be had in terms of an inquiry as to whether Prescott was progressing as Garrett deferred to his star quarterback.
“You have to ask him specifically on that, but it’s probably in a pretty similar place in terms of how it feels and also how much he’s going to be able to function, at least in the early part of the week.”
Also missing from the Cowboys’ practice on Christmas was offensive tackle Tyron Smith (back), defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) and linebacker Sean Lee (pectoral/thigh), while offensive linemen La’el Collins (knee) and Zack Martin (ankle) were full participants.
Whether Santa Claus made an appearance on Christmas might not well be known until Sunday’s Redskins (3-12)-Cowboys (7-8) and Eagles (8-7)-Giants (4-11) games have concluded, as Dallas needs a win coupled with a Philadelphia loss to win the NFC East and prolong its season by at least another week.
Since the start of the 2016 season, when he began his ongoing streak of 63 consecutive starts in the opening game of his rookie season, Prescott has thrown 2,038 passes. Other Cowboys, a collection of random backups and players from other positions, have thrown 29 passes. COOPER RUSH is the Dallas backup who would start against the Redskins if Prescott can’t go. He has 3 career pass attempts with 1 completion for 2 measly yards.
The last QB to start a game for Dallas other than Prescott was none other than the current OC, Kellen Moore. That too was a Week 17 home meeting with the Redskins on January 3, 2-16. And Moore threw for 435 yards and 2 TDs even though Washington won, 34-23.
It’s not often that a QB throws for 435 yards in a game – and never throws another regular season pass. But that is what happened to Moore.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Eli Manning always drank beer on the team bus. It was a Broadway Joe kind of thing to do, and a fact that might run counter to an image Manning spent absolutely no time crafting. But win, lose or draw, Manning would find someone on the road to buy him a six-pack or 12-pack that he would carry to the back of the bus, on ice, and share with some veterans as they discussed the game on the ride to the airport.
Even then, Manning’s consistency stunned his New York Giants teammates. “It was unbelievable,” said Lawrence Tynes, the kicker who won two championships with the quarterback. “He had a guy in every f—ing stadium in the league to get him that beer.”
Manning will miss those bus rides as much as he will miss anything else after he dresses Sunday for the final time as a Giant, and likely for the final time as an NFL player. He will not miss the constant dissection of his public personality, or lack thereof, and the fascination with what has been a near-perfect marriage between the world’s loudest marketplace and a quiet child of the South who spent his career projecting that oblivious vibe he wore as clearly as his jersey No. 10.
By design, it seemed, Manning carried himself like a tourist hopelessly lost in the middle of Times Square. On his first couple of trips into Manhattan with his Long Island-born-and-bred friend, Greg Leder, “Eli looked at me like, ‘I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out how to get around this place,'” Leder said. “I said, ‘It’s pretty easy, Eli. There’s an East Side and a West Side and some numbers in between. If you can count, you’ll figure it out.'”
Of course, Manning figured out New York better than any championship athlete of his generation not named Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. He was a lot smarter and tougher than he ever wanted to look, and he quickly understood that making it big in the big city meant following the Jeter/Rivera model of winning multiple titles, staying clear of controversy and showing up every day to work.
Maybe the Ole Miss star knew something before the 2004 draft that few others did. Peyton’s kid brother did not want the San Diego Chargers to take him with the first overall pick even though his laid-back disposition appeared to match up with that laid-back town. Manning never adequately explained what he had against San Diego, but his agent, Tom Condon, had serious intel on the franchise (he represented Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, quarterback Drew Brees and running back LaDainian Tomlinson), and his father, Archie, grew up a Giants fan in Mississippi because his own dad loved former Ole Miss quarterback Charlie Conerly, who won a title with the Giants in 1956.
Ernie Accorsi, the Giants’ general manager in 2004, fell hard for Manning as a prospect and pushed his San Diego counterpart A.J. Smith to trade the No. 1 pick for the fourth pick and some extras, not including Smith’s desired pass-rushing target, Osi Umenyiora. A couple of nights before the draft, Manning went out with Leder, who had attended college with Ellen, the wife of Eli’s oldest brother, Cooper. Leder had been assigned by Cooper and Ellen to shepherd Eli around town, and after eating at Smith & Wollensky, the pair ended up at a bar where some talking heads on TV were discussing Manning’s desire to play in New York. A bouncer turned to Leder — thinking he was Eli’s agent — and said, “You’ve got to get this done somehow, someway.”
“We’re working on it, buddy,” Leder responded.
Smith drafted Manning, Accorsi drafted Philip Rivers, and then the Giants shipped Rivers and three picks west for their guy. Eli was blitzed by media and fans early in his career for his dazed, sleepy-eyed expressions and hangdog-ish body language, for not showing Peyton-like fire when things went awry. Tiki Barber questioned his leadership style. Even the offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, ripped Manning in a practice for allegedly not caring enough that the defense was dominating his unit. (Eli shot Gilbride an intense look that most definitely said otherwise.)
For a while there Archie Manning, who had his prime wasted by the hapless New Orleans Saints, wondered whether Eli or the coach, Tom Coughlin, would get run out of town first. Accorsi would occasionally eat dinner with his son in Manning’s adopted town, Hoboken, New Jersey, and stare at the building that housed Eli’s 3,555-square-foot condo and think, “That poor guy, he probably can’t even go out. And I’m the one that put him here.”
Everybody was worried about Eli. Everybody except Eli. “I never doubted myself,” he would say. “I never lost confidence. I love being in New York. … I knew it was the right place. It just takes time.”
