AROUND THE NFL
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com with some good research on the dearth of action for the game’s top QBs in preseason so far.
NFL teams are increasingly seeing the risk of preseason injuries as outweighing the rewards of getting players ready for live action. And that’s particularly clear in the numbers of starting quarterbacks who are sitting out.
Midway through the preseason, 12 starting quarterbacks still haven’t thrown a pass: New England’s Tom Brady, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, the Rams’ Jared Goff, the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz, Carolina’s Cam Newton, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Indianapolis’s Andrew Luck, Jacksonville’s Nick Foles and Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky.
Some of those quarterbacks will see some action in Week Three of the preseason, but other teams have decided simply to shut down their starting quarterbacks entirely.
And even the teams that have played their starting quarterbacks generally aren’t keeping them in the game for long. Buffalo’s Josh Allen leads all starting quarterbacks with 22 passes thrown this preseason, while most of the starting quarterbacks who have played at all this season have thrown a dozen passes or fewer.
If the NFL ever reduces the length of the preseason, it won’t have much bearing on starting quarterbacks, all of whom get less than one full game’s worth of action in the preseason.
On the flip side, here are the QBs who have thrown the most passes so far:
1. Webb, Joe (HST) 65
2. Griffin, Ryan (TB) 64
3. Lock, Drew (DEN) 51
4. Finley, Ryan (CIN) 44
5. Stidham, Jarrett (NE) 43
5. Schaub, Matt (ATL) 43
5. Minshew, Gardner (JAX) 43
8. Rush, Cooper (DAL) 42
9. Gilbert, Garrett (CLV) 41
10. Glennon, Mike (OAK) 39
Glennon, Schaub and Rush would seem to be the only classic back-ups. Lock, Finley, Stidham and Minshew are rookies who are not expected to start. Webb, Finley and Gilbert are further down the food chain at the moment.
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As one might have expected, Al Riveron is taking every interference replay review seriously and adjudicating reversals by the tiniest of margins. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com unloads:
NFL coaches get plenty of blame for foisting replay review of pass interference onto football. They shouldn’t, at least not based on the specific manner in which replay review of pass interference seems to be unfolding.
As a league source with knowlege of the dynamics that led to replay review for pass interference told PFT, the coaches wanted replay review to fix only the most egregious mistakes made by the officials when calling, or not calling, pass interference.
Per the source, not a single head coach — including Rams coach Sean McVay — wanted the uncalled defensive pass interference by Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore on Rams receiver Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl LIII to be reversed via replay review. Coaches want intervention only when the interference is truly clear, truly obvious. Truly egregious. Some coaches also expressed concern about the use of slow-motion replay to search for evidence of interference, arguing that the review for pass interference should happen only with full-speed replays.
As explained last week in PFTOT, the standard for replay review of interference calls and non-calls shouldn’t be an extension of the “clear and obvious” rule that applies to objective decisions like whether the ball was out before the runner’s knee was down. It should be much higher for subjective rulings like pass interference, something so bad that the reasonable viewer would exclaim “what the hell!?!” in response to the ruling on the field.
But the NFL apparently isn’t using a “what the hell!?!” standard for pass interference. Instead, the NFL is using the same standard that has been employed for all other forms of replay, giving the Most Powerful Man in Football the authority to micromanage, one frame at a time, decisions that are made by professional officials in real time based on the inherent judgment honed by years of experience deciding what is and isn’t interference.
The subjectivity of pass interference calls and non-calls necessarily creates a band of discretion that the league is now invading and potentially bastardizing, searching and probing for evidence of contact that previously was ignored when a flag wasn’t thrown.
Of course, there were situations in which the discretion was abused, most notably when a receiver is flattened before the ball arrives. That’s the kind of egregious, know-it-when-you-see-it, “what the hell!?!” outcome that cries out for reversal via replay review — and that should never, ever take more than three minutes and 40 seconds to resolve.
