AROUND THE NFL

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com is calling for an intervention by The Commish.  Roger Goodell, says Florio, needs to talk to over-officious Al Riveron ASAP.

 

Prior to the league meetings in March, it seemed that Commissioner Roger Goodell was content to allow the NFL embark on its 100th season without addressing the situation that gave rise to the Rams-Saints debacle in the postseason. Now, it seems that Goodell may be content to allow the NFL to embark on its 100th season without addressing the overcorrection to the situation that gave rise to the Rams-Saints debacle in the postseason.

 

Despite the seemingly high bar that the Competition Committee has crafted for overturning offensive and defensive pass interference calls and non-calls, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron seems to be intent on applying a looser standard, based on comments he recently made to a group of NFL Media employees. The effort to address an egregious non-call of pass interference in the NFC Championship game has led to, in Riveron’s apparent view, a full-blown process for frame-by-frame analysis of judgment calls.

 

It’s one thing to apply a fine-toothed video comb to the question of whether a receiver got two feet in bounds when catching a pass, or whether a fumble happened before a runner’s knee struck the ground. Those questions are objective. Pass interference is subjective, and thus not conducive to the same kind of careful, deliberative assessment that Riveron seems to intend to apply.

 

That’s why the Competition Committee has tried to convey the notion that the extraordinary remedy of overturning a call or non-call pass interference should happen only when the evidence of error is truly clear and obvious. If the error isn’t truly CLEAR and OBVIOUS, the ruling stands.

 

The problem, however, is that Riveron has a proven track record of failing to apply the clear and obvious standard. It happened on multiple occasions in 2017 with the catch rule, and it’s destined to happen again — especially with Riveron telling NFL Media employees that Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore would have been flagged via replay review for pass interference at a key moment in Super Bowl LIII, even though the evidence is neither clear nor obvious that Gilmore significantly hindered Rams receiver Brandin Cooks.

 

That’s where Goodell comes into play. Some believe that Goodell personally intervened with Riveron in 2017, culminating in a couple of touchdown catches in Super Bowl LII that would have been overturned during the season not being overturned during the championship game. Whether Goodell did or didn’t do it then, Goodell needs to do it now.

 

It’s not that difficult. The rules have been changed to address an egregious mistake like the kind that happened in the Rams-Saints game. That’s the line — egregious mistake. A mistake so clear that 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 drunks in a bar would call it a mistake. The non-call on Gilmore wasn’t that kind of mistake. The non-call on Chargers receiver Mike Williams from Week 15 wasn’t that kind of mistake.

 

Riveron doesn’t see it that way. And the responsibility falls on one person — the Commissioner — to ensure that, before September 5, Riveron sees it that way or the league hires someone to handle the replay function who will. Only the integrity of the league’s 100th season is riding on whether the Commissioner personally addresses this problem.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

Doug Williams likes what he sees of QB DWAYNE HASKINS.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Washington Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams says Dwayne Haskins looked during offseason work like he could be capable of winning the starting job by Week One.

 

Williams told Steve Wyche of NFL Network that Haskins, the first-round quarterback out of Ohio State, has a legitimate chance to earn the starting job.

 

“He might end up starting, that could happen,” Williams said. “I don’t want to say he’s going to start Game One today, but it’s been enjoyable to see what Dwayne Haskins has done.”

 

Williams said Haskins’ performance over the last couple months opened some eyes in Washington.

 

“It’s been a great offseason,” Williams said. “To be on the sideline during OTAs and minicamp and see the young guy do what he’s done and take command of the opportunities he’s had.”

 

Haskins is competing with Case Keenum and Colt McCoy to start when Washington opens the season at Philadelphia on September 8.

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

There is an unusual amount of drama for a kicker contract with PK ROBBIE GOULD.

 

The San Francisco 49ers and Robbie Gould remain in a standoff regarding the kicker’s future with the franchise.