Manning made his first real stand after he injured his throwing shoulder in the 2007 opener, and after it was reported he might miss a month while recovering. He promised friends he would play through the pain, and sure enough, he buckled up his chin strap and started the following Sunday. Ten weeks later, Manning somehow threw three pick-sixes and four interceptions in all against Minnesota in an effort that compelled the retired Accorsi to flee the building in the middle of the game. Before the man who had acquired Eli could get to his car, a fan shouted at him, “Hey, thanks for leaving us with this mess.”
Eli recovered to nearly beat the 15-0 Patriots at the end of the regular season, and then to finish off the 18-0 Patriots at the end of the postseason. To celebrate his Super Bowl XLII triumph later that week, Manning joined a small handful of teammates and friends and their wives at one of the city’s most iconic restaurants, Rao’s, in East Harlem. Eli’s chair happened to be wedged up against one occupied by Yogi Berra.
“Mr. Berra,” Manning said, “when you win a championship in New York, they really know how to take care of you.”
The old catcher congratulated the young quarterback on his first title, and then said, “Just so you know, you have nine more to go.” Manning was floored by the fact that Berra had won 10 World Series rings with the Yankees. “Five in a row, too,” Berra told him. At the end of the night Manning, Berra, Giants center Shaun O’Hara and restaurant owner Frank Pellegrino were locked arm in arm while singing “New York, New York” before a rollicking packed house.
Leder was taking it all in from his table, watching Eli and thinking about that innocent child of a Southern sheriff played by Ron Howard on “The Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s.
“That’s when I knew Opie from Mayberry was going to do just fine in NYC,” Leder said.
Manning became a two-time Super Bowl MVP four years later, again at New England’s expense, yet it was the grit he showed in his two overtime conference championship games that some close to him remember most. In sub-Arctic conditions in Green Bay, Giants trainer Ronnie Barnes told Manning he was risking the use of his right hand, beyond that January 2008 game, if he didn’t wear a glove; Eli still refused to wear one and handled the same conditions that freezer-burned Coughlin’s face better than Brett Favre did. In January 2012, Manning threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns at San Francisco while absorbing a vicious pounding that inspired the wife of offensive line coach Pat Flaherty to call her spouse and ask why he tried to get his quarterback killed.
Eli made 210 consecutive regular-season starts for a reason. His trainer at Ole Miss, Tim Mullins, said that Manning was one of the toughest players the Rebels ever suited up, and that he had played through a knee injury the school kept quiet. When it appeared in 2009 that Manning might go to the Giants’ bench with plantar fasciitis, Mullins told him to wear cowboy boots to stabilize his foot and reduce pain whenever he could. “If something isn’t broken,” the trainer said, “Eli’s mentality is that he’s going to be out there.”
His durability was matched by his relentlessly consistent approach. Eli cried when Coughlin was forced out in 2015, and again when Ben McAdoo benched him in 2017, and he had stunned himself, his teammates and about 20,000 fans at a Giants Stadium pep rally after Super Bowl XLII when he dramatically waved his arms to the sky in demand of more crowd noise. “I don’t know what came over me,” Manning said as he left the ceremony. But over 16 seasons on the job, he rarely showed emotion in good times or in bad.
His father knew Eli truly didn’t read daily stories about his team, unlike the hyperaware Peyton, and so he would call his youngest son when a crisis was brewing. “There were a couple of things that Odell [Beckham Jr.] had to say, and I had to say, ‘Eli, Odell said this,’ and he didn’t know,” Archie said. “I just didn’t want him to be embarrassed when he was asked about it. Once I had to call him and say, ‘Eli, you need to know that Tiki [Barber] just blew up Coach Coughlin.’ He just said, ‘OK.'”
Archie said he never heard Eli utter a bad word — even in their most private conversations — about a teammate, a coach or a media member, a claim supported by a wide circle of Eli loyalists. Manning was all but forced to publicly fire back on Barber in 2007, but outside of that, O’Hara said, “Eli might need a bottle a wine to vent a bit about a receiver running the wrong route. It was very rare.”
Giants coaches and officials universally admired the franchise quarterback’s ability to build trust with his teammates. Behind closed locker-room doors, Eli was a master prankster, changing teammates’ phone settings to Mandarin, dipping his offensive linemen’s dress shoes in purple paint and applying Icy Hot to Brandon Jacobs’ deodorant stick. One of his regular victims, Zak DeOssie, the last fellow member of the 2007 title team before his career likely ended last month on injured reserve, said Manning used his grace and humility more than his sense of humor to bond with younger Giants.
“There is an age gap in the locker room,” DeOssie said, “and it’s not easy for a 38-year-old to connect with a 22-year-old. Eli always took the time to talk with players at any position, no matter their age. It was amazing to see how friendly he was with everyone.”
Like Jeter, who called Manning to offer support during his rookie struggles in 2004, Eli remained available and professional with the media while saying nothing of substance. He wouldn’t even confirm for his own father whether he named his fourth child and only son, Charlie, after Conerly. “Typical Eli,” Archie said. Also typical of Eli was his policy of talking to reporters on Mondays after losses, so he could shoulder the blame, but not on Mondays after victories, so his teammates could enjoy their fair share of credit.
Around his home in Summit, New Jersey, or around his mansion in the Hamptons, or around his favorite Manhattan haunts, Manning was almost always willing to sign autographs for fans, even the most intrusive ones who interrupted his dinner. He sometimes declined requests for pictures when he was out, according to one friend, because he tired of his photos contributing to the social media wave of goofy Eli faces.
