AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

The short week is going to cost the Vikings the services of WR ADAM THIELEN against the Redskins.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Wide receiver Adam Thielen was pushing to play against Washington on Thursday night despite the hamstring injury he suffered against the Lions last Sunday, but his efforts didn’t persuade the Vikings.

 

While Thielen said Wednesday that he still had “another day” to show the team he was well enough to get on the field, the Vikings aren’t going to play the waiting game. They released their final injury report for Thursday’s game on Wednesday afternoon and it shows that Thielen has been ruled out.

 

Assuming Thielen continues to recover without any setbacks, the extended time off before the Vikings head to Kansas City in Week Nine should help the chances that it is a one-game absence for the wideout.

 

The Vikings promoted wideout Davion Davis from the practice squad to go with Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson and Laquon Treadwell.

 

Defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes is the only other player with an injury designation. He’s listed as questionable after missing Wednesday’s practice with an illness.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

It’s not often that a DE uses the shotgun formation, but FLETCHER COX did.  Tim McManus of ESPN.com:

 

A burglary attempt at the New Jersey residence of Fletcher Cox prompted the Eagles defensive tackle to grab a shotgun, causing the suspect to flee, according to a complaint filed to Harrison Township Municipal Court.

 

The suspect was the ex-boyfriend of a woman staying at Cox’s residence, according to the complaint filed last Wednesday.

 

The suspect is said to have damaged a vehicle on the property by throwing rocks through the front and rear windows, and he then attempted to gain entrance to the residence by throwing large rocks through the front doors.

 

He was allegedly observed on surveillance cameras walking around the exterior of the residence with a baseball bat and attempting to enter through the garage multiple times.

 

Cox grabbed a shotgun, prompting the suspect to flee the area in a black Porsche before eventually being apprehended.

 

“The police are handling it,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday. “It’s a personal issue, so I’m out of it.”

 

Cox missed practice with an illness on the same date as the alleged incident. Pederson said his absence was “unrelated to that.”

 

The suspect is said to have caused over $2,000 in damages to Cox’s residence.

 

“We do our best to protect our players here on premise, but obviously they have personal lives and we all have personal lives and things are going to come up. And so we do the best we can to educate our players and try to protect them the best we can,” Pederson said.

 

Soooo, the perp had a Porsche.  He was known to the woman hanging out with Cox.  So his name should come out.  Any chance he is/was a member of the athlete community?

 

 

WASHINGTON

A high ankle sprain won’t prevent RB ADRIAN PETERSON from playing against his former team says RB Adrian Peterson.  Josina Anderson gets the scoop:

 

@JosinaAnderson

Redskins RB Adrian Peterson tells me his MRI showed he has a grade 1 high ankle sprain & a grade 2 low ankle sprain. Peterson also said, “I’m good.” Redskins play the Vikings in Minnesota, his old stomping grounds, on TNF. Kirk Cousins will play his former team as well.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

No practice for QB MATT RYAN.  Andie Hagemann of NFL.com:

 

The Atlanta Falcons will be without quarterback Matt Ryan as they begin preparations for Week 8.

 

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Ryan will not practice Wednesday as he continues to recover from an ankle sprain.

 

Ryan suffered the injury during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams. He exited the game after an evaluation on the sideline.

 

Earlier this week Quinn told reporters that the Falcons will game plan for both scenarios: with and without Ryan.

 

Falcons fans shouldn’t panic just yet, though. Quinn said Monday that Ryan was not expected to be on the practice field early in the week but the QB has a chance to be back toward the end of the week.

 

If the veteran signal-caller can’t go against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Matt Schaub will get the starting nod.

 

While the 38-year-old Schaub is a veteran of 92 NFL starts, he has not made a start since 2015 when he started 2 games for Baltimore.

 

 

CAROLINA

S ERIC REID, a Kaepernick compadre, is returning to San Francisco.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

Carolina Panthers strong safety Eric Reid wouldn’t use the word “revenge” or “bitter” to describe his feelings about Sunday’s game against unbeaten San Francisco.

