AROUND THE NFL
This from Rick Gosselin:
NFL games averaged 13.5 penalties for 115.1 yards last season. Those numbers are up through five weeks of this season — 15.2 penalties for 128.0 yards per game. Not a good trend. Put away the flags, guys.
That said, are they finding penalties where none existed? We would think he should be chastising teams to play cleaner football. We need some tracking on how many are obvious penalties that are being committed in abundance – delays, pre-snap jumps, bad formations, obvious holdings and personal fouls – and how many are judgmental.
Not sure we can just assume that teams are committing the same number of clear penalties and that the officials are making more judgmental calls.
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Michael Silver of NFL.com gets 49ers CB RICHARD SHERMAN makes a serious charge against QB BAKER MAYFIELD.
– As a player whose decorated NFL career has been fueled by a turbulent temperament and a boulder on his shoulder, Richard Sherman understands the nature of rivalry and respects the power of a pugnacious pregame persona.
Yet Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers’ ninth-year cornerback, also views the NFL as a fraternity, and there are certain rituals he considers sacrosanct. When Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns’ brash second-year quarterback, refused to shake Sherman’s hand at midfield just before the coin toss that preceded Monday night’s game at Levi’s Stadium, it triggered him — and many of his Niners teammates — in a profound way.
It would be an exaggeration to cite Mayfield’s snub of Sherman and fellow captain DeForest Buckner as the driving force behind the 49ers’ 31-3 beatdown of the Browns in front of 70,042 fans and a “Monday Night Football” audience, but it was a topic of discussion among the Niners before, during and after the game. And Sherman, who intercepted a Mayfield pass less than two minutes into the first quarter — setting the stage for the quarterback’s long, miserable night — was eager to elaborate when he and I spoke alone at his locker about 20 minutes after the carnage was complete.
“What’s amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning,” Sherman said. “That’s some college s—. It’s ridiculous. We’re all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent — that’s NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that’s disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that’s gonna get us fired up.”
Now remember, this is the same Richard Sherman who in his younger days showed proper decorum by running up and shouting into the face of highly-respected opponents like QB TOM BRADY.
Everyone knows the unwritten rules of the game – shake hands before, yell in their face afterwards.
Except – there is a new invention called a video camera – and several of them were running during the pregame coin toss ceremony.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
It looks like we’ve got a good, old-fashioned #HandshakeGate.
49ers cornerback Richard Sherman claimed after Monday night’s 31-3 win that Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield snubbed them at midfield for the pregame coin toss. Video evidence suggests otherwise.
One video clearly shows Mayfield embracing multiple 49ers captains, including tight end George Kittle. And while this specific video doesn’t conclusively reveal a handshake between Sherman and Mayfield (it also doesn’t show the kind of behavior that such an affront possibly would spark), it shows Mayfield shaking DeForest Buckner‘s hand and not snubbing him in any way.
I found this on the 49ers official Instagram account from their Instagram story last night – don’t see anything disrespectful from Baker here but this is a short clip.
But the article from Mike Silver of NFL.com clearly implies that Mayfield also snubbed Buckner. Mayfield, based on the video, clearly didn’t. Likewise, Silver’s article downplays the interaction between Mayfield and 49ers tight end George Kittle as a “quick handslap.” Based on the video, it was more than that.
Another angle of the interaction prior to the coin flip, which is one grassy knoll short of qualifying for the Zapruder collection, shows a handshake between Mayfield and Sherman.
So Richard Sherman is mad Baker Mayfield ran off the field and didn’t shake hands a second time during the coin toss? This might be the dumbest controversy of all-time
Sherman has doubled down, insisting on Twitter that Mayfield did not shake Sherman’s hand. But the smoking gun comes from yet another video, displayed on the giant video screen at Levi’s Stadium.
WHAT IS SHERM TALKING ABOUT HE LITERALLY SHOOK BAKER’S HAND
BAKER SHOOK EVERYONE’S HAND
Yes, it’s all silly. But it’s also strange to think that Sherman made such a big deal about something that didn’t happen.
His message is accurate. Professional football players shouldn’t act like Clubber Lang staring down Rocky Balboa. The past decade has shown that they belong to a broader brotherhood that transcends colors and logos, and that takes into account the shared financial and health interests that apply to every NFL player.
But it’s odd for a rant like this to be based on a snub that wasn’t. Mayfield snubbed no one from the 49ers before the game started.
It’s not the warmest of bro hugs, but we certainly would think Mayfield satisfied a rational person’s idea of decorum.
Why are the Cowboys 0-2 after going 3-0? This could be part of it. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Cowboys could be getting closer to getting a major piece back on the field.
During his weekly chat on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he feels good about the chances of left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La’el Collins playing Sunday against the Jets.
“I’m optimistic,” Jones said, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News. “Tyron is looking promising. We’ll see how this week goes. [La’el] is going to be hard to keep out of there.”
Smith missing just one game with his ankle sprain suffered in Week Four would be a significant help. Backup Cameron Fleming doesn’t deserve all of the blame, but the drop-off from Smith is clear.
Collins left Sunday’s loss to the Packers with what was termed an MCL sprain, but if he’s this close it must have been a minor one.