There’s still time to fix it. The Competition Committee can convene a conference call with NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron and explain to Riveron in no uncertain terms that the bar is much, much higher. That unless Riveron exclaims “what the hell!?!” when seeing the replay at full speed, the ruling on the field must stand.
This comes in the wake of this blast from Florio previously:
Step aside, Commissioner.
During the coming football season, no person in the NFL will be more powerful than senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron. Although that probably became true the moment that the head of officiating acquired final say over all replay reviews, the addition of offensive and defensive pass interference calls and non-calls pushes it to a new level.
Starting this year, Riveron has the ability to swing massive chunks of field position, by throwing an after-the-fact spot-foul defensive pass interference flag or by wiping out a long gain (or a touchdown) based on offensive pass interference that wasn’t called on the field. And he has that power over each of the 256 regular-season and 11 postseason games that will be played in the league’s 100th season.
Having that power is one thing. Properly using it is another. It’s not easy to make these decisions, especially not in the moment, as the walls close in, the clock ticks loudly on the wall, the Jeopardy music plays quietly in the mind, and one misstep on the tightrope will give TV analysts, radio hosts, and bloggers enough content to carry them to the next weekend of games. We’ve seen Riveron, who was thrust into a job crafted for Dean Blandino after Blandino left for FOX, struggle at times — most significantly in 2017, when multiple catch/no-catch decisions were inaccurately resolved via replay review.
This year, the warning signs have flashed for nearly two months, starting with his assessment of a couple of 2018 non-calls that would become pass interference calls in the new expansion of replay review. Riveron isn’t inclined, or able, to apply the kind of high bar that the Competition Committee envisions when it comes to overturning calls and non-calls of pass interference, as illustrated most recently by a phantom DPI decision from the final minutes of the Cowboys-Rams game.
Again, it’s not an easy job. It’s a job that was created for Blandino. And, as explained during Monday’s PFTOT, the best way to ensure the integrity of the league’s 100th season would be to offer Blandino a large pile of cash to return to the job that was made for him, and that quite possibly only he can properly execute.
To remind you, Peter King wrote this back in 2017:
It’s true: If the NFL knew vice president of officiating Dean Blandino was going to leave for a TV job—which Ian Rapoport and Aditi Kinkhabwala reported Friday—there’s a strong chance owners would not have voted for centralized replay last month, with Blandino making the calls from the league’s New York officiating command post. Clearly, a big part of voting for centralized replay was the strength of Blandino, and how good a media face he was for officiating.
He ran the beehive of an officiating command center, the size of a large Manhattan studio apartment, with 82 TV monitors and 21 employees following the games, calmly and authoritatively. He earned the trust of the league, and the officials. Blandino rose from never being on the field as an official to lording over the best football officials in the world. “You ask the officials … and they trust Dean,” Rich McKay, the chair of the rules-making NFL Competition Committee, told me last month. “He’s very detailed. We’re fortunate to have Dean Blandino as our head of officials.”
So why didn’t the NFL make sure to have him under contract so he couldn’t walk away to do TV? That’s the question many around the league were asking after this bolt out of the blue happened Friday. It was such a surprise that three prominent club officials over the weekend said they hadn’t heard about Blandino and TV until they heard the news Friday. And though it wasn’t a shock to some of his friends, and some in the league office knew Blandino would want to do TV one day, they didn’t think one day was now. This was not an active rumor, at all, at the league meetings, when the centralized replay vote passed in a landslide, moving the final calls on reviewed plays from the referees on the field to the Blandino team in New York. I can tell you with certainty that the Competition Committee was blindsided by the news on Friday.
No one can blame Blandino. If, as Mike Florio reported, Blandino leaves for FOX to supplement his smooth predecessor, Mike Pereira, as a second voice interpreting calls, he’ll be doing a job with far less pressure for significantly more money. As one of Blandino’s friends told me Saturday: “Dean’s 45, married, and has two children under 5. He’s probably working 80 hours a week in-season at the NFL. That’s not really good for a father of two young kids.” Another friend said Blandino has long fancied himself a future TV guy. Being home for dinner five nights a week, and working 50 hours a week in the fall instead of far more, and having much of the off-season off—and making more money? A logical decision.