 

It doesn’t sound like Gould is ready to acquiesce quietly to the franchise tag and play out the season just yet.

 

“It’s a complicated situation,” Gould told NBC Chicago. “The way I’ve kind of approached it is, I want to spend time with my family. And I let my agent handle it, and if anything comes up that I have to make a decision or be in the know, he’ll call me and let me know. But right now there’s nothing to really know, and I’m just enjoying being home and being in Chicago.

 

“I’m at a point in my career where my family is what’s going to dictate the decisions that I make.”

 

Gould spent his first 11 seasons with the Bears and still makes his offseason home in Chicago. The 14-year veteran is expected to be a free agent after this season, and presumably — given his desire to play close to his family and the Bears struggles to pin down a reliable kicker — would be playing for the McCaskey family again were it not for the 49ers slapping him with the franchise tag. Gould has requested a trade. The 49ers rejected the notion.

 

The kicker skipped offseason workouts — since he has not signed the $4.971 million franchise tender, like Le’Veon Bell last season, he cannot be fined for missing mandatory minicamp.

 

The 36-year-old’s first comments on his impasse with the 49ers came during the Robbie Gould Celebrity Golf Invitational at Medinah Country Club to raise funds for Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Gould’s ties to the city run deep.

 

“This city’s been incredible,” Gould said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “No matter where I’ve gone, no matter where I’ve lived, no matter where I’ve played, Chicago has always been home.”

 

Regardless of whether the kicker prefers to play for his home team or not, the 49ers control his rights. His choices at this stage are to sign the tag and play out the season, pull a Le’Veon Bell, or pray the Niners have a change of heart.

 

Since the Bears released Gould in 2016 after two down seasons, the kicker has been one of the most accurate booters in the NFL, nailing 82 of 85 field goals. It’s not a surprise the Niners want to keep him another season.

 

The 49ers and Gould have until July 15 to strike a long term solution, but unless the veteran is playing an impressive negotiating game by pining to move back to his home team, that deadline seems likely to pass without movement.

 

And the Bears kicking situation is essentially open.

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

A Missouri judge named Limbaugh tacks $24 million onto the cost of the Rams leaving St. Louis.  The AP:

 

A federal judge has approved a settlement calling for the NFL’s Rams to pay up to $24 million to personal seat license holders in St. Louis.

 

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. approved the settlement Monday.

 

Several St. Louis PSL holders filed a class-action lawsuit after the team moved to Los Angeles in January 2016. Thousands of fans in St. Louis had purchased PSLs that were good for 30 seasons, which was the length of the lease at the domed stadium where the Rams played in St. Louis. Rams owner Stan Kroenke took the team to California after 21 seasons.

 

The lawsuit calls for PSL holders to get 30% of the original purchase price, a refund for the nine unused years of the seat license fee, plus damages.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

EDGE VON MILLER is ecstatic about RT Ja’WUAN JAMES.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Trading for quarterback Joe Flacco got the Broncos their biggest headlines of the offseason, but it wasn’t the only major addition to their offense.

 

Denver signed right tackle Ja’Wuan James to a four-year, $51 million contract after free agency opened in March and the deal leaves him behind only Raiders tackle Trent Brown on the list of highest-paid players at the position.

 

James’s time with the Dolphins may have led some to question the size of the commitment that the Broncos made to James. Linebacker Von Miller sent a message to those people with recent comments about what it’s like to practice against him.

 

“He’s the best right tackle I’ve had to go against [in practice] throughout my whole career here and I said that last year with Jared Veldheer and we got even better this year with Ja’Wuan James so I get to spar, get better and sharpen the sword every day with him and [left tackle] Garett Bolles. It’s going to be a great year for the offense and defense,” Miller said, via the Denver Post.

 

Miller’s been able to thrive regardless of who is going up against in practice, although that hasn’t helped the Broncos make the playoffs the last three years. Offensive shortcomings have played a big role in that drought, so a strong year from James would be much appreciated in Denver.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

The Raiders new stadium will have professional management.  Although, when you get down to the fine print, Richard Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reveals it is the same company that created a Black Hole.