Manning burned to be a champion, not a celebrity. Cooper Manning recalled meeting Eli in Midtown in 2008 — maybe it was at the corner of 54th and Madison — and finding him dressed in jeans and a collared shirt, standing alone and unbothered, and thinking about how much his brother loved just blending in.
One night Cooper was eating dinner at Campagnola on the East Side when James Caan pushed through the door. “He walked right to the middle of the dining room, made sure everyone saw him, and then just walked out,” Cooper said. “I thought, ‘Eli would never do that in his wildest dreams.'”
Manning’s regular-guy act played well in the market. Family and friends sometimes teased Eli, from New Orleans, and his wife, Abby, from Nashville, about how perfectly they have fit into the city’s culture and New Jersey suburbia, about how they never return to Oxford, Mississippi, anymore. Archie called his son a “Jersey boy,” and others called him a “city slicker.” Cooper joked with his brother that he’ll soon have a Jersey accent and that his children will all end up at Rutgers.
– – –
Could Eli land with another franchise, such as, say, Peyton’s old Indianapolis Colts? Will he choose to retire after failing to win a postseason game over the past eight seasons? Will he end up in Canton either way?
Time will answer all of the above. Meanwhile, Manning has clearly decided to enjoy his possible endgame, and to worry less about concealing the playful side of his personality from public view. He celebrated Jones’ five-touchdown performance against Washington on Sunday by going out to dance, throw napkins in the air (yep, napkins) and play drinking games with his replacement at a bar in Hoboken, the very town where the GM who had drafted him feared a struggling young Eli would hide in his condo.
Manning, Jones party it up after Giants’ winEli Manning and Daniel Jones show off some dance moves and play a game of flip cup after the Giants’ win against the Redskins.
Now Eli will dress as a Giant for the last time Sunday against Philadelphia, and then leave all of New York’s burdens for Jones, Sam Darnold and Gerrit Cole to carry forward. They would all be wise to follow the Manning model.
“He’s the most consistent human being I’ve ever played with,” Lawrence Tynes said. “If you can build a player to handle playing quarterback in New York, you would build an Eli.”
Said another former teammate, Shaun O’Hara: “I never heard him say, ‘Man, I was slinging it today.’ Or, ‘Did you see that throw to [David] Tyree or to [Mario] Manningham?’ He never once bragged about any throw, any play or any game.”
The night after his victory over the Dolphins, Eli dined with friends at Campagnola — the same place where his brother Cooper saw James Caan act the part of a big movie star. An elderly customer spotted Manning, and then turned to a nearby stranger, Leder, who was about to dine with the quarterback.
“That right there is the classiest, most dependable sports figure to ever play in the tri-state area,” the elderly man said.
In the end, Elisha Nelson Manning might ask, who needs a third Super Bowl title when you can put that trophy in your case?
We were remiss in not mentioning the retirement of RB DARIN SPROLES who fashioned a rather amazing career. This from ProFootballRumors.com:
Darren Sproles is set to call it a career. The Eagles announced on Twitter that the veteran running back will retire following the season.
The 36-year-old had previously hinted about retiring following the 2019 campaign. After backtracking out of a potential 2017 retirement, Sproles’ 2018 season was intended to be his final year in the NFL. Unfortunately, that season was derailed by a broken arm and a torn ACL, and the veteran made it clear that he didn’t want to go out like that. He ended up re-signing with the Eagles in July, and the veteran contributed 90 yards of offensive in six games (he also returned 11 punts).
Unfortunately, Sproles suffered a partial tear of his right hip flexor against the Jets on Oct. 6 and, at some juncture, aggravated the injury further. Sproles went through four weeks of rehab after the initial injury against Gang Green and managed to play against the Bears on Nov. 3. However, doctors later found that he had suffered a much more serious tear of the muscle. He landed on the injured reserve back in November, ending his season.
In other news about an injured Eagles RB, JORDAN HOWARD is hoping to play against the Giants on Sunday. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Eagles are hoping for some good news on the injury front before the end of the week (and they could use it).
Coach Doug Pederson just told reporters that running back Jordan Howard is meeting with doctors today, in hopes that he can be cleared for contact.
He hasn’t played since Nov. 3 because of a shoulder injury.
Via Reuben Frank of NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com, Pederson said the team will continue to feature Miles Sanders since he has the “hot hand,” but the depth will help.
He also suggested that right tackle Lane Johnson was “trending in the right direction,” in hopes of getting him back in the lineup.
Tight end Zach Ertz isn’t practicing today, though the team hopes to see how he reacts to his rib injury prior to Sunday’s game against the Giants.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with this news from the Saints injury report:
As the Saints close in on possible a playoff bye, they definitely could use it.
Two of the best players on the team emerged on Wednesday’s injury report, from a practice that didn’t happen.
If practice had happened, quarterback Drew Brees and receiver Michael Thomas would have been limited with knee and hand injuries, respectively. Neither player appeared on the Week 16 report.
There’s no reason to believe that either would be unavailable for Sunday’s game at Carolina, but both would surely benefit from the bye week that the Saints can earn with a win and either a Packers loss at Detroit or a 49ers loss at Seattle. If both Green Bay and San Francisco lose and the Saints win, New Orleans would earn the No. 1 seed.
It both Green Bay and San Francisco win, the Saints will be the No. 3 seed even with a victory at Carolina.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
In their bid for a winning season, the Rams will be without CB JALEN RAMSEY on Sunday. Gary Klein in the Los Angeles Times:
The season is over for Jalen Ramsey.