 

“I just don’t forget,” Reid said Wednesday about facing his former team as the Panthers (4-2) prepared for the 49ers (6-0).

 

This will be Reid’s first game as an opponent at San Francisco, where he first took a knee with quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016 and was not re-signed following the 2017 season after filing a collusion grievance against the NFL.

 

From the end of the 2017 season until the Panthers signed him in late September of 2018, Reid went unsigned after the NFLPA filed a grievance on his behalf, accusing the league of blackballing him for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

 

This past offseason, the Panthers signed Reid to a new three-year deal worth slightly more than $22 million. He has kneeled during the anthem before every game at Carolina.

 

Kaepernick, who also filed a grievance against the NFL, hasn’t played since the 2016 season. Both players’ grievances against the league have been settled.

 

All of that factors into how Reid feels about the San Francisco organization that made him the 18th pick of the 2013 draft.

 

“Definitely the way Colin was treated. Definitely the way I feel like I was treated there,” Reid said when talking about his emotions toward the team. “The way they run the organization. Ask anybody who has been there and they’ll tell you the same.”

 

Reid also wasn’t happy the 49ers moved him from strong safety to a hybrid safety/linebacker position in 2017 to replace linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who was released after the team failed to meet his request for a trade.

 

“I remember they changed my position in a contract year,” said Reid, selected to the Pro Bowl at safety as a rookie. “I remember they released NaVorro, who led the league in tackles [in 2015] and asked me to play his position

 

“They told me it was best for the team. I disagreed. I thought the NFL tackling leader was best for the team, but I did what I was told.”

 

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said he was not worried about Reid’s emotions being a factor when reminded of the heated exchange between Reid and Malcolm Jenkins during last year’s game at Philadelphia.

 

An assistant coach and official had to restrain Reid away from the Philadelphia Eagles’ safety during player introductions. After the game, Reid called Jenkins a “sellout” because Jenkins stopped kneeling after the NFL donated $100 million to the Players Coalition for causes important to the coalition.

 

“Guys play for whatever their reasons are, and Eric has his own reason,” Rivera said. “Eric will do what he does. He’s a professional. He gets on the field and plays the game the way it needs to be played. I’m not worried about Eric.”

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

QB DREW BREES is ready to return this Sunday.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Saints coach Sean Payton said he might not decide until Sunday whether quarterback Drew Brees plays on Sunday against the Cardinals. Brees is hoping to be there.

 

When reporters asked Brees today whether he’ll play on Sunday, Brees answered, “That’s the plan.”

 

Brees added, however, that they haven’t decided for sure whether he can go, and Brees indicated that he agrees with Payton that he should have a full week of practice before the No. 1 quarterback is named.

 

If Brees and the Saints decide his injured thumb isn’t quite ready, Teddy Bridgewater will start. Given that the Saints are 5-0 with Bridgewater starting, getting Brees back isn’t quite the imperative it seemed to be when he first got hurt.

 

But if Brees can grip and throw a football, then Brees will start. He expects it to happen.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Jenna Laine of ESPN on the return of LB JASON PIERRE-PAUL:

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers star pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul joined teammates Tuesday for his first squad practice since suffering a broken neck this offseason in an auto accident.

 

During last week’s bye, Pierre-Paul did one-on-one drills with offensive linemen at the facility before the rest of the team joined him this week. Wednesday he’ll suit up against them in pads for the first time.

 

“[He did] everything. He had contact last week with pads on. … He’s a little rusty, but it was good,” coach Bruce Arians said. “A lot will depend on how he feels Thursday after Wednesday’s practice in pads. And we’ll judge it from there.”

 

“Everything is good right now. I’m on the right track. I’m keeping forward. I’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time,” said Pierre-Paul, speaking for the first time since his Ferrari spun out of control on a South Florida freeway and hit a median May 2. Police determined that rain was a factor.

 

“It felt great. It’s been a long journey,” Pierre-Paul said. “I’ve still got a lot going on, but it’s been great being with my teammates. … I feel good.”