NEW YORK GIANTS
WR GOLDEN TATE III returned last week for the Giants. Adam Maya of NFL.com:
Golden Tate wasn’t happy with his Giants debut. He also wants to make clear he wasn’t unhappy.
In his first game back from a PEDs suspension, and his first overall with New York, Tate caught just three passes for 13 yards in a loss to the Vikings. The veteran wide receiver didn’t say much afterward but apparently gave off the impression that he was already upset with his lack of opportunities.
“I want to be out there as much as possible,” Tate said, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com. “We’ll see. It’s the first week back for me. I hope my role increases. But, we’ll see.”
When asked directly the following day what he meant by those comments, the former Seahawks, Lions and Eagles receiver said it’s in his DNA to always want more.
“First things first, if anyone ever needs clarification, just ask me,” Tate told reporters. “Don’t assume my words. I try to say things and be intentional with them. The only thing that I was saying is that I hope I’m more involved at some point. But I do understand that this is my first week back, there is a process to this. You don’t just throw someone right in the fire when things can happen in another way.
“I am very happy to be a New York Giant, I am very happy to be back in this locker room and playing football. I think it would be more alarming if I said, ‘No, I don’t want to play more, I don’t want more passes.’ I would look at that guy a little funny. As a player who sees himself as a playmaker, I don’t think there’s ever going to be too many opportunities. Anytime that I have a chance to be on the field, get the ball in my hands, I feel like that’s an opportunity to make a special play or do something great to help our offense or bring a spark.
“Of course, I’m always going to want more opportunities. If we play 70 plays and I play 61 of them, the way I’m built, I want to play all 70. That’s more opportunity for me. That’s the only thing I was trying to say. I am far from being unhappy.”
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With a short week, the Giants may be without four of their best weapons on Thursday. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Giants offense is shaping up to be a skeleton crew for Thursday night’s game against the Patriots.
Running back Saquon Barkley has missed two games with an ankle injury and reports indicate he’s unlikely to play even though the Giants say it is a possibility. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard and No. 2 back Wayne Gallman both suffered concussions on Sunday, which leaves them all but ruled out for this week already.
Tight end Evan Engram may also be looking at an uphill battle to get on the field. The Giants listed Engram as a non-participant in their estimated practice report on Monday and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that he’s dealing with a sprained MCL.
Per the report, there’s a “real chance” that Engram misses this week’s game as a reult.
Engram leads the Giants with 33 catches, 373 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. Shepard is second in catches and yards, so missing both of them will leave the Giants with a mostly empty offensive cupboard in Week Six.
Redskins honcho Bruce Allen claims that the decision who to play at QB will be the sole property of Interim Coach Bill Callahan. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:
Washington Redskins interim coach Bill Callahan will determine who starts under center Week 6 against the Miami Dolphins. He’s just not ready to announce that decision, only to say it won’t be rookie Dwayne Haskins.
Redskins team president Bruce Allen, speaking to reporters earlier Monday following the morning’s firing of Jay Gruden after five-plus seasons, said Callahan will make the call on which QB would get the start.
“It’ll be up to coach Callahan who plays at any position, the same way it was up to coach Gruden on who’s going to play,” Allen said. “We’re thrilled to have Dwayne here. We think his future is very bright. Whatever gives coach Callahan the formula for success, I’m sure he’s going to do. But you’ll be able to ask him that later today.”
Callahan said the team was still evaluating Case Keenum’s lingering foot injury and would make a decision between him and Colt McCoy for this weekend. Callahan added Haskins, selected 15th overall in the 2019 draft, would eventually get his opportunity to start.
“Not right now. But he will be at some point in time,” Callahan said. “We’re going to continue to develop him and heighten his maturation process and try to get him on schedule so that he is prepared. There’s always a possibility that he could be active or de-active. We’ll see as we move along.”
Callahan has served as Washington’s offensive line coach since 2015. In two seasons as the Oakland Raiders head coach (2002-2003), the 63-year-old compiled a 15-17 record.
The Redskins have shuffled quarterbacks through their 0-5 start. Keenum started the first four games of the season to middling results. Haskins took over in Week 4 for just over half the game, threw three interceptions, and didn’t look ready for action. Gruden favorite McCoy got the start Sunday and was crushed by the New England Patriots, completing 18 of 27 passes for just 119 yards, taking six sacks and throwing one INT.
Allen earlier denied rumors that Gruden didn’t prefer Haskins when the Redskins made the Ohio State quarterback the No. 15 overall pick, saying that everyone in the draft room was on the same page.
“When we’re setting the draft board, the coaches are involved, and they sign off on everything,” he said. “As far as playing, we’re excited as hell to have him on this football team. And we think he has a great future ahead of him. He’s working very hard. He’s learning the system. When coach Callahan decides to put him in, he’ll make that decision, but Jay was excited about Dwayne Haskins.”
Allen noted that Gruden was not fired “for cause.”
Allen repeatedly rebutted the notion that his 0-5 team — with an offensive line that struggles to block, a dearth of weapons, a defense that ranks among the worst against the pass and middling against the run, with next to no depth on either side of the ball — is a mess.
“The culture is actually damn good,” Allen said.
Since Allen joined Washington in 2010, the Redskins have compiled a record of 59-89-1 with zero playoff wins in two appearances.