 

AEG Facilities, a division of venue and live-entertainment company AEG, will manage the new Las Vegas stadium when it opens next year.

 

The company announced Tuesday that the co-owner and operator of T-Mobile Arena would oversee operations at the $1.8 billion, 65,000-seat stadium being built by the Oakland Raiders through a public-private partnership with the state.

 

Terms and the length of the agreement were not announced.

 

As part of a comprehensive management agreement, Los Angeles-based AEG Facilities will be responsible for stadium operations. That begins with providing pre-opening functions, including overseeing the hiring and training of the venue’s full-time staff and planning and executing the stadium’s grand opening schedule of events and activities. Meanwhile, AEG will manage key departments such as guest services, event operations, booking, security, ticketing, finance and human resources.

 

The stadium will be home to the Raiders when the team relocates to Las Vegas in 2020 and to the UNLV football team next season. The stadium also will be home to the recently reformatted Las Vegas Bowl featuring teams from the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC conferences.

 

AEG also oversees the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum where the Raiders currently play.

 

Because of AEG’s relationship with other venues worldwide and its affiliation with other AEG subsidiaries, the agreement is expected to enable the stadium to book concerts and other special events or tours.

 

AEG also operated the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. That venue will be undergoing a renovation this summer and AEG will relinquish its relationship with the venue when it reopens.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

T JONAH WILLIAMS, the plug-and-play left tackle the Bengals drafted 11th overall to kick off the Zach Taylor Era, will not play a single down as a rookie. Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Cincinnati Bengals received some awful summer-break news: First-round pick Jonah Williams will likely miss the entire 2019 season.

 

The team announced the rookie left tackle underwent left shoulder surgery Tuesday to repair a torn labrum that is likely to sideline him for the entire year. The 21-year-old is expected to make a full recovery, the Bengals added.

 

Williams sat out minicamp with an injury new coach Zac Taylor described as “dinged up.” After seeing the doctor, it turned out much worse for Williams.

 

“We look forward to Jonah being a major contributor in the future, and know that he won’t let this injury deter him from still being an important part of this team,” Taylor said in a statement. “We’re confident in our offensive line personnel as we head into training camp, and we believe they can do their part in helping this team achieve its goals.”

 

The Alabama product was widely considered the best offensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft. When he fell to Cincinnati at No. 11, the Bengals eschewed other options to snatch up the nasty road grader they believed would be the long-term solution to a position they’d struggled at since allowing Andrew Whitworth to walk two years ago.

 

Injury to the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Williams scuttles the plans for the Bengals offensive line shuffle. Cordy Glenn, who was slated to move inside to guard, will likely return to left tackle. Christian Westerman or nine-year vet John Jerry could battle to take over the guard spot.

 

Losing rookie first-round picks is sadly becoming an old habit for the Bengals. Last season, center Billy Price missed six games with a foot injury.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

Now it can be told.

 

Coach Jack Del Rio was in the buffet line when his GM made the fateful move that scuttled the Jaguars franchise for a decade.  Logan Reardon of NFL.com:

 

Eight years after the Jaguars moved up six spots in the 2011 NFL Draft to select Blaine Gabbert, former coach Jack Del Rio shed some light on the fateful draft night trade — a trade that was a shocker, even to him.

 

“I had no idea we were going to draft Blaine Gabbert. No idea,” Del Rio said Tuesday, via ESPN Jacksonville 690. “In fact, I left to go get something to eat because our pick wasn’t for much longer in the draft. I’m sitting there filling my plate thinking, ‘Oh great, we’ve got a couple more hours until we pick.’ Then, I look up and see ‘The Jaguars are on the clock.’ I’m like ‘What the blank is going on?'”

 

You read that correctly. Former Jaguars general manager Gene Smith made the move without giving his head coach any indication.