 

No determination has been made as to when he’ll be able to play in a game, but his 21-day practice window, which applies to players coming off the active/non-football injury list, began last week. The team has until Nov. 6 to activate him.

 

“He’s come back from some serious stuff,” Arians said. “He’s kind of a freak of nature as far as healing. He has a great belief in his faith and I think sometimes that helps healing.”

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos shipped out WR EMMANUEL SANDERS on Tuesday.  CB CHRIS HARRIS could be next.  Thomas Lott of The Sporting News:

 

It appears another Pro Bowl corner could be on the move before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

 

Broncos star cover man Chris Harris has already garnered interest from multiple teams, according to 9News in Denver.

 

@MikeKlis

Multiple teams expressed interest in Chris Harris Jr in past week or so, but they acquired other CBs instead, sources tell 9News. One team was Texans, who instead traded for Raiders’ Gareon Conley. Harris to play Sunday at Indy. His market figures to heat up by Tuesday. #9sports

 

The Texans also expressed interest in him last week, but ultimately they acquired Gareon Conley from the Raiders in return for a third-round pick.

 

Harris’ market is expected to heat up by Tuesday, but he should play against the Colts on Sunday.

 

There has been a lot of action on the trade market already this season with the Conley move already going down as well as Jaguars corner Jalen Ramsey being traded to the Rams.

 

Los Angeles also dealt Marcus Peters to the Ravens and the Broncos have already made a move as well sending wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the 49ers on Tuesday.

 

As for Harris, 30, the four-time Pro Bowl player has been one of the best cover corners in the NFL for the last several years with the 2016 season being his best.

 

 

He was named a first-team All-Pro that year as Denver went on to have one of the most succesful defensive seasons in NFL history and won the Super Bowl 24-10 over the Panthers.

 

It’s not heavy at the top, but the Broncos will have plenty of draft picks to deal and or use to throw a bunch of players against the wall.  And this is before they get anything for Chris Harris.

 

@nickkorte

Broncos 2020 draft capital is now:

•1st

•2nd

•3rd

•3rd (PIT)

•3rd (SF-Sanders)

•4th

•4th (SF-Sanders)

•5th/6th (comp-Turner/Barrett, round depends on how much Bryce Callahan plays)

•6th (WAS-Keenum)

•7th (NE-Dawson)

•7th (comp-Garcia)

•7th (comp-Brock)

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Is it possible that QB PATRICK MAHOMES won’t miss a single start?  Patrik Welker of CBSSports.com:

 

Disaster was averted for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 7, because although the latter lost the former to a dislocated patella against the rival Denver Broncos, X-rays and an MRI revealed there is no structural damage. That leaves the reigning NFL MVP in a week-to-week status as opposed to sitting on injured reserve for the rest of the 2019 season, but the initial forecast has his return to football at around 4-6 weeks.

 

Head coach Andy Reid, however, has continued to state the Chiefs have not drawn out a definitive timeline for Mahomes’ return, instead opting to evaluate him frequently to gauge his progress. Apparently, one week after suffering what was nearly a catastrophic injury, he’s already showing positive signs, and will “get in some work” at practice on Wednesday as the Chiefs ready themselves to host the 6-1 Green Bay Packers — per Reid.

 

Mahomes will mostly do individual work off to the side, but not entirely, although backup Matt Moore is set to take the bulk of the team reps. The expectation remains Moore will take the field against the Packers, but Reid won’t rule Mahomes out on Wednesday.

 

There are obvious concerns from many that the team, or Mahomes himself, would rush the rehabilitation and create a scenario wherein he might suffer a setback. Those are justifiable worries, when considering what he means to the team both now and over the next several years. Being a quarterback that can make plays with his legs as well, the best course of action would be to allow Mahomes time to fully heal before bringing him back, particularly if Moore can play as admirably as he did in the 30-6 shellacking of the Broncos.

 

Aside from the obvious “any given Sunday” reality, it’s also key to note after Chiefs clash with the Packers and subsequently the Minnesota Vikings, they’ll face a more forgiving portion of their schedule that includes the Tennessee Titans and hapless Los Angeles Chargers before entering their bye week. They’ll return from the bye week to face the currently undefeated New England Patriots, a team that boasts the best defense and defensive secondary in football, making Mahomes’ presence in that contest paramount.