“We’re all involved in this,” Allen said when asked about his level of accountability with the team’s 0-5 start. “I don’t ever want to hide from our record. I don’t want to hide from things that didn’t go the way that we wanted them to go. All we can do is work. Do I believe in the group that’s here? Yes. I think Doug (Williams) and Kyle (Smith) had a great draft. I think they had a few great drafts. I see what the coaches are trying to accomplish. I see what the people do at the stadium. They’re great workers. They care about this team, they care about his franchise. And I’m not saying I care more than anyone, but I absolutely want what’s best for the Washington Redskins, and we’re going to make sure we do it.”
Allen, who reiterated he has no plans to trade disgruntled left tackle Trent Williams at this time, rejected the idea that the organization has cycled through endless team-building plans and always comes up short. He even suggested that had Alex Smith not suffered a brutal injury last year, Gruden might still have a job.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that it’s never,” Allen said of the team-building plans often going awry. “Last year at this time, we’re in first place and we’re doing well. So, it was working pretty damn good. Unfortunately, our quarterback got injured. The pieces are here for a winning team. We have to put them in the right place, believe in each other, and keep fighting for our goal. There is only one way you win, you have to work, and you have to get better, and you have to beat your opponent. And that’s what we have to do. I believe these players, and these coaches will do that.”
The first thing his new interim coach will have to do is land on a quarterback to start against the similarly struggling Miami Dolphins.
Kimberley Martin of YahooSports.com takes a verbal swing at Allen:
Two words would have made it all better.
Bruce Allen could have stood before the media on Monday and offered a semblance of sincere regret, an ounce of accountability and, more important, a palatable solution.
With one breath, the Washington Redskins president could have signaled the dawn of a new day for this downtrodden franchise. And all it would have taken was a true act of contrition on Allen’s part. And these two words: “I resign.”
Short of such a dramatic announcement, nothing about the Redskins has significantly changed.
Dan Snyder still owns the team.
Allen is still running it how he sees fit.
And another scapegoat has been shown the door.
A day after the team fell to 0-5 with an embarrassing home loss to New England, the organization fired head coach Jay Gruden. And in the aftermath of another franchise-defining move, Allen stood alone in front of the cameras, offering nothing more than empty assurances and blaming a coach he no longer employs.
“The pieces are here for a winning team,” Allen said, attempting to lay the responsibility of Washington’s winless record at Gruden’s feet alone.
Allen went on to note that under the “discipline and execution” of interim head coach Bill Callahan, “we believe we’re given the best opportunity to beat the Miami Dolphins and for the rest of the year.”
Gruden had drawn the ire of fans over his five-plus seasons, and deservedly so. In truth, his dismissal was 10 months too late. A lame-duck coach in preservation mode is never a good pairing for a rookie quarterback in need of development and patience. And yet somehow, Snyder and Allen were oblivious to the organization’s need to hit the reset button this past offseason, not in Week 5.
Allen tried to convince the masses that they’re now headed in the right direction. But the Redskins are no better off today without Gruden — the longest-tenured coach under Snyder — than they were on Sunday, when they were getting manhandled by Tom Brady’s Patriots.
According to players, Gruden carried himself like a dead man walking in recent days. While his firing was expected, those within the locker room are not wholly convinced that his absence will spur immediate success.
Because it’s the front office that bears the brunt of the blame for what Washington has become: a joke.
Despite having plenty of sharp football minds internally, the Redskins are often guided by Allen’s arrogance and Snyder’s stubbornness. The switch to Callahan, a respected veteran coach, won’t change the fact that this team is 59-92-1 since Allen took over and will eventually look to hire a seventh full-time head coach under Snyder.
Allen preferred not to confront painful truths on Monday.
“The culture is actually damn good,” he said defiantly, refusing to acknowledge the on-field futility and off-field shenanigans that have become synonymous with Snyder’s 20-year reign.
On a day when Redskins fans desperately needed clarity and a sliver of hope to cling to five weeks into the season, Snyder conveniently hid from view and Allen deflected questions aimed at his influence.
Asked specifically about his level of accountability for the team’s struggles, Allen noted “we’re all involved in this,” but quickly shifted the focus to the efforts of vice president of player personnel Doug Williams and director of college scouting Kyle Smith. “I’m not saying I care more than anyone,” he added, for no apparent reason, “but I absolutely want what’s best for the Washington Redskins and we’re going to make sure we do it.”
The shame of it is, Allen operates as if his fanbase is comprised of simpletons.
The Redskins still aren’t close to declaring Dwayne Haskins, their 15th overall pick, their starter. And, for some unconscionable reason, Allen would rather let veteran left tackle Trent Williams sit out the entire season than attempt to recoup some value for him in an in-season trade.
Yet, Washington’s front office would rather have us believe that Gruden was the real issue all along.
“To make a decision like this is difficult, but it was necessary,” Allen said.
Really, there was nothing “difficult” about finding another scapegoat for more years of mismanagement and mediocrity. And neither Snyder nor Allen appear ready to do what, truly, is in the best interest of the franchise.
Perhaps when Allen is gone — or if Snyder ever sells the team — respectability will finally return Washington.
And, perhaps, “a damn good culture” will return too.