Rams coach Sean McVay said Tuesday that the star cornerback will not play in Sunday’s finale against the Arizona Cardinals because of a knee injury suffered Saturday night in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Ramsey intercepted his first pass of the season during the first quarter of the Rams’ 34-31 loss that eliminated them from playoff contention. The three-time Pro Bowl selection went to the locker room in the second quarter, but he returned and did not miss a series.
McVay said Ramsey suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his left knee. The injury is expected to heal without surgery, he said.
“He’s made a big, big impact,” McVay said of Ramsey, who was acquired in October when the Rams traded two first-round draft picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars. “It was great to see him make a big-time play the other night on that pick.
“You can just feel, he’s had a presence since he’s been playing.”
Slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, rookie David Long and Dont’e Deayon will play in place of Ramsey, McVay said. Darious Williams could start a second consecutive game in place of Troy Hill, who had surgery last week for a broken thumb.
The Rams began the season with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib as the starting cornerbacks. Peters was traded to the Baltimore Ravens a few hours before the Rams acquired Ramsey. Talib was later dealt to the Miami Dolphins.
Ramsey’s skill set changed the philosophy and attitude of the Rams’ defense. His ability to lock down an opponent’s top receiver and control one side of the field freed teammates to make plays.
Ramsey made his Rams debut against the Atlanta Falcons and mostly shut down star wide receiver Julio Jones. He had similar performances against JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys star Amari Cooper and others.
Ramsey impressed teammates with his willingness to play through his injury against the 49ers.
“For him to stick his neck back out there, keep playing, and finish the game strong and finish the game playing well, says a lot about who he is as a teammate and as a player,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “I’ve been extremely impressed by just his work ethic and competitiveness every day.”
Ramsey, the fifth pick in the 2016 NFL draft, earned $2.3 million this season, according to overthecap.com. He is due to earn $13.7 million next season on a fifth-year option, but he is line for a possible market-breaking long-term deal.
Before last season, the Rams signed running back Todd Gurley to a $57.5-million extension that included $45 million in guarantees, a record at the time for a running back. They also signed defensive lineman Aaron Donald to a $135-million extension that included $87 million in guarantees, a record for an interior lineman.
Before this season, they gave quarterback Jared Goff a $134-million extension that included a record $110 million in guarantees.
Ramsey could be next in line for a record-breaking deal, and the prospect of that payout, whenever it occurs, could affect decisions the Rams make about several other defensive players after the season ends.
Linebacker Cory Littleton, the team’s leading tackler each of the last two seasons and a Pro Bowl selection in 2018, will be an unrestricted free agent. So will edge rusher Dante Fowler, who has a career-best 11½ sacks, and veteran defensive lineman Michael Brockers.
Safety Eric Weddle has a year left on the deal he signed before the season, but the play of rookie Taylor Rapp and John Johnson’s return from a shoulder injury could cause the Rams to move on.
The Broncos are optimistic about what they have seen from QB DREW LOCK so far. Nick Shook of NFL.com:
The Denver Broncos have wandered about the NFL seas since they lost their boat captain to the freedom of retirement after the 2015 season.
The franchise’s first-year head coach thinks they’ve found their next leader.
“He’s done enough to show that he definitely that he could be The Guy,” Vic Fangio said of rookie signal-caller Drew Lock, via The Athletic, “and we’re looking for that to be the case.”
Lock’s name was rarely mentioned in the first half of the season, thanks to the quarterback’s place on injured reserve since the start of the campaign. By the time Week 10 rolled around, though, it was about time for Lock to replace Brandon Allen and see if he could hack it at this ol’ pro football thing.
So far, the returns are largely positive. Lock has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 843 yards, a 6-3 TD-INT ratio and a 3-1 mark as a starter. His play has excited Broncos fans enough to come to the stadium to watch him play even in the final stages of another playoff-less season.
Fangio says those first 10 weeks spent on the sideline may have been the difference.
“He really used those 10 weeks he was off to his advantage,” Fangio said. “I think he learned more about the NFL, learned more about playing quarterback in the NFL, all the things that go with playing quarterback in the NFL. Whereas I think in training camp he was a little bit inundated with everything, and I think those 10 weeks were really beneficial to him.”
Lock’s play provides clout to the dwindling group of those who believe sitting a year (or half of a year) is best for a rookie quarterback’s long-term success, and Fangio’s claims back it up. Of course, every situation is unique and should be evaluated as such, but one has to wonder whether the second-round pick would be as effective had he started in Week 1.
“The thing is, he can move out of the pocket and he’s a game-changer,” Broncos running back Philip Lindsay said of Lock. “He can make plays. We’ve got to ride around him and help him out by getting open. All I can say for Drew is, he’s doing a hell of a job and he’s going to only get better.”
Perhaps Lock is the answer GM John Elway has been seeking (and missing) since the retirement of Peyton Manning. Lock is certainly surrounded by a youthful collection of talent in Lindsay, running back Royce Freeman, receiver Courtland Sutton and tight end Noah Fant.
We’ll look back in a couple years to definitively answer this question, but Broncos fans can be happy about one likelihood: They won’t have to spend this offseason discussing quarterback in the Mile High City.
The Chiefs are cycling through running backs with the playoffs looming. Herbie Teope of KansasCity.com:
The Kansas City Chiefs made a couple of moves on Christmas Day ahead of Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chiefs placed running back Spencer Ware, who suffered a shoulder injury in Week 16, on injured reserve and activated defensive tackle Xavier Williams (ankle) from injured reserve to the active 53-player roster, sources familiar with the situation told The Star.