Still, there’s no logical person to take his place. NFL execs have a big problem on their hands. I’m assuming they tried to negotiate a deal with Blandino and failed. They should have tried harder. So what does the league do now?
This job requires a public figure comfortable in front of the camera and on social media. Blandino was just that. Al Riveron, Blandino’s lieutenant and a former referee himself, is not regarded as comfortable with that part of the job. He could still be considered for it, but after Carl Johnson never could get comfortable on TV and video as Pereira’s first heir, I would expect the league to cast a wider net. The three most prominent candidates—my guess—among current officials are three referees: Gene Steratore, calm and comfortable with a mike on; Clete Blakeman, a Nebraskan with a good presence and very well-liked by the league; and Bill Vinovich, who while on health leave from on-field duties worked in the New York command center for almost two years. The NFL could also consider Mike Carey, who had a shaky TV tenure as CBS’ rules analyst, or Terry McAulay, whose side job is as supervisor of officials for the American Athletic Conference.
Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the TV-comfy officials emerged as media voice for, say, ESPN soon either. ESPN has to look at FOX and say, “We’ve got high-profile college and NFL games, as FOX does. They’ve got two officiating experts now?” ESPN doesn’t have an in-studio rules expert either Saturday or Sunday, and the absence seems notable now. Which is why it wouldn’t surprise me if they added a smart and cool voice to the studio shows, at least.
But this is a fire the NFL’s going to have put out, and soon. It’s a bad look after a bold March step to centralize replay.
More negativity for QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO in Monday’s preseason game with Denver. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Jimmy Garoppolo’s first game back since tearing his ACL last season went miserably. About as miserable as it can go in a preseason game.
Garoppolo threw an interception on his second pass of the game. His first four throws were all touched by Denver Broncos defenders, either tipped, picked or almost picked. He finished 1-of-6 passing on three drives Monday night, his lone completion going for a zero-yard gain.
Garoppolo finished his night with an infamous 0.0 passer rating.
“Obviously a little frustrated but it’s the NFL,” Garoppolo said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “Unfortunately, we don’t get to play the whole game right now so I only get so many plays. You wish you could be out there for more so we could bounce back. But it is what it is. It’s preseason right now, so we just have to take it in stride.”
The 27-year-old has just 10 starts in five seasons of pro work. After a scorching end to the 2017 campaign after coming to San Francisco via trade with the New England Patriots, Garoppolo’s 2018 lasted just three games before he suffered the ACL tear. His return didn’t go as planned. His performance suggested the five consecutive interceptions day at practice wasn’t a fluke. On the plus side, after getting hit for the first time since Sept. 23, Garoppolo came through healthy.
“It’s something that I haven’t done in a year obviously, so I’ve got to knock the rust off and everything,” Garoppolo said. “Thankfully we have a short week this week so we can bounce back quickly, but it’s the first step of getting back into it.”
Garoppolo looked uncomfortable in the pocket, didn’t step up in the face of pressure on certain throws, and genuinely looked discombobulated in his three series.
WR ANTONIO BROWN takes another swing at the NFL’s helmet policy. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
It’s time for Antonio Brown Helmet Grievance 2.0.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Raiders receiver has filed a new grievance regarding the league’s decision to prevent him from wearing a Schutt AiR Advantage helmet that is less than 10 years old.
Last Monday, a neutral, independent arbitrator found that Brown could not wear a helmet that is more than 10 years old; NOCSAE won’t recertifiy any helmet, regardless of model, that is more than 10 years old. Since then, Brown’s representatives identified an obvious loophole. Because the Schutt AiR Advantage hasn’t been banned generally by the NFL, he should be permitted to wear one that is less than 10 years old, and that can be recertified by NOCSAE.