What’s up with TE O.J. HOWARD? Adam Maya of NFL.com:
Tight end O.J. Howard said the Saints’ defensive scheme surprised the Buccaneers. Howard is also surprised by his own team’s offensive scheme. Namely, that it hasn’t involved him more.
“A little bit, but it’s just one of those things where you’ve got to stay at it,” Howard said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Sometimes we don’t play teams who give us what we thought we were going to get on film. So it’s one of those things where you have to keep going and hopefully you get the good looks.”
His head coach intimated Howard needs to create more separation and give quarterback Jameis Winston good looks as well.
“It’s just a matter of opportunities,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s going out for passes. It’s just whether he’s getting open.”
That wasn’t thought to be an issue for Howard entering Year 3. After modest production his first two seasons, 2019 was supposed to be a breakout campaign in Arians’ new offense. Instead, Howard has just 11 catches for 141 yards. Even his 12.8 yards per catch is down about four yards from his career average.
The Alabama product believes it’s partly a product of how teams are defending him. He had just one catch for 10 yards in a 31-24 loss to New Orleans this past Sunday.
“Nobody’s going to keep it vanilla for you the whole time,” he said afterward. “They’re going to show different looks. They’re going to bring different pressures that you don’t expect. But that’s why sometimes you have plays that are designed to (beat) any coverage or any look you get.”
That would seem to be a shot at an offensive system that is producing 55.7 less yards per game compared to last season but 4.4 more points. Interestingly, that’s come without Howard scoring a touchdown. He has 11 of them in his brief career, and it stands to reason the 2-3 Bucs would be better off if he added to that tally soon.
Fortune favored the bold as Kliff Kingsbury eschewed a field goal and an early 3-0 lead on Sunday. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez leads the NFL in a stat that isn’t necessarily a good one.
Gonzalez is 8-for-8 on field goals in the 20-29-yard range, easily the most of any kicker in the league. No other kicker has attempted more than four field goals from 20-29 yards. Obviously, that means the Cardinals are often stalling in goal-to-go situations and settling for field goals.
On Sunday, that changed. And not coincidentally, the Cardinals got their first win.
On Arizona’s first drive at Cincinnati, the Cardinals faced fourth-and-2 at the Bengals’ 6-yard line. Kingsbury eschewed the 24-yard field goal and decided to go for it, and quarterback Kyler Murray ran around the left end, picked up the first down and then lunged toward the pylon and scored the touchdown to give Arizona a 7-3 lead.
The four-point difference between a touchdown and field goal would prove extremely important in a game the Cardinals won 26-23. Perhaps Kingsbury will see how well it worked, and stop settling for all those short field goals.
It also helps when you have a good play, unlike the one Kansas City came up with when the Colts stuffed them on 4th down late in Sunday night’s game.
They have long memories at The Ohio State University. Adam Maya of NFL.com:
From the trot, to the three swings to the planting, Nick Bosa’s timing was perfect. The only thing missing was a flag. It was one of few times Monday night that Bosa’s hands weren’t full.
Baker Mayfield, the individual whom Bosa was mimicking with the gesture, served as a pretty good stand-in otherwise.
“I think everybody knows what that was for,” Bosa said after his 49ers demolished the Browns 31-3, per The Plain Dealer. “Just wanted to get payback. He had it coming.”
For two years, apparently. In September of 2017, moments after his Oklahoma Sooners beat Bosa’s Ohio State Buckeyes, Mayfield took to midfield with a Sooners flag and intentionally grounded it into the Buckeyes’ “O” logo.
A side by side of the two demonstrations shows Bosa being almost perfectly in sync with Mayfield. Bosa said he didn’t rehearse his reenactment, his dish of revenge simply served cold.
“The image was in my head pretty good so I kind of had a good idea,” Bosa said.
The 49ers rookie defensive end knew his opponent just as well, leading the charge against Mayfield with two sacks, five quarterback hits and one indelible impression. The flag-planting didn’t follow a sack but rather a knockdown, in which Mayfield got the ball out just in time to earn an intentional grounding.
Still, the highlight served as a microcosm for the 49ers’ dominant display on the defensive line.
“I got a lot of one-on-one opportunities tonight and I knew I could win them,” Bosa said. “Having Dee (Ford) burning off the edge, inside guys, (Armstead), (Buckner) just closing in on Baker, Baker couldn’t see anything downfield. Some of my sacks should go to them.”
San Francisco collected four of them, as well as two interceptions, while holding Mayfield to 100 yards on 8-of-22 passing.
“I don’t know how anybody thought (Mayfield) would be able to see over Arik (Armstead) and (DeForest Buckner), but he was panicking,” Bosa said, per the Sacramento Bee. “He was double clutching, rolling back and forth, we had him rattled all game.”
Bosa admitted afterward he was in Mayfield’s ear as much as anyone throughout a forgettable evening for the Browns quarterback. Bosa, of course, hadn’t forgotten about Mayfield’s actions in Columbus two years ago.
“I don’t usually talk, but this game he had it coming,” Bosa said. “He didn’t say one word back.”
It’s not often Mayfield has been kept quiet both on and off the field.