Ware, who previously played for the Chiefs from 2015 to 2018, rejoined the team in Week 14 in the wake of running back Darrel Williams landing on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Ware appeared in three games, totaling 73 yards (51 rushing) and a touchdown while contributing to the Chiefs’ winning streak.
Ware’s injury occurred in Damien Williams’ first game back from a rib injury suffered in Week 11, and the Chiefs will now finish out the regular season and prepare for the postseason with Williams, LeSean McCoy and rookie Darwin Thompson in their backfield.
Meanwhile, Xavier Williams returns to the active roster after landing on injured reserve in Week 5 with a high-ankle sprain.
His return provides depth for the Chiefs’ interior defensive line, where he’ll be in a rotational role with defensive tackles Chris Jones, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Pennel and rookie Khalen Saunders.
The Chiefs listed Williams as a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
In other injury-related news, left guard Andrew Wylie (ankle) and cornerback Morris Claiborne (shoulder) were officially listed as limited during Wednesday’s practice. Wylie missed last week’s game, while Claiborne hasn’t played since suffering the shoulder injury in Week 13.
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who dealt with what coach Andy Reid previously described as a tweaked shoulder in Week 16, center Austin Reiter (wrist), cornerback Rashad Fenton (hamstring) and kicker Harrison Butker (glute) were listed as full participants.
Of note, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was on the injury report in recent weeks with a right hand injury, is no longer listed on the Chiefs’ report.
Can QB DEVLIN HODGES get it done against the formidable, but coasting, Ravens? Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges was benched last week, but he was quickly back on the field and right back to starting this week after Mason Rudolph was injured. Hodges says the experience of getting benched hasn’t shaken his confidence.
“I’ve got all the confidence in the world in myself and my guys. Now, we just have to go out and do it,” Hodges said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
At the same time, Hodges acknowledged that going from the field to the bench and back to the field so quickly is a challenge.
“It’s definitely tough,” Hodges said. “Coach told me I did a good job of staying in the game. Once I got benched, I was back into the position of being one play away, and I ended up having to go back out there and give us a chance to win. It’s tough, but you have to be a team player.”
The Steelers are counting on Hodges to shake it off on Sunday, and perhaps lead them into the playoffs.
The Steelers also could get two offensive role players back. FB ROOSEVELT NIX and WR RYAN SWITZER have been designated to return from IR and can begin practicing today.
An apology from Coach Doug Marrone. John Reid of the Florida Times-Union:
Despite demanding success, coach Doug Marrone has been unable to achieve it since leading the Jaguars to the AFC title game in 2017.
Like any coach, the Jaguars’ Doug Marrone expected success in 2019.
He pushed for it from his players and demanded it from his assistants.
But on Tuesday, he apologized for not achieving it for the second straight season.
The Jaguars (5-10) head into Sunday’s season finale against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field with double-digit losses for the eighth time in nine seasons.
“I’m truly sorry I let so many down, that I couldn’t have done a better job,″ said Marrone, who has a 10-21 record in the past seasons after leading the Jaguars to the AFC title game in 2017. “For our fans who are so disappointed and our sponsors, I truly take responsibility and apologize. It’s the holiday time, and you want your team to be doing well, so people can have some pride or joy. And that’s my job, and I haven’t done that.″
Though there’s speculation Marrone could be retained for another season by owner Shad Khan, Marrone appears resigned to accept whatever fate comes his way after the finale – good or bad.
Under his direction, the Jaguars have been woeful the past two seasons. They have not scored more than 20 points in a game since October and have combined for 22 points in the first half in the past seven games.
Despite a majority of players last week expressing a desire for Marrone’s return next season, they went out and lost to the Atlanta Falcons 24-12 on Sunday.
The Jaguars’ offense was limited to three points and five first downs in the first half. The defense was shredded for 518 total yards.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s football,″ wide receiver DJ Chark said. “We have one more game. I feel like everybody is going to be excited, knowing it’s our last chance that this team, the way we are set up now, plays together. So I hope that we can fix it.″
Marrone said now is not the time to make excuses.
The team’s woes can’t be blamed solely on a glaring lack of talent, especially at linebacker. Also, every mishap over the past three seasons can’t be put on former top executive Tom Coughlin, who was fired last week.
Regardless of who coaches the team next season or runs the front office, the Jaguars will have to upgrade their talent, especially at linebacker and the offensive skill positions.
Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com wonders about the forgotten QB JOSH ROSEN:
Josh Rosen’s first two NFL seasons fall somewhere between disastrous and inauspicious. As his second campaign winds down with him on the Miami Dolphins’ bench, the young quarterback with the big arm appears to be at a crossroads.
Rosen’s future as a starting quarterback looks uncertain, and his chances of being the Dolphins’ long-term answer seem to be growing more bleak by the day.
Through it all, Rosen is publicly maintaining confidence while learning behind beloved veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and waiting for his next opportunity to play — even if that has to come on his third NFL team in as many seasons.
“I’m still only 22 years old. It’s not really [thinking] like the window opens and closes like that,” Rosen said last week. “But there is a sense of sort of understanding timing and opportunity. I’m aware of it, but it’s all for you guys more to write about than it is for me to worry about.”
Rosen believes he will be some team’s franchise quarterback. He doesn’t think the unique path he has taken over his first two NFL seasons has negatively affected that pursuit, but this offseason will loom large for Rosen’s future.
The Dolphins (4-11) head into the 2020 offseason with eager eyes on a long-term answer at quarterback. Fitzpatrick has performed admirably and should continue his role as a bridge quarterback in 2020 — barring retirement.