The NFL did not include the Schutt AiR Advantage within the list of 11 helmet models banned in 2018. The NFL also gave players wearing banned helmets a one-year grace period, allowing them to continue to wear the banned helmet while transitioning to a new model.
Brown hasn’t received that courtesy, because the NFL didn’t ban the Schutt AiR Advantage until he found multiple models that were less than 10 years old, and thus that could be recertified by NOCSAE. He’ll argue that, at a minimum, he should receive the same one-year grace period that was given to players like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who ultimately won the Super Bowl while wearing a helmet that the NFL has deemed to be unsafe for use.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
RB MELVIN GORDON thinks the Chargers are going to call him with more money. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Melvin Gordon is ready to end his holdout if he hears the phone ring with good news.
“Just waiting on the call,” the running back told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler Monday.
Unfortunately for Gordon, the calls from the Los Angeles Chargers’ brass to his representation likely include some form of the words, ‘we’re not going higher than our last offer.’
Gordon’s holdout nears five weeks. After training in Florida, Gordon told Fowler he’s now in California continuing his “rigorous” training.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported earlier this month that Gordon wants more than the $10 million per year that the Chargers offered. The L.A. brass has stood firm, insisting they won’t go higher for a running back.
With Chargers running backs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson looking good this preseason, Gordon’s leverage hasn’t improved despite the threat to hold out into the regular season.
Slated to make $5.6 million in 2019, Gordon wants a salary more in line with a workhorse back. At some point, he’ll have to report, or his contract will toll into 2020. He’s subject to fines for missing camp and preseason games.
At this stage, it appears Gordon is waiting on a call that might never come.
WR MARQUISE BROWN, a cousin of ANTONIO BROWN by the way, also has issues with his feet. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
The Baltimore Ravens are still waiting on first-round receiver Marquise Brown to live up to the billing, but the rookie continues to make positive strides.
Brown, who is recovering from offseason foot surgery, participated in four straight practices and got in his first session against a defense not wearing purple when the Ravens took on the Philadelphia Eagles in joint practice Monday.
Getting the rookie some work against an opposing defense is a stride in the right direction, but coach John Harbaugh noted that Brown still has a ways to go to be ready for the regular season.
“He basically practiced for the first time in a more aggressive setting, so I saw a guy that was practicing for the first time,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He just needs to get accustomed to it. It’s all new for him — the speed of it, the thinking, the lining up, running the right route. He has a ways to go with all of that. I’m confident he’ll get there, and we’ll know what to do to use him, how to use him early in the season. But it’s just great work for him.”
The 5-foot-9 wideout entered the draft with dizzying speed, solid route-running ability, great feet, a YAC demon, and positional versatility to play the slot or outside.
Brown’s rapport with Lamar Jackson might take some time to develop as the season progresses. The hope is that Thursday’s third preseason tilt versus the Eagles continues the rookie’s development and we see him in live action.
Brown might not come out of the gate putting up gaudy numbers given his lingering injury and the Ravens’ run-heavy approach, but Baltimore is playing the long-game with the receiver, betting that he’ll turn out better than their last first-round wideout, Breshad Perriman.
QB BAKER MAYFIELD is candid – perhaps to a fault. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Count Baker Mayfield among the people who thought the Giants were being a little dangerous in late April.
In an interview with Clay Skipper of GQ, Mayfield made these eyebrow-raising comments about the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft: “I cannot believe the Giants took Daniel Jones. . . . Blows my mind.”
Mayfield’s primary criticism comes from the fact that Jones had a record of 17-19 at Duke.
“Some people overthink it,” Mayfield told GQ. “That’s where people go wrong. They forget you’ve gotta win. . . . Either you have a history of winning and being that guy for your team . . . or you don’t.”