Even with Sunday’s win, shrewd shoppers may find bargains for sale in Denver. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported before Sunday’s win by the Broncos that just about anyone except Von Miller could be available in a trade if the team continues to struggle. Perhaps the Broncos were watching “NFL GameDay Morning” and gained inspiration from Ian before their victory in front of the Broncos faithful in Los Angeles, although it’s hard to imagine this team rallying enough to change its long-term fate.
The 1-4 Broncos face the Titans, Chiefs and Colts before the trade deadline, and even a 3-5 record might not be enough to stop John Elway from looking for value. The veteran Sanders is the most logical target. Teams like the Patriots, Saints and even Raiders should be looking for receiver help, and Sanders has shown he’s recovered from the Achilles surgery he underwent last year. Even after a quiet day in Los Angeles, Sanders is on pace for nearly 1,000 yards in the final year of his current contract.
Harris, like Sanders, is on the final year of his contract. Harris didn’t get the extension he wanted from Elway before the season, although the two sides agreed on a raise for 2019. Wolfe wasn’t playing well early in the year before suffering a high ankle sprain, but he’s another contract-year player who could draw interest. Only a winning streak by the Broncos seems likely to prevent Elway from saying goodbye to some of the last remaining pieces of the team’s 2015 championship team.
The PK CAIRO SANTOS Era is over in Nashville. The AP:
The Tennessee Titans have released kicker Cairo Santos a day after he missed three field goals and had a fourth blocked.
The Titans announced the move Monday.
Santos missed field goals from 50, 36 and 53 yards with a 36-yarder blocked by Darryl Johnson in a 14-7 loss to Buffalo on Sunday. Santos apologized at his locker after the game with the native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, saying he’d never had a day like that anywhere.
Santos had been signed Sept. 4 when they put veteran Ryan Succop on injured reserve, a move designed to let Succop gain strength after having surgery this offseason on his kicking leg. Succop remains three weeks away from being eligible to be activated off injured reserve.
The Titans (2-3) also waived offensive lineman David Quessenberry.
This is the second straight year the Titans have released a player after a loss to Buffalo. Last year, receiver Nick Williams was released after dropping a would-be touchdown in a 13-12 loss in Buffalo.
Tennessee visits Denver (1-4) next.
The Patriots have waived TE BENJAMIN WATSON.
The New England Patriots released veteran tight end Benjamin Watson as his roster exemption expired at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, making him a free agent, Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston reports.
Watson, who had returned from a four-game NFL suspension last week, reacted to the decision on Twitter.
The God of victory is also God in failure. I gave my all, but it was not enough to earn a spot on the @Patriots roster. I’m beyond disappointed but even more upset for my family who has supported me with all the love a husband and father could ask for.They are my heroes. Rom 8:28
This means the Patriots will go with four-year veteran Matt LaCosse and second-year player Ryan Izzo at tight end. Head coach Bill Belichick noted after Sunday’s 33-7 win over the Washington Redskins that it was nice to have both tight ends active, and contributing, as LaCosse had missed time early in the season with an ankle injury.
NEW YORK JETS
Adam Maya of NFL.com says QB SAM DARNOLD is done with mono and good to go:
Sam Darnold is back.
The Jets quarterback has been cleared to play this Sunday versus the Cowboys, the team announced. Darnold has been sidelined since Week 2 with mononucleosis.
His return comes at a desperate time for New York, which is 0-4 and has been hapless on offense in his absence. Gang Green ranks last in the league in total offense (179.5 yards per game) and 31st in scoring (9.8 points). Vyncint Smith’s 19-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to the Eagles was the offense’s first touchdown in three games without Darnold.
The second-year QB took the majority of practice reps coming out of a Week 4 bye in hopes of playing at Philly but wasn’t cleared after tests showed his spleen remained enlarged. Luke Falk got a second start in Darnold’s place — Trevor Siemian started Week 2 against the Browns and suffered a season-ending ankle injury — and turned the ball over three times in a 31-6 blowout.
Darnold has said he first felt ill in the days leading up to the season opener. The Jets squandered a 16-0 lead to the Bills in Week 1, with Darnold struggling down the stretch. He completed 28 pf 41 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, producing a career-low 4.3 yards per attempt.
New York is already 4.5 games behind the Patriots (and 3.5 behind the Bills) in the AFC East.
THIS AND THAT
ONE GAME YOU NEED TO WIN. PICK YOUR QB
An exercise conducted by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:
The question is simple enough, and one that launches timely bar debate: If you could pick any current NFL quarterback to win you one game, who ya got?
The league is in great hands under center. Aging stars are still tearing it up, young passers are coming for their spots and at least a dozen quarterbacks might be good enough to spark a Super Bowl run.
Still, some consider the question rhetorical. “Really?” one NFL scouting director responded. “Give me the GOAT.”
We asked 25 evaluators — mostly NFL coaches, scouts and execs — to make their selections. Don’t worry about scheme, protections, weather. … Just pick your top guy and go win. There’s a clear victor and a clear nod to the future.
The winner: Tom Brady (14 votes)
Brady’s mushrooming case as the best ever was always going to garner a healthy number of votes, but perhaps his 1977 birth year would sway results. No chance. Physical tools comprise a small fraction of Brady’s greatness, voters say.
This is about engineering. And in a big-game setting, they’ll take his mind all day.