For nearly a year, the 2020 draft has been the target for Miami to find its first franchise quarterback since Dan Marino.
With QB Joe Burrow seemingly headed to Cincinnati with the No. 1 pick, connections between the Dolphins and injured Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will increase as the draft draws near.
That leaves Rosen in limbo for a second straight offseason.
Wild ride for Rosen
It has been eight months since the Arizona Cardinals shipped Rosen to the Dolphins in a draft weekend trade for a late second-round pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder. Miami’s initial return on investment has been a disappointment.
Coach Brian Flores hasn’t given Rosen another start after returning to Fitzpatrick in Week 6. Even after the Dolphins’ loss total hit 10 in December, the decision at QB1 was straightforward for Flores.
“Fitz gives us the best chance to win. It’s easy for people to sit and say, ‘You should do this or that, or this or that.’ I don’t think those same people will stand in front of that group and say, ‘This is in the best interest of the team, for us to win this week,'” Flores said. “That’s no knock on Josh. Maybe you think that’s in the best interest, but you’re not in front of this team every day. You’re not in the trenches and a lot of people aren’t.”
Flores believes he could lose the respect of his locker room by telling his players Rosen gives them the best chance to win instead of Fitzpatrick.
Despite Flores’ attempt to protect Rosen, it appears to be a knock on the young QB that after several months of practice and three regular-season starts, the Dolphins believe they don’t need to see any more to evaluate him. They seem to view him as a young quarterback who isn’t good enough to beat out the 37-year-old Fitzpatrick at this point.
Rosen has been dealt a bad hand since being drafted No. 10 overall by Arizona in 2018: He has been on two rebuilding teams with constant change, subpar offensive lines and complex schemes — and each has had an escape plan if it didn’t go well with him. Rosen said he doesn’t spend much time wishing he could have landed in a more stable situation, such as those of fellow 2018 quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) and Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills).
“Having wishful thinking is very counterproductive. I try not to really have any expectations and then you’ll never be disappointed,” Rosen said. “I have my long-term goals and what I want to accomplish throughout the course of my career, and how I get there is at least for the moment now kind of irrelevant.”
The Dolphins could explore cutting their losses and trading Rosen for a Day 3 selection this offseason or he could get a full offseason back in Miami with better knowledge of the scheme to compete with a rookie quarterback and possibly Fitzpatrick.
Flores said he has given Rosen a private list of things the QB needs to improve on. And yes, Rosen said he wants to be back in Miami next season.
“Yeah, absolutely. I like it here a lot,” Rosen said. “There’s a really steep learning curve, and I’m really glad I got over it because I’ll have that knowledge in the back of my head for the rest of my career.”
Fitzpatrick is the Dolphins’ MVP this season — the player most responsible for lifting them from becoming one of the worst teams in NFL history after an 0-7 start to a group that has gone 4-4 over their past eight games.
In Sunday’s win against the Bengals, Fitzpatrick began the first Dolphins quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards and four touchdowns since Marino. Fitzpatrick also ranks ninth in QBR this season.
Ask Dolphins players about Fitzpatrick and he remains “one of the guys” to everyone in the locker room and his free-flowing energy ignites the team.
“A lot of it is innate. It has to be genuine. Can you learn how to become a better leader? Yes. But if it’s not genuine, if it comes across as phony, if it comes across as rehearsed, then everyone in the locker room notices,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not, ‘These are the three steps to leadership.'”
Fitzpatrick has it figured out. He sounds like the perfect guy to help usher the Dolphins into their new quarterback era in 2020. So, will he?
“I don’t have a crystal ball here. I’ll tell you that I love Fitz,” Flores said. “He’s done a great job for us this year. I love that he’s our quarterback.”
Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea pointed directly to Fitzpatrick’s intangibles when asked what he wants in his quarterbacks going forward: “Earned respect of team and staff, work ethic, consistency, high-energy leadership and being the flag-bearer of the offense.”
Fitzpatrick has an $8 million salary for 2020 after reaching some incentives, and $4 million of that is guaranteed.
He should be welcomed back next season — that is if Fitzpatrick, who is wrapping up Year 15 in the league with seven kids at home, wants to return. He has sidestepped questions about his future, deferring them to the offseason, but admits the fire to play is still there.
Fitzpatrick seems like the perfect bridge for the rebuilding Dolphins. He can keep them competitive with a better roster as well as mentor the rookie quarterback Miami is expected to select in the 2020 draft.
There could be a scenario where the Dolphins keep three quarterbacks — perhaps if the team drafts Tagovailoa and wants to be cautious with him as he rehabs his hip injury. That could present a situation in which Fitzpatrick and Rosen again compete for the starting job until Tagovailoa is ready.
The Dolphins might have the NFL’s most interesting quarterback situation this offseason because of the uncertainty of Rosen’s future, the surprising success of Fitzpatrick and the impending arrival of a franchise quarterback.
NEW YORK JETS
RB Le’VEON BELL just hasn’t been very good this year. Frank Schwab of YahooSports.com:
Even when stories came out this past offseason that New York Jets coach Adam Gase never wanted running back Le’Veon Bell, it still seemed like it would work out to some degree.
Bell was arguably the best running back in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gase is a supposed offensive genius, though that claim gets more dubious each season he’s a coach. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out ways to use Bell.
But it has been. Bell has had a very quiet season and given how much he got paid, he has to be considered a massive free-agent bust. We can blame Gase, Bell’s holdout last season, the rest of the Jets offense or whatever else, but the stats don’t lie. It hasn’t worked out.