That’s all fine. He undoubtedly said what the said. And he’ll be criticized for saying what he said. But when will non-sports outlets like GQ be criticized for drawing controversial remarks from young, inexperienced players in a casual setting, where they often don’t realize anything they say can and will be used against them? Last year, it was Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who learned his lesson the hard way about anything and everything he says to Clay Skipper of GQ being fair game. This year, it’s Mayfield, who blurted out his opinion about the Giants and Jones after noticing a SportsCenter segment about the Giants while Mayfield and Skipper were having a meal.
It’s disingenuous, in my view, for reporters to play that “gotcha!” game, treating every word uttered during an encounter with the subject of an interview as fair game unless and until the subject of the interview utters the magic words: “Off the record.” And for people who cover the NFL on a regular basis, those tactics are among the quickest ways to run out of people to interview.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve interviewed more players and coaches than I can remember; the number likely falls somewhere between 250 and 500. And there have been plenty of interesting and/or funny things said before the interview officially began. And I’ve never repeated anything that was said before the interview officially began, even though the comments rarely were accompanied by the invocation of “off the record.”
Maybe that makes me not as good as I could be at my job. (There are plenty of things that could be pointed to in order to prove that true.) Maybe I missed that day in J-School. (In fairness to me, I missed all of them.) But it ultimately comes down to how we treat others, and it feels improper and wrong to on one hand try to get people comfortable and relaxed for an interview and on the other hand rush to highlight the things they say while they are comfortable and relaxed, but before they realize that the interview actually has begun.
And because GQ isn’t regularly interviewing NFL players, they don’t have to worry about Ramsey being pissed or Mayfield being pissed or the next guy being pissed. Because there will always be a next guy who gladly accepts the chance to have a photo spread in GQ if it means submitting to an interview with someone who isn’t a sports reporter and thus who won’t ask any questions that could lead to problematic answers.
Until realizing, once the story is published, that something they didn’t even realize was an official answer became the problematic answer.
In case you were wondering, the GQ correspondent Clay Skipper is indeed the son of John Skipper, once the skipper of the ESPN ship until it ran afoul of cultural rocks in a woke sea.
Clay Travis is not impressed:
Baker Mayfield’s shots at Daniel Jones were cliched, dumb, and totally out of nowhere. Definition of feuding down. Does Baker really think he would have won big if he’d been at Duke? Plus, Patrick Mahomes didn’t win much in college, seems to have turned out okay for him.
QB DANIEL JONES is classy per Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Giants head coach Pat Shurmur shrugged at Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield questioning the team’s decision to draft Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick this year and Jones did the same during his own turn in front of reporters on Tuesday.
Jones said he’s “got a lot to focus on here” when asked about Mayfield saying that it “blows my mind” that the Giants would take a quarterback who didn’t have a winning record in college. Jones added that he believes he is a winner and finished off with a comment that suggests being around Eli Manning the last few months has had an impact on Jones.
“I think he’s a great player. He can throw it and I enjoy watching him play,” Jones said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Duke went 17-19 with Jones as a starter, which isn’t particularly impressive. As Texas Tech’s 13-16 record with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback illustrates, it’s also not necessarily anything that predicts what will happen at the professional level.
Mayfield says his remarks were taken out of context.
After a GQ interview that featured his comments about Giants quarterback Daniel Jones spread like wildfire on Tuesday, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has weighed in on the response to those comments.
Mayfield was quoted as saying that he “cannot believe” the Giants picked Jones sixth overall and that it “blows my mind.” After writer Clay Skipper told Mayfield it seemed that scouts can’t accurately predict who will be a good quarterback, Mayfield is “forget you’ve gotta win” and then goes on to say a player has “a history of winning and being that guy for your team or you don’t.”
In response to an Instagram post compiling those quotes without Skipper’s interjection that Mayfield posted to his Instagram story, Mayfield took issue with the way those comments have been presented.
“This is not what I said . . . just so we’re clear,” Mayfield wrote. “I also said I was surprised I got drafted number one. Then was talking about the flaws in evaluating QBs. Where I brought up winning being important. Reporters and media will do anything to come up with a click bait story. Heard nothing but good things and wish nothing but the best for Daniel.”