“There’s a level of confidence he gives everyone around him in those moments,” one NFC scout said. “Not sure that any of the young guys are at that level yet.”
Added one AFC exec: “Smarts, swagger and opponents know he’s going to win.”
And he wins 77.9% of the time, easily the best clip in NFL history among longtime starters.
Brady doesn’t dominate every statistic that quantifies clutch play. Drew Brees and Peyton Manning edge Brady in game-winning drives (44) and fourth-quarter touchdown passes (123), though he’s entered plenty of fourth quarters with a sizable lead, given his 211 career wins. His fourth-quarter QBR of 70.9 since 2006 ranks a modest 10th.
But one defensive coach who went against him in two Super Bowls said no player challenges in-game adjustments more. He’s the best at countering different coverages and capitalizing on weaknesses. That shows up in postseason play, when Brady has 13 game-winning drives in 40 games. The next closest active quarterback is Eli Manning with five, followed by Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger, with four apiece. No other quarterback is close to Brady’s 30-10 postseason record.
“Whether it be a backup in the game or a misalignment or assignment, his ability to process information during the game, adjusting and applying it, is like no other,” the coach said. “Most players and coaches have to wait until they see the film after the game. Against Tom, you have to be the best-adjusting team in the league on game day, not hours after, because he sees everything in the moment. That’s what separates him.”
Brady’s play over the past 10 months hasn’t been perfect, which helps Mahomes’ case slightly. Brady is coming off a pedestrian (for his standards) Super Bowl performance, completing 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards and an interception. This season, he’s pacing for a career-worst QBR at 63.0, tying his 2013 performance.
But the 42-year-old Brady is still throwing for more touchdowns (10) and yards (1,409) through five games than his 2009 self over the same span (six touchdowns, 1,344 yards). Brady is on pace for his second 30-touchdown season in three years since turning 40, compared with six 30-score seasons before 40. He’s just as aggressive downfield, averaging 7.7 yards per attempt in his 40s compared with 7.8 in his 30s.
Voters largely don’t care about the numbers, because as one scout pointed out, his mind plays tricks on opponents. “He instills fear,” the scout said. “Teams know he’s going to find a way to beat them, even on his bad days.”
The runner-up: Patrick Mahomes (seven votes)
Check back in December, and Mahomes might close this gap even further. His relative inexperience — with 22 career starts dating back to his rookie year in 2017 — is the only thing holding him back.
One personnel evaluator likened Mahomes’ “wow” factor to Dan Marino’s arrival on the scene in 1983. The arm talent looks freakier by the week.
“He’s doing things at such an early point in his career that we’ve never seen before,” one personnel evaluator said. “The game looks so effortless to him.”
When it comes to big moments, Mahomes loves pressure — literally. Mahomes leads all current quarterbacks in QBR when pressured in the pocket (70.9), averaging 6.75 yards per attempt with 13 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He’s currently pacing for a ho-hum 5,859 passing yards in 2019.
One AFC scout said he doesn’t remember teams stumping for Mahomes before the 2017 draft, and “now he’s taking over our league.”
“From what I’ve heard, the dude is made of all the right stuff,” one NFC coach said. “I also think he is the most talented guy in the league, can do some ridiculous things with the ball throwing it, and he has the escapability and mobility.”
What hurts Mahomes in his case against Brady: the 2018 AFC Championship Game. Mahomes’ biggest game of his short career was arguably his worst, completing 16 of 31 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs were listless for the first 30 minutes of play.
He hasn’t done it on the biggest stage, his detractors say. He will soon enough, his supporters declare.
Also receiving votes: Russell Wilson (2), Ben Roethlisberger (1), Drew Brees (1)
Watching Wilson carve up the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night was another reminder of why he deserves votes. Wilson has 25 game-winning drives in 117 starts, which means he’s pulling off such heroics at least three times each regular season on average. His fourth-quarter numbers are phenomenal, with 72 touchdown passes to 16 interceptions (4.5-1 ratio) and 8.3 yards per passing attempt, better than Brady, Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Roethlisberger.
“He just has the ‘it’ factor in crucial moments,” one NFC exec said.
One AFC scout gives Big Ben the nod, with a convincing argument on the mismatches he creates late in games.
“Difficult to defend due to experience, strength and mobility,” the scout said. “If you pressure, he can shake off a tackler and extend the play with numbers. If you back off, he is patient enough to dink and dunk. In a one-game situation, he can make plays beyond the chalkboard.”
Roethlisberger owns 42 fourth-quarter comebacks, trailing Brady and Brees among current quarterbacks, and he led the league in passing in 2018, his 15th consecutive season without a losing record.
Though Brees leads all NFL players in passing yards, fourth-quarter touchdowns and game-winning drives since 2000, he might be guilty by association. There are two great quarterbacks flourishing at age 40 and older, and the same guy will get the nod most times. But with Brees, one NFC coach pointed out, there’s nothing he can’t do well, and the consistency in late-game situations strengthens any game plan.
“Smart and the ultimate competitor,” said one NFC coach.
Wait… No Aaron Rodgers?