Now what happens in 2020?
Le’Veon Bell has had a bad season
Bell has not had a 100-yard rushing game. He has not topped 61 yards receiving in a game. He has just 748 rushing yards, 425 receiving yards, a very poor 3.3 yards per carry and just four touchdowns despite playing a heavy majority of the snaps for the Jets.
That’s not what the Jets envisioned when they signed him to a four-year, $52.5 million deal, of course. The story has been that former general manager Mike Maccagnan was behind the signing, Gase didn’t want Bell and it was part of the reason Gase won a power struggle with Maccagnan that led to Maccagnan’s firing.
ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini pointed out that the Jets could try to move on from Bell after just one season, but it’s really not that easy. You can’t just dump a $52.5 million contract one year into it.
Jets can’t realistically cut Bell
Cimini said cutting Bell isn’t a realistic option. They would take a $19 million cap hit. His $13 million salary is guaranteed. No matter how bad Bell has been, you can’t pay him a $13 million salary to not play for your team.
That leaves trading him, and that has its challenges too. Cimini wrote that the Jets would have to pay some of Bell’s salary and the price in a Bell trade would only be a fourth-round pick back to New York. Given Bell’s season, and possible concerns about his age, how the year off affected him and his salary, a fourth-round pick seems a bit high. The Jets would have to take on a good amount of that 2020 salary, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in trading him then.
This was a bad fit from the start. The dysfunction of the Jets is to blame for that. And after one awful season for Bell, it’s a mess that is hard to get out of for 2020. The Jets are looking at taking a huge loss on a player who was an All-Pro not long ago, or running it back even though the coach doesn’t want him and has no clue how to use him either.
It was a bad first season for Bell in New York, and it’s hard to see how it all works out in 2020.
Does Jets coach Adam Gase have a burner account on Twitter? Joshua Espinoza of Complex.com:
Twitter users are convinced they’ve found Adam Gase’s rumored burner account. And the evidence is pretty convincing.
In a recent New York Daily News report, a source claimed the New York Jets coach—or someone close to him—had a fake social media account that was used to clap back at his haters. The allegation further underscored Gase’s reputation within the franchise as “an insecure guy” who could not handle criticism … at least, not in a mature way.
In fact, some people on One Jets Drive are convinced Gase or a family member has a burner Twitter account to monitor what is being written or said about him — and defend him if necessary. Gase didn’t respond to several requests from the News for this story.
In the report, insiders addressed Gase’s so-called inflated ego and the ways in which he responds to critics who say he is an unfit leader. Sources say the coach has expressed indifference toward the critiques, and simply responds with lazy, cocky lines; his most of favorite of which is said to be, “I’m rich as fuck.” Yes, it’s an immature defense, but probably true.
Shortly after the Daily News story was published, Kevin “KFC” Clancy of Barstool pointed to Gase’s allged the burner account: @WyattV18.
Ok now I can finally address Adam Gase’ burner account @WyattV18. Which is absolutely his burner & no surprise Gase has one. There are certain guys who are the type to need a burner to handle the hate and he’s one of them. That and his “rich as fuck” comment least surprising ever
Twitter user @CYJpod also pointed out that Wyatt is the name of Gase’s 7-year-old son, a fact that supports the claims that the alleged burner account is run by Gase and/or one of his family members.
Of course, we don’t know for sure if this is a phony account set up by Gase or one of his relatives, but many of the tweets—some which date back to the beginning of 2019—are extremely pro-Gase and frequently blame the players and the front office for his team’s poor performance.
Replying to @nyjets
He’d be out of a job for 10 seconds. Was in high demand last offseason
This tweet is a perfect embodiment of the account. You could say Gase was in high demand last offseason, which is a stretch, but the fact that he would be out of a job for only 10 seconds if fired is quite ridiculous.
· Dec 13, 2019
Adam Gase *gets fired*
DeVante Parker becomes good
not a coincidence . Adam Gase ruins young talent.
Pls fire him
Adam Gase has turned Robby Anderson into a legitimate all around WR
Robby Anderson was already good!! What?!
His recent performances with both the Jets and the Miami Dolphins would suggest that Gase would have trouble finding a job next season. Unfortunately, because of how the NFL loves to recycle coaches who have proven to be failures, Gase will probably find a job next season at some point. But not soon enough for Wyatt!
Replying to @MarcDeGaetano @nyjets
Guy needs to be let go from the NFL permanently.
Record setting offenses in Denver and made the playoffs in Miami. Where have they been since?
While Gase could be considered responsible for the Broncos’ record setting offense in 2013, as WyattV claims, he really did not have to do much. Peyton Manning was really the offensive coordinator for that team while Gase watched from the sidelines.
Timestamps of “Gase” Tweets –
*NONE* collide with practice or games. Dec 13th was day off after BAL, Dec 17th was after dinner.
11:24am dec 20
5:35pm dec 17
5:46pm dec 13
5:44pm dec 13
1:02pm dec 13
12:58PM dec 13
12:55pm dec 13
12:46pm dec 13
12:34pm dec 13
12:30pm dec 13
THIS AND THAT
SHOW ME THE MONEY
The players in the Class of 2017 could be paid big bucks as soon as Monday. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on what that could mean to the postseason if a player had a hard-driving agent.
The 2019 regular season ends Sunday. That’s obviously significant for playoff positioning, and also for determining the final two teams with tickets to the postseason party. It’s noteworthy for another more obscure reason.