 

Had the move for Gabbert worked, this might’ve been a funnier story. But the Missouri product lasted just three seasons in Jacksonville, throwing 22 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 28 games.

 

Del Rio claimed he saw these struggles coming for Gabbert.

 

“My son and I had ranked all the quarterbacks and we liked Blaine,” Del Rio said. “We liked him, but he was in the Nick Foles range (2012 third-round pick) — like third or fourth round. He wasn’t a first rounder, he wasn’t a guy to trade and go up to get him. So that was not part of coaching, that was not part of me. That was my first indication that my time there was running short.”

 

Del Rio was fired after that 2011 season and Smith was gone one year later. Gabbert remains the only one of the trio still in the NFL, as he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March after starting three games for the Titans last season.

 

Later in the interview, Del Rio hinted he could write a tell-all book about his time in Jacksonville. So if you’re clamoring for more stories like this, you could be in luck.

 

That reminds the DB of way back in 1983.  Bucs quarterbacks coach Boyd Dowler was sitting at his desk when defacto GM Phil Krueger came up and said, “Boyd, you were with Jack Thompson (a former number one, the Throwin’ Samoan) in Cincinnati, we have a chance to get him, what did you think of him?”

 

“What’s the price?” asked Dowler.

 

“A second,” said Krueger. 

 

“That’s too high,” said Dowler.

 

Krueger cleverly negotiated the deal UP to a 1st rounder.  The trade was made.  Doug Williams moved on. Thompson was not good. The coaches like Dowler were soon fired. The Buccaneers began a run of 14 straight losing seasons.

 

 

TENNESSEE

According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, QB MARCUS MARIOTA is entering the Last Chance Saloon in Nashville.

 

Four years ago, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota arrived in the NFL to much fanfare as the first two picks in the draft. Now, both guys are entering last-chance seasons with their respective teams, the Buccaneers and the Titans.

 

The No. 28 storyline entering the 2019 season focuses on Mariota, and whether he’ll earn that second contract (and the ongoing employment that goes along with it) in the final year of his rookie deal.

 

At $20.8 million, Mariota will be compensated handsomely for one last crack at persuading the organization to keep him around for the long haul. But his ability to continue to earn a starter-level salary hinges on his ability to develop the kind of consistency that his game has lacked.

 

He also needs to stay healthy. It’s not a suggestion but a mandate from G.M. Jon Robinson, who recently said that he has “stressed” to Mariota the importance of the mantra, “Let’s live to play another play.”

 

“Don’t take that hit,” Robinson says. “It’s OK to punt, we’ll get another crack at it. That’s the main thing, it’s stressing to him — to try as best as possible, like all quarterbacks do, to avoid getting hit.”

 

If Mariota hopes to continue to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, it’s not about heeding Robinson’s advice but doing what Robinson wants him to do. Otherwise, the Titans will surely find another quarterback who will.

 

They possibly already have. The trade for 2012 first-rounder Ryan Tannehill, who got far more chances to figure things out in Miami than Mariota will get in Tennessee, gives the Titans a far better backup plan than Blaine Gabbert, and Tannehill (when healthy) could perform well enough to seize the opportunity to stay on the field, if a Mariota injury gives Tannehill a chance to get on the field.

 

Whether it’s Tannehill, another veteran, or a rookie, the Titans surely will be ready to explore all options if Mariota doesn’t make in his fifth year the kind of strides they’d surely hoped he’d make much earlier. And that could spark a much sooner than expected commencement of Mariota’s career as a second-string quarterback.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The Dolphins hired Brian Flores as head coach because the new generation of players ain’t like the old generation.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

New Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is only 38 years old, and that may have helped him get the job.

 

Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier says Flores is a coach who understands the current generation of players, what motivates them and how to help them grow.