This was a mild surprise. He was mentioned often as second option, with a lot of, “Well, you couldn’t go wrong with Rodgers, but …”
Many voters agreed Rodgers and Mahomes are in their own stratosphere as gifted passers, with the ability to throw accurately from any arm angle or body contortion. But as one scout said, Mahomes wins the tiebreaker because he’s the newer, shinier model; this is not to knock Rodgers, just to acknowledge Mahomes’ play requires a consistent double take right now.
Rodgers’ immense talent overrides any convenient storyline that he’s difficult to work with, one exec said.
“He hasn’t had enough help around him,” the exec said. “Some of the losing in recent years probably hurts his case, but that’s hardly all on him.”
One thing that can’t be taken away from Rodgers: His lethal play against the blitz. Since 2012, Rodgers has a 4.4 touchdown-to-interception ratio (40 touchdowns, nine interceptions) when teams bring pressure, the best clip among quarterbacks on this list.
Looking ahead: Mahomes might overtake Brady soon enough
Brady’s championship pedigree provides comfort in this setting. Uttering the words “six rings” is the only necessary explanation for the Brady pick. Everyone knows exactly what they are getting.
But those who voted for Mahomes didn’t need a debate, either. “Hands down,” said one longtime NFL backup quarterback when declaring his vote for Mahomes. “What he’s doing is silly.”
And Brady’s margin of victory was even larger through the first wave of voting, before Mahomes put his early-season 2019 work on film. In a two-man race, an AFC Championship Game rematch might force a recast.
We kind of like the votes for Wilson if you are talking about right now in 2019.
The San Francisco 49ers are the story of the 2019 Aikman Ratings, and perhaps the NFL. With a 31-3 beatdown of the Browns, the 49ers remain in 2nd place in the Aikman Combined behind the mighty Patriots who are being led by a defense that is playing at a record pace.
San Francisco and New England have clearly separated from the rest of the NFL in the Aikman Combined. The 49ers are 14.1 points in front of the third-place Cowboys, but the gap between Dallas and #12 Kansas City is just 10.9 points.
Every NFL season is different – and in 2019, we have the Patriots being led by a great defense while their offense is an uncharacteristic 11th.
On the other hand, the Ravens traditionally lead with their defense. Yet it is Baltimore that has the top-ranked Aikman Offense after Week 6, while the Ravens defense is just 24th.
Usually Aikman Combined Ratings line up in a manner somewhat consistent with won-loss records. But the Saints – 17th in Aikman Offense, 23rd in Aikman Defense – do not show up as well (21st in Aikman Combined) as their 4-1 record would indicate. We would also note that the Saints are only 22nd if you combine their NFL Yards Only rankings.
2019 Season Aikman Efficiency Ratings Through Week 5
—- Aikman ————– ———- NFL ————
Rank Record Team Comb. Off Def Off Def Comb
1 5-0-0 New England Patriots 189.3 85.1 104.2 11 1 12
2 4-0-0 San Francisco 49ers 181.8 85.6 96.2 4 2 6
3 3-2-0 Dallas Cowboys 167.6 95.9 71.7 1 6 7
4 3-2-0 Minnesota Vikings 165.1 86.0 79.1 18 4 22
5 3-2-0 Philadelphia Eagles 164.9 89.6 75.4 24 10 34
6 4-1-0 Buffalo Bills 162.8 79.9 82.8 12 3 15
7 4-1-0 Seattle Seahawks 162.8 91.6 71.2 7 14 21
8 3-2-0 Baltimore Ravens 160.9 98.2 62.7 3 21 24
9 3-2-0 Houston Texans 160.2 95.5 64.7 9 20 29
10 3-2-0 Chicago Bears 157.5 75.4 82.2 30 5 35
11 4-1-0 Green Bay Packers 157.3 84.7 72.6 25 22 47
12 4-1-0 Kansas City Chiefs 156.7 92.1 64.6 2 25 27
13 2-3-0 Tennessee Titans 154.0 80.8 73.2 27 9 36
14 2-3-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 153.2 83.4 69.8 17 26 43
15 3-2-0 Carolina Panthers 150.8 84.0 66.7 14 8 22
16 3-2-0 Los Angeles Rams 150.7 87.7 63.0 5 13 18
17 2-1-1 Detroit Lions 150.0 82.2 67.8 8 27 35
18 1-4-0 Pittsburgh Steelers 148.7 73.5 75.2 29 16 45
19 3-2-0 Indianapolis Colts 147.3 88.1 59.2 22 15 37
20 1-4-0 Denver Broncos 146.3 78.2 68.2 19 7 26
21 4-1-0 New Orleans Saints 145.9 83.1 62.8 20 19 39
22 3-2-0 Oakland Raiders 145.9 84.4 61.5 21 16 37
23 2-3-0 Jacksonville Jaguars 145.6 83.7 61.9 6 24 30
24 2-3-0 Los Angeles Chargers 143.8 77.6 66.1 13 11 24
25 2-3-0 New York Giants 141.5 77.8 63.7 15 30 45
26 1-3-1 Arizona Cardinals 141.0 81.1 59.9 16 29 45
27 2-3-0 Cleveland Browns 140.3 74.9 65.4 23 18 41
28 1-4-0 Atlanta Falcons 135.6 81.9 53.7 10 23 33
29 0-5-0 Cincinnati Bengals 124.9 64.8 60.1 26 31 57
30 0-4-0 New York Jets 124.2 56.1 68.1 32 12 44
31 0-5-0 Washington Redskins 124.0 66.4 57.6 28 28 56
32 0-4-0 Miami Dolphins 87.1 48.6 38.5 31 32 63
NFL Average: 149.6 81.2 68.4
Ian Rapoport with the news:
Former #Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is coming to a TV near you: Sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo that Gronk has been hired by FOX to appear as a regular analyst for FOX NFL Sunday. A dynamic role for future Hall of Famer.