Jones has already shrugged off the comments about him and said he enjoys watching Mayfield play, so we’ll see if the reactions to the reactions cause everyone to move on to something else before Tuesday is out.
For what it’s worth, Mayfield’s mind wasn’t the only one blown that Jones was the 6th overall pick.
Charles Trainor, Jr. in the Miami Herald has a list of Dolphins vets who may not make the final cut. LB KIKI ALONSO is the biggest name:
On every NFL team, there are usually a handful of accomplished veteran players at risk of being purged as the calendar trudges toward NFL cut-down day Aug. 31. But that’s even more the case with these rebuilding Dolphins, who appear intent on investing in youth and retaining promising fledgling talent.
Among the positions where established Dolphins veterans are at risk:
▪ Receiver: Among Allen Hurns, Brice Butler and Isaiah Ford, there’s a decent chance one could stick as a sixth receiver. But it’s difficult to fathom more than one making the 53-man roster, barring injuries.
Only $500,000 of Hurns’ contract (which is worth up to $3 million with active-roster incentives) is guaranteed, and he’s had a quiet preseason, playing the fewest snaps of all available receivers against Tampa Bay and catching three passes for 24 yards in preseason.
The size of his contract (including the $2.5 million base) likely works against him, with contracts becoming fully guaranteed Sept. 3. And now Hurns is out with an undisclosed injury. Hurns would earn $31,250 for every regular-season game in which he is on the team’s active roster ($500,000 maximum).
Butler has has had some good moments in preseason (five catches, 51 yards) and his $805,000 non-guaranteed deal is cheaper than Hurns’ contract.
And Ford, set to earn $570,000 if he makes the team, is the cheapest of the three and received a lot of first-team work last week with injuries to three veterans. The former seventh-round pick, who has appeared in one regular-season game, has two catches for 20 yards in preseason. Special teams will factor into this decision.
▪ Offensive line: With Brian Flores on Monday giving a vote of confidence to a lineup including Jesse Davis at right tackle, it’s clear that Jordan Mills — who began the offseason as the starting right tackle — is at serious risk. Only $1 million of Mills’ $3 million salary is guaranteed.
Though Chris Reed lost his starting guard job after the change in offensive line coaches, his versatility, ability to play backup center and ability to step in at guard if one of the projected rookie starters struggles are three factors that give him a good chance to stick. And he’s relatively cheap at $1.7 million.
Beyond Mills, veterans with NFL experience who appear in serious jeopardy of being purged: Kyle Fuller and Will Holden. And Zach Sterup needs a strong close to preseason.
▪ Tight end: The Dolphins aren’t going to give up on Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe a year after drafting them, and Nick O’Leary has been the best of the tight ends in preseason. That leaves a potential fourth spot between Dwayne Allen and Clive Walford.
Allen has been slowed by a knee injury since May and played only seven snaps Friday. But Allen started that Tampa Bay game (with O’Leary) and it would be surprising if the Dolphins dumped Allen — their projected starter at the position — even though Walford has had some good moments (three catches, 44 yards in preseason).
▪ Linebacker: Sam Eguavoen’s emergence and Jerome Baker’s evolution — and the fact Miami is expected to play three linebackers less than half the time — have left Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan in a tenuous position. McMillan obviously is not going to be released, but his playing time likely will be impacted.
Alonso’s standing is less clear, with a club source declining to assure that he will definitely be here this season. Cutting him would save almost no cap space but would come with substantial cash savings.
Releasing Alonso would carry $8.2 million in dead money and just a $25,000 cap savings but would save Miami $4 million in cash, per overthecap.com.
But if Miami can trade Alonso, there would be $1.3 million in dead money and $7 million in cap savings. Finding a trade partner might be difficult, though, because the team acquiring him would be responsible for the entire $6.5 million base salary, including the $2.5 million guaranteed in March.