 

“For me, it wasn’t a matter of offense or defense,” Grier said, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “It was a matter of finding the right guy that we felt was going to be a leader of men, that was going to interact with this generation. This generation is different. When I grew up, I couldn’t talk back to my mom and dad. These kids, you see it out on the field, they’re talking back to coaches. It’s a different world. It’s a hard job, coaching these kids.”

 

The Dolphins’ roster is not in great shape, and it’s probably going to take Flores some time to build a young team into a winner. But the Dolphins think they have the right man to lead that young roster.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

RANKING THE RUNNING BACKS

We usually get lists of QBs at this time of the year, but at NFL.com, former NFL RB Maurice Jones-Drew goes 1 to 32 on the players listed atop the current RB depth charts (comments are abridged):

 

With the major offseason player movement behind us and just over a month to go before training camp commences, now is the perfect time to assess every NFL backfield. (I know you’ve been waiting for this, so I’m going to give the people what they want.) Here is my ranking of all 32 RB1s heading into the 2019 season.

 

Note: If a team operates with a running back committee, I simply chose the player who I think will have the most production in 2019.

 

1 – Saquon Barkley

Giants

 

Barkley’s rookie campaign speaks for itself. He totaled a league-high 2,028 scrimmage yards and topped off his first season with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Barkley is the undisputed focal point of the offense now that Odell Beckham Jr. is in Cleveland. The uber-talented second-year pro should have another tremendous year with an improved offensive line blocking for him.

 

2 – Alvin Kamara

Saints

 

Kamara’s dynamic ability was on full display in 2018, particularly while Mark Ingram served a suspension during the first four games of last season. No. 41 averaged an NFL-best 152.8 scrimmage yards per game and tied for a league-high six scrimmage TDs during that span. I’m excited to see how Sean Payton will utilize the versatile back now that Kamara will be the Saints’ full-time RB1 (free-agent addition Latavius Murray will be the RB2) for a full season.

 

3 – Le’Veon Bell

Jets

 

Looking forward to seeing Bell back on the field after a year off. With positive reports on Bell coming out of Jets’ minicamp earlier this month, I’m expecting the fresh veteran back to be a nightmare for defenses. The last time Bell played a full season (2017), he was an absolute game-wrecker: 321 carries, 1,291 rush yards, nine rush TDs; 85 receptions, 655 receiving yards and two receiving TDs. Adam Gase should be licking his chops as we speak.

 

4 – Ezekiel Elliott

Cowboys

 

Entering Year 4, Zeke will do what he’s always done: eat, eat and eat some more. The Cowboys’ offense runs through the two-time Pro Bowl selectee, who had a career- and league-high 381 touches in 2018. Elliott has been wildly productive, posting the fifth-highest average for rushing yards per game (101.2) by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history. He also became more of an asset in the pass game last season (career-high 77 catches) and should continue to improve this part of his game moving forward.

 

5 – Christian McCaffrey

Panthers

 

The Panthers ranked fourth in rushing in 2018 thanks to McCaffrey’s monster Year 2. He led the team in most offensive categories, including carries, rushing yards, rushing TDs, receptions, receiving yards, receiving TDs, offensive touches, scrimmage yards and scrimmage TDs. He did it all, and I expect more of the same from the home-run hitter in 2019.

 

6 – Todd Gurley

Rams

 

Gurley was one of the most productive backs in the league last season, ranking second among RBs in touches per game (22.5), rushing yards per game (89.4) and scrimmage yards per game (130.8). He also scored a league-high 21 touchdowns. A knee injury sidelined Gurley for the last two weeks of the regular season, and he wasn’t the same in his return in the postseason. Looking ahead to 2019, less is more in his situation — as I explained on “NFL Total Access” earlier this month. Of course, the knee issue will be something to continue to monitor, but the Rams will get carries from Malcolm Brown and third-round draft pick Darrell Henderson, which will allow Gurley to be fresher and more explosive when he is on the field. Don’t get it twisted, though; Gurley’s production will still be among the best in the league. Just on fewer touches.