Upon the conclusion of the third regular season since the 2017 draft, all players picked in the 2017 draft become eligible for second contracts. That includes, to name a few, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, Saints running back Alvin Kamara, and Packers running back Aaron Jones.
All but one of those players listed above will be playing at least one more game, and perhaps up to four, before the offseason truly arrives. Which means that they’ll be paid a relative pittance for high-intensity, all-or-nothing games — $28,000 for the wild-card road teams, $31,000 for the wild-card home teams, $31,000 for the divisional round, $56,000 for the conference championship, $62,000 for Super Bowl loser, and $124,000 for Super Bowl winner.
While those game checks aren’t bad for players who are playing under slotted rookie deals, they’re a far cry from the per-game payout that will come under the second contracts. And they’ll be putting those second contracts at risk, up to four times, before the offseason arrives.
Eventually, someone who has played great in his first three years will make it known (directly, through his agent, or via leaks from unnamed sources) that he wants his second contract before the postseason begins following his third regular season. Eventually, maybe on those players would even consider threatening to not play in the postseason game.
That latter is unlikely in the classic sense; no one will be walking out the door as the chase for a championship begins. But if a guy is banged up — if he has an injury that easily would justify not playing (especially in this age of hypersensitivity to player health and safety), how hard would it be to err on the side of not taking the risk of playing injured when the injury risk has not been removed from the player via that second contract?
It’s a fascinating dynamic that has been hiding in plain sight ever since the ink dried on the 2011 CBA, even if it’s never been an issue. Look at the names listed above; if it’s ever going to be an issue, this could be the year that it is.
Or, perhaps more accurately, this could be the year that one or more of those key players who have finished three regular seasons ends up with a huge deal before his team’s first postseason game kicks off.
However it plays out, it’s an issue that should have been an issue from the moment the 2011 CBA quietly shifted the second-contract window from two years to three. Players don’t get paid the way they used to upon entering the league for fear that some won’t earn it. Those who earn it deserve their second contracts as soon as possible.
For players drafted in 2017 whose teams will survive Week 17, ASAP means before their first playoff game.
AIKMAN RATINGS Thru Week 16
With the three major categories all but decided, the biggest excitement in the final week of the season for the 2019 Aikman Ratings is whether or not the Ravens can become the first Aikman Offense to finish over 100.
The Ravens already hold the only unit ever to top 100 for the entire season as the 2000 Ravens posted a 101.0 mark in Aikman Defense.
Baltimore has a lead of 4.5 points in the Aikman Combined Ratings and a huge 9.0 points in Aikman Offense. In Aikman Defense, the Patriots have fallen off a bit from their amazing early season performances, but at 87.7 they still lead by 10.4 over the 2nd place 49ers.
Here is a list of the top Aikman Offenses, dating back to 1995 – led by Peyton Manning’s 2013 Broncos:
2013 Denver Broncos 99.8
2007 New England Patriots 99.0
2012 New England Patriots 99.0
2011 New Orleans Saints 98.8
At 174.2, the Ravens are sitting with the 2nd-best Aikman Combined Rating since 1995. The record of 177.8 belongs to the undefeated 2007 Patriots. The 2000 Ravens are next at 174.0.
—– Aikman ——- ——- NFL ——-
Rank W-L Team Comb. Off Def Off Def Comb
1 13-2 Ravens 174.2 100.3 73.9 2 5 7
2 12-3 Patriots 169.7 82.0 87.7 16 1 17
3 12-3 49ers 164.6 87.3 77.3 6 2 8
4 10-5 Vikings 163.9 88.7 75.3 13 14 27
5 11-4 Chiefs 160.6 89.6 71.1 4 17 21
6 7-8 Cowboys 160.1 91.3 68.8 1 11 12
7 12-3 Saints 159.2 91.2 68.1 8 12 20
8 12-3 Packers 158.6 86.4 72.1 21 18 39
9 10-5 Bills 157.7 81.9 75.8 24 3 27
10 8-7 Eagles 156.0 86.5 69.5 12 9 21
11 11-4 Seahawks 154.8 87.3 67.5 7 26 33
12 7-8 Buccaneers 154.7 83.2 71.5 3 15 18
13 7-8 Colts 154.1 85.4 68.7 25 16 41
14 8-7 Titans 153.9 86.8 67.1 15 22 37
15 8-7 Rams 149.7 82.5 67.2 9 13 22
16 10-5 Texans 148.5 88.0 60.5 11 28 39
17 6-9 Broncos 147.9 74.9 73.0 28 10 38
18 6-9 Falcons 147.8 83.7 64.1 5 19 24
19 8-7 Steelers 146.9 68.1 78.8 30 4 34
20 5-10 Chargers 146.2 79.2 67.0 10 6 16
21 7-8 Bears 146.0 74.9 71.0 29 8 37
22 6-9 Browns 145.2 80.8 64.4 18 20 38
23 5-9-1 Cardinals 142.7 82.2 60.5 22 31 53
24 4-11 Giants 142.5 78.1 64.3 23 24 47
25 7-8 Raiders 141.9 83.0 58.9 14 21 35
26 3-11-1 Lions 141.9 80.9 61.0 17 29 46
27 6-9 Jets 138.0 68.2 69.8 32 7 39
28 5-10 Panthers 137.8 77.5 60.3 19 23 42
29 5-10 Jaguars 136.4 74.5 61.9 20 27 47
30 3-12 Redskins 135.0 73.5 61.5 31 25 56
31 1-14 Bengals 131.5 69.1 62.5 26 30 56
32 4-11 Dolphins 130.2 73.6 56.5 27 32 59