Alonso and McMillan remained out Monday with undisclosed injuries.
Chase Allen, who has been injured throughout camp, has an uphill climb to make the 53. The Dolphins are still trying to determine what they have in two recent additions: former Jaguars linebacker Nick DeLuca (started Friday and was solid against the run while struggling in coverage) and former Chiefs player Terrance Smith.
▪ Defensive line: Two established NFL players, Adolphus Washington and Akeem Spence, could be competing for one job, unless Miami keeps five defensive tackles. Washington was very good Friday, with five tackles. Nate Orchard (two sacks in preseason) would help himself further with a strong close to preseason.
▪ Defensive backs: Veterans Tyler Patmon and Maurice Smith, former sixth-round pick Cornell Armstrong and second-year corner Jalen Davis are among those in serious jeopardy.
▪ Long snapper: A decision looms on highly-regarded rookie Wes Farnsworth’s bid to unseat 15-year veteran John Denney.
The writing was on the wall when the Patriots drafted P JAKE BAILEY. Now, the writing is on the waiver wire for RYAN ALLEN. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com explains how the move will get the Patriots punting game off on the right foot in 2019:
Veteran punter Ryan Allen, who was one of the unsung performers in the New England Patriots’ victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, has been informed that the club is releasing him, a source confirmed.
Rookie Jake Bailey of Stanford, whom the Patriots traded up to select in the fifth round (163rd overall), will take over the job Allen had held since 2013.
The selection of Bailey created longer odds for Allen to stick, even though he had one of the best performances of his career in the Super Bowl.
An adept directional punter whose control helped offset a lack of power, Allen had five punts for 215 yards in the Super Bowl, with three punts downed inside the 10. In a 13-3 victory in which field position was critical, Allen was a legitimate consideration for MVP honors.
The Super Bowl was played indoors, which also played to Allen’s strengths. The Patriots have a notable history of left-footed punters under coach Bill Belichick, including Ken Walter, Josh Miller, Chris Hanson, Zoltan Mesko and Allen, all of whom have excelled at situational and directional punting.
Now the right-footed Bailey breaks the mold. He was considered one of the most powerful punters in this year’s draft. He also projects to serve as the holder on field goals, a role Allen filled.
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QB PHILIP RIVERS of the Chargers offered his perspective on whether or not QB TOM BRADY is the Greatest Of All-Time – and questions whether or not we put too much of a premium on Super Bowl rings. John Breech of CBSSports.com:
Tom Brady has won more Super Bowls than any player in NFL history, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the best quarterback of all time, and New England Patriots fans, before you grill me for saying that Brady’s not the best, I would just like you to know that’s not my hot take — that take is from Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
During a recent interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Rivers was asked if he thought Brady was the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, and let’s just say the GOAT debate isn’t an open and shut case for him. The reason Rivers isn’t ready to crown Brady as the best ever is because he doesn’t think the number of Super Bowls a quarterback has won should be the main factor in whether or not someone is crowned the GOAT.
To make his point, Rivers brought up the end of Super Bowl XLIX.
“I remember thinking when the Patriots beat the Seahawks, when they had that interception against the Seahawks down [on the goal line] and that gave them what, their [fourth] championship?” Rivers said. “You know everyone said, ‘Well, he’s now the greatest of all time.’ And I thought to myself, I already thought he was already one of [the greatest] — I mean, how do you ever decide that? It’s like the old Michael Jordan [debate], right? We could talk about that forever, too — but I already thought he was already one of the greatest of all-time, but because they intercepted the pass, he’s now the greatest of all time? What if the Seahawks were to run it in? And the Seahawks were to have won? Brady would have just played the exact same game. He didn’t do anything different, you know?”
The Patriots have played in some crazy Super Bowls and although Brady is 6-3, he could just as easily be 3-6.
“It is funny how that works, so I don’t look at that [Super Bowl wins],” Rivers said.