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FOX cameras spotted Ellen DeGeneres at the Cowboys game sitting next to George W. Bush. Social media reacted – and Ellen had some thoughts on her show. We thought it was a good four-minute listen, and if you haven’t done so you can find it here.
Is QB JALEN HURTS so good now that he has become an NFL prospect? Thoughts from Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN.com:
One of the biggest stories of the college football season has been the dominance of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama and is leading the race for the Heisman Trophy. Could he follow in the footsteps of former Sooners signal-callers Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and be a first-round pick?
Jalen Hurts’ NFL potential
Kiper: I didn’t expect to see this Hurts for the Sooners. In his first two seasons at Alabama — he went 26-2 with a national title as a starter from 2016 to 2017 — I didn’t think he was an NFL prospect. He just wasn’t accurate enough as a passer. I thought maybe he was going to be another star college quarterback who just wasn’t good enough for the NFL, which happens all the time. But then he looked a little bit different last season when he filled in for Tua Tagovailoa. His mechanics looked much better, and his accuracy improved.
McShay: He has continued that improvement at Oklahoma, showing off above-average arm strength and top-tier athleticism as a dual-threat quarterback. Hurts was a winner at Alabama and got the job done in big moments. But his numbers have popped to a new level this season as he learns under Lincoln Riley, who of course produced the past two Heisman Trophy winners and No. 1 picks in Mayfield and Murray. Hurts seems to be worrying less about making mistakes or turning the ball over and instead is playing more “grip-it-and-rip-it” football.
Kiper: The word I’ve used most when describing Hurts’ rate of improvement? Astonishing. It’s night and day from 2016 to now. How much of this improvement are you putting on Riley’s system, Todd?
McShay: It has been tough for me to make a true evaluation off Hurts’ five games at Oklahoma because I’m weighing 30-plus games at Bama versus what he is doing under Riley as a senior. And this system churns out quarterback production. Riley is a wizard in scheming open receivers, and it is making Hurts look good by reducing the difficulty of the throws. One example: Hurts is completing 69% of his passes thrown 10 or more yards in the air, up from 46.4% during his time at Bama. That’s at least partially due to how open pass-catchers are in this system.
Kiper: I would say we have to give Hurts a little more credit here, Todd. This transformation started last season under former Bama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos. Without Hurts’ arm, Alabama would not have won that SEC title game. He threw a much better ball than he did as a freshman and sophomore. That has continued this season, of course, as Hurts is averaging 14 yards per attempt after averaging 7.6 yards from 2016 to 2017. That’s a huge improvement. Overall, he is completing 75.2% of his passes with 14 TDs and two interceptions, and he has rushed for 499 yards (8.8 per carry) with seven touchdowns. His 96.9 Total QBR leads the country.
McShay: But will those numbers translate to the next level? I’m not so sure.
Kiper: We’re still early here, and Oklahoma hasn’t played a good team yet. That changes this weekend against Texas down in Dallas. But what absolutely translates to the NFL is Hurts’ decision-making, as he rarely turns the ball over. He also has shown the ability to throw accurately on the run or step up in the pocket and deliver a ball downfield. The throw that comes to mind is his 74-yard catch-and-run to Charleston Rambo against Texas Tech. Hurts has NFL traits.
McShay: Hurts is a top-three quarterback in college football this season, no doubt, but the harsh reality is that he isn’t a top-five quarterback prospect in this 2020 class. What concerns me is the slow delivery, and he needs to speed up his play processing and get the ball out more quickly. Riley has masked some of those lingering accuracy concerns by giving him open targets. Can Hurts consistently make good throws into tight windows?
Kiper: That’s totally fair. Those tight-window throws separate Hurts from Mayfield and Murray, as those passes are what made them No. 1 picks. Hurts isn’t going to be a No. 1 pick. But he is going to be drafted, and that’s more than I thought after his sophomore season in 2017. Where do you have him, Todd?
McShay: I see Hurts as a Day 3 prospect right now, and a few people I’ve talked to around the league agree. Actually, I think the third round could be his ceiling. But you have to factor in how Mayfield’s and Murray’s seasons go. If they look impressive, the Riley factor gets an even bigger bump. After all, Mayfield’s first-year success helped Murray’s stock. If Mayfield remains inconsistent in Year 2 and Murray continues his rookie struggles, expect the “Riley scheme” narrative to dull NFL teams’ interest in taking an early-round gamble on Hurts.
Kiper: I’m more optimistic here. I don’t think Hurts is going to be a first-round pick, but he could land in Round 2 if he keeps playing this well. I want to see him against the Longhorns and better competition the rest of the way. Remember, he is doing this for an OU team that replaced four starters along the offensive line and lost its best receiver in Marquise Brown, who was drafted in Round 1 by the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t think Hurts is a fluke. He’s legit.