 

7 – Melvin Gordon

Chargers

 

Gordon has played in all 16 games of the regular season only once (2017) since entering the league in 2015, and we’ve seen what he can do when he’s healthy. He was a huge asset for the offense a year ago, scoring 14 touchdowns in 12 games, even though hamstring and knee injuries limited him at times. If Gordon can stay on the field, expect a career season from a guy who’s looking for a new deal.

 

8 – Joe Mixon

Bengals

 

Mixon racked up nearly 1,500 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, but a lot of folks didn’t hear about it, because the Bengals struggled in the second half.

 

9 – Nick Chubb

Browns

 

Chubb burst onto the scene last year with some big runs and strong performances, while averaging 84.2 rushing yards in his nine starts. He’ll get the bulk of the team’s carries through the first half of the season, with free-agent addition Kareem Hunt serving an eight-game suspension.

 

10 – Dalvin Cook

Vikings

 

The hiring of Gary Kubiak in Minnesota bodes well for Cook. Throughout the years, Kubiak has turned unheralded backs into 1,000-yard rushers…Look for the third-year veteran to be maximized in this year’s offense — IF he can stay healthy.

 

11 – Sony Michel

Patriots

 

Michel showed he can be a bell cow during the postseason, with 71 carries for 336 yards and a rookie-record six rushing TDs in three games. He underwent a minor knee procedure in June, but Michel should still be the effective rusher he was in the postseason starting in September. Plus, I think Patriots OC Josh McDaniels will be more creative with the running game now that Rob Gronkowski is no longer on the team.

 

12 – Kerryon Johnson

Lions

 

Johnson showed promise as a rookie, earning the starting job from Week 3 to Week 11, before a knee injury sidelined him for the final six games of the season. Expect this Lions’ rushing attack to improve immensely with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who has spent 12 seasons as an NFL OC (in Minnesota and Seattle).

 

13 – Aaron Jones

Packers

 

I’ve been high on Jones since he was drafted in 2017 (fifth round), and he’s proven to be a valuable asset for the Packers’ offense. He split carries with Jamaal Williams last season, but Jones was the far more effective back (Jones: 133 carries, 728 rush yards, eight rush TDs; Williams: 121 carries, 464 rush yards, three rush TDs).

 

14 – James Conner

Steelers

 

Ben Roethlisberger is another year older, and Antonio Brown is in Oakland. The Steelers must run the ball early and often, and Conner is their guy, even though recent reports suggest that there will be a committee of backs getting in on the action.

 

15 – Derrick Henry

Titans

 

Henry transformed from a caterpillar early in the 2018 season to a butterfly by Week 17. He went from averaging 10.7 carries per game through 12 contests to averaging 21.8 carries and establishing himself as one of the biggest threats in the final quarter of the season.

 

16 – Leonard Fournette

Jaguars

 

Bringing in Nick Foles will definitely help the Jaguars offensively, but the team is also going to need a bounce-back year from Fournette. He was about half as productive as he was in 2017, the season in which the team was a win away from the Super Bowl. He must return to rookie form.

 

17 – Jordan Howard

Eagles

 

Something had to change in Philly after last year’s team rushed for a measly 98.1 yards per game (28th in the league), the fewest rushing yards per game by the team since 2005. Trading for former Bears back Jordan Howard was a great move, as he should provide the physical presence the offense has searched for since the departure of LeGarrette Blount last offseason. Being traded should light a fire under Howard, who’s in a contract year. This quality Eagles offensive line will only help him.

 

18 – Chris Carson

Seahawks

 

Carson had 1,151 rushing yards last season, becoming the first Seahawks player with more than 1,000 rushing yards in a season since Marshawn Lynch in 2014. He should have ample opportunities to run the ball again, considering OC Brian Schottenheimer said during OTAs earlier this month that the Seahawks will stick with a run-first approach, despite signing quarterback Russell Wilson to a HUGE extension this offseason.