If you’re wondering who Rivers considers to be in the GOAT conversation, he didn’t really offer any other names, except for one: Dan Marino.
“That’s why I always think Marino is right there in the mix, too,” Rivers said. “All these guys. You can’t just go off that [Super Bowl wins]. I don’t think that you can. Not in this sport, especially.”
Basically, Rivers is saying that Brady is definitely in the conversation as the greatest quarterback ever, but he’s not necessarily at the top of the list. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, Rivers doesn’t think he’s better than Brady.
“No, I don’t think I can say that,” Rivers said. “A Brady-led team versus a Rivers-led team, we’re [winless]. That’s just tells you a little bit head-to-head.”
Rivers is 0-5 against Brady.
The one thing that’s interesting about Rivers’ take is that he knows way more about being an NFL quarterback than almost anyone alive, which means his opinion definitely carries some weight. If Rivers doesn’t think Brady is necessarily the GOAT, it would be fascinating to find out if any other NFL quarterbacks feel the same way.
We would argue that it isn’t winning six close Super Bowls that makes Brady the greatest. It is that he got to nine of them.
THIS AND THAT
TRENDS FOR 2019
From ESPN’s experts:
We asked seven of our NFL experts to predict an on- or off-field trend for the upcoming season. Here are some things you might see this year.
A play-action explosion
The rate of play-action across the league has crept up from 19% of dropbacks to 21% and finally to 23% over the past three seasons. But after the Rams reached the Super Bowl running more play-action than any other team, it’s particularly in vogue at the moment. And it’s also more than just a hot trend: Play-action dropbacks averaged 7.8 yards per play last season, while non-play-action dropbacks managed just 6.1. It makes sense for all teams to run it more. — Seth Walder, analytics writer
More man coverage from defenses
Watch for more teams to align the free safety in the post and challenge routes at the line of scrimmage with aggressive man-coverage technique. That’s going to limit the open voids in coverage, while putting defenders in a positive position to counter the quick-game passing, play-action and run-pass options that we see from today’s pro offenses. — Matt Bowen, NFL analyst
Shorter-term veteran contract extensions
No, quarterbacks haven’t followed Kirk Cousins’ lead since he signed for three fully guaranteed years in March 2018. But with the end of the CBA looming, more salary-cap growth projected in coming years and uncertainty about what new cap rules will be under the next CBA, don’t be surprised if some of the bigger-name guys sign shorter-term deals with more up-front cash and then see where things stand big-picture once those deals expire. — Dan Graziano, national NFL writer
Today’s top playcallers are eager to spike the game with creativity. Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy showed his gift for gadgetry last season, and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid is at his best when he expands the playbook. And the college influence on the pro game is growing, with Kliff Kingsbury bringing his Air Raid to Arizona. Nothing emboldens good quarterbacks or masks the shortcomings of average ones quite like a triple-layered misdirection play smothered in sauce. — Jeremy Fowler, Steelers reporter
A jump in offensive holding penalties
NFL officials have been given two points of emphasis for the season: enforcing the helmet rule and focusing on a backside technique they refer to as the “lobster block.” Flags spiked early in the preseason, and even if most players adjust, officials will still be looking closely for it during the early part of the regular season. — Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer
More early-down passing
Over the last 15 years, the rate at which teams have been dialing up throws instead of runs on first down has slowly been climbing. Last year, the league passed 52.7% of the time at the beginning of a series, up from 47.4% in 2006. Teams have begun to realize that passing is more efficient, with the passer rating on those throws hitting a whopping 95.3. I wouldn’t be surprised if this rate takes another leap this season, given the abundance of quality quarterbacks. — Mina Kimes, NFL writer
Air yards per attempt continues to decrease
In 2011, the league was averaging 8.5 air yards per attempt. But that number has decreased every season since. Last year was the first time since the stat was first tracked in 2006 that the league average was below 8.0 yards (7.9 to be exact). — Vince Masi, ESPN Stats & Information