 

19 – Adrian Peterson

Redskins

 

Coming off his first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2015, Peterson has found the fountain of youth and once again looked great in minicamp this month.

 

20 – Damien Williams

Chiefs

 

Williams appeared in all 16 games, with three starts to close out the 2018 regular season, totaling 256 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries. A contributor in the ground game and as a pass catcher, Williams really stepped up when the Chiefs appeared to be in a tough spot at the position following the release of Kareem Hunt. After proving to be an asset, Williams signed a two-year extension late in the year. I’m interested to see how Williams handles the pressure of being a starting back for an entire regular season.

 

21 – Josh Jacobs

Raiders

 

Jacobs, one of the Raiders’ three first-round draft picks this year, is the first rookie running back on this list. The Alabama product is set up for success thanks to the additions the team made at wide receiver and on the offensive line in the offseason.

 

22 – LeSean McCoy

Bills

 

The Bills did address their offensive line in the offseason, but they’ve had issues up front in recent years, which is part of the reason why their RB1 isn’t higher on this list. Shady should see some wider running lanes this time around, but entering his age-31 season, he and the running game (which added Frank Gore and rookie Devin Singletary in the offseason) must be better in order to help second-year quarterback Josh Allen.

 

23 – Phillip Lindsay

Broncos

 

There’s been talk that Royce Freeman could get more carries than Lindsay in 2019, but that’s not my forecast here. Lindsay had a great first season, recording the second-most rushing yards (1,037) by an undrafted rookie in the Super Bowl era. Lindsay is recovering from a wrist injury he suffered last last season, but it’s hard to be down on a guy who accomplished such a feat.

 

24 – Marlon Mack

Colts

 

I know Andrew Luck returned to Pro Bowl form and helped the Colts reach the postseason in 2018, but Mack played a big role in the team’s resurgence, as well. The third-year back is coming off a breakout year that saw him tote the rock 195 times for 908 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and nine rushing touchdowns in 12 games (10 starts). He’ll have a chance to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in 2019 behind a stellar offensive line.

 

25 – David Johnson

Cardinals

 

Johnson, an All-Pro in 2016, hasn’t been the same since suffering a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1 of the 2017 season. The Cardinals had the worst offense in the NFL last season and look to be much better under first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The only issue is that Kingsbury’s track record shows he won’t be running the ball much in his “Air Raid” offense.

 

26 – Mark Ingram

Ravens

 

There’s no doubt Ingram will spearhead the Ravens’ running back room, but with the ninth-year veteran turning 30 in December, expect John Harbaugh to use a committee of backs. Not to mention, second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson is the most explosive runner on this team.

 

27 – David Montgomery

Bears

 

The rookie should fill the void left by Jordan Howard, who was traded to the Eagles this offseason, as a physical runner who forced 99 missed tackles last season at Iowa State (leading FBS RBs), according to Pro Football Focus. He may also have a role in the Bears’ pass game. Reigning Coach of the Year Matt Nagy has been impressed with Montgomery this offseason.

I can see Montgomery beating out Tarik Cohen for the RB1 spot and serving as the team’s first- and second-down back.

 

28 – Tevin Coleman

49ers

 

In a deep backfield, I expect free-agent acquisition Tevin Coleman to emerge as the RB1 for the Niners. He thrived in Atlanta under Kyle Shanahan and should find more success with him in San Francisco. The reason Coleman sits so low on this list is he’s part of a committee that also features Matt Breida (1,075 scrimmage yards and five TDs in 2018) and Jerick McKinnon ( signed a four-year deal prior to his season-ending ACL injury in 2018). There are just too many mouths to feed for Coleman to be ranked higher.

 

29 – Devonta Freeman

Falcons

 

There are a few things to point out here. Freeman was sidelined for 14 games last season with knee, foot and groin injuries (he missed a total of three games in the previous four seasons). That said, Freeman was one of the most productive backs in the league in the three seasons leading up to his injury-riddled 2018, ranking fourth in rushing yards (3,000) and tied for first in rushing TDs (29) from 2015 to ’17. He’s fully capable of once again becoming the player who helped the Falcons reach Super Bowl LI, but you just don’t know how somebody will recover from injuries.

 

However, I’m concerned that the return of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator, who held the same post for Atlanta from 2012 to ’14, doesn’t bode well for Freeman getting back to producing at such a high level. Over the last seven seasons — Koetter’s been either an OC or head coach in each — he’s had a running back surpass the 1,000-yard mark only once ( Doug Martin in 2015).

 

30 – Lamar Miller

Texans

 

There are several factors working against Miller here. He’s another year older, D’Onta Foreman is returning from injury, the O-line has been porous — and could continue to be, despite the additions made in the offseason — and the team’s most effective running threat is its quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

 

31 – Kenyan Drake

Dolphins

 

Drake is an explosive player and eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season, but he’s never been a consistent, every-down back, which is why he doesn’t rate higher here.

 

32 – Ronald Jones

Buccaneers

 

The Bucs’ ground game struggled in 2018, ranking 29th in the league, and was led by Peyton Barber. Barber was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, but I expect Jones to emerge as the team’s top back in 2019 because, well, he wasn’t drafted 38th overall in ’18 for no reason.

 

 

AAF FALLOUT

Tom Dundon wants his money back – and if that happened there would be even less money for the AAF’s creditors.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon is having a case of buyer’s remorse. But it could be too late for Dundon to get a refund.

 

Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com reports that Dundon has filed a claim in the Alliance of American Football’s bankruptcy case. Dundon alleges that his investment happened due to “misrepresentations,” and he seeks a full refund of the $70 million he paid to keep the league afloat for five or six weeks during its only season, before Dundon shuttered it.

 

“Even though AAF executives told [Dundon Capital Partners] its contribution would get the AAF through the first season, those executives knew at the time of the execution of the Term Sheet that the AAF would likely need an additional $50,000,000 (including League revenue) on top of [Dundon Capital Partners’] investment of up to $70,000,000 to get through the first season,” the document alleges. “The AAF and its executives never disclosed this information to [Dundon Capital Partners].”

 

In other words, Dundon claims that the AAF led Dundon to believe that an infusion of $70 million would get the league through its first season, but that the AAF knew that in reality $120 million would be required. More specifically, Dundon claims that the AAF led him to believe that an amount considerably less than $70 million would be needed to finish the campaign.

 

“The AAF further represented that it could survive the season with only $55,000,000, leaving substantial capital to prepare for the following season,” the document contends. “During the weeks following the execution of the Term Sheet, [Dundon Capital Partners] learned a number of alarming facts that revealed that the AAF was not forthcoming with Dundon and [Dundon Capital Partners]. [Dundon Capital Partners] learned that, in addition to not having the funds to pay salaries after the first week of the League’s games, the AAF also had accumulated more than $13,000,000 in unpaid debts and commitments. The AAF did not disclose these unpaid debts or commitments to [Dundon Capital Partners] prior to the execution of the February 14, 2019 Term Sheet.”

 

Dundon also contends that the AAF failed to disclose the existence of “ongoing threatened litigation from a past associate who claimed to be a co-founder of the League and who was suing to obtain a 50% interest in the AAF.”

 

With precious few assets available to be distributed to the AAF’s many creditors, Dundon’s filing feels like the first move in a fresh game of chess/checkers/chicken against those who lured him to pump millions down what ultimately became (and possibly already was) a dry hole. Dundon could be trying to ensure that creditors won’t target him personally, he could be trying to lay the foundation to target personally those who lured him into the business, and/or he could simply be trying to ensure that the record is clear and unambiguous in the event the pending legal proceedings eventually take a southerly turn from the civil justice system.