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

RB MELVIN GORDON admits his holdout has put him in a bad light:

 

Melvin Gordon has been frustrated for a long time.

 

First, over a holdout for a contract extension that was not successful and then over his slow start once he returned to the Los Angeles Chargers.

 

But the running back did two things last Sunday that he considers inexcusable. He fumbled at the goal line against Tennessee, costing his team a chance at a win, and he let his emotions show.

 

When Gordon’s fumble allowed the Titans to hang on for a 23-20 victory, the frustration of the past four months finally boiled over. Gordon covered his face with a towel on the sideline and broke down. On Monday he refused to admit if he had been crying.

 

“One thing I hate most about Sunday is I let you all see me sweat,” Gordon said. “You’re never supposed to let them see you sweat or show emotion out there.”

 

Gordon’s return was supposed to provide another playmaker for the Chargers offense. Instead, it has been one of many struggles for a team that has lost three straight and is 2-5 going into Sunday’s game at Chicago.

 

When asked if he would have held out if given a chance to do it again, Gordon said he didn’t know if he could answer that.

 

“I know I won’t miss another training camp again. I can tell you that,” he said. “If I was to go back, I can’t say. With the running back thing and all, we want to get paid. That’s tough.”

 

But Gordon also realizes that holding out for two months has put him more under the microscope not only with fans, but with prospective employers next season.

 

Gordon is averaging just 2.25 yards per carry with his longest gain in 36 carries going for 7 yards. He doesn’t appear to be close to the running back who made the Pro Bowl last season and has more than 1,200 scrimmage yards each of the past three years.

 

He also knows that critical mistakes such as Sunday’s are more glaring considering everything that has transpired.

 

“You do something bad and everything is blown up. You don’t play, you don’t win, it’s blown up, and if I make a mistake it’s blown up,” he said. “We’re in a position right now where every win and every game counts.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

Ross Tucker in The Athletic on QB LAMAR JACKSON and the Ravens new-fangled offense:

 

The Ravens, it would seem, have made a conscious effort to bring the quarterback run game that is so prolific in college football to the NFL on a more regular basis. Not only did they install Greg Roman, known for his quarterback run game work with Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor, as offensive coordinator but the backup quarterbacks are the aforementioned RG3 and former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, the fastest quarterback at this year’s combine and a player known for his incredible toughness.

 

It makes you think that while they certainly don’t want to see Jackson get hurt they are more than prepared for it and have not one but two quarterbacks who can step in immediately and run the same type of offense, albeit of course not at the same level of the dynamic Jackson.

 

It’s a hell of an experiment if you think about it. And it’s one the Ravens made a conscious decision to take part in.

 

Before the year, Harbaugh was asked by former Ravens coach Brian Billick on NFL Network if his team was going to run an offense the NFL had never seen before and he said “I’d kind of agree with that, I really would.” He also told The Athletic’s own Dan Pompei that  he expects this “to change the way offensive football is played in the National Football League.”

 

As he told Billick, “the game was probably revolutionized with Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. What’s the next era going to be? We’re about to find out.”

 

When informed by Billick this summer that the record number of rushing attempts for a quarterback in an NFL season was Cam Newton’s 139, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate.

 

“I’d bet the over on that one. I’d bet the over for sure,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be interesting. I don’t think we know the exact numbers or the math.”

 

The beauty of the offense is that because of the reasons detailed above it opens up the passing game as well as the rest of the running game for the other ball carriers like nothing else really can.

 

None of this is meant to take anything away from any of Jackson’s accomplishments so far. Part of the reason why it is working so well is because he is the perfect person to be running it. The combination of a very difficult offense to defend that most NFL teams don’t see very often with the electric Jackson has made him a legitimate MVP candidate to this point. Some might even say the favorite.

 

And while people will come out of the woodwork to say “I told you so” if Jackson gets hurt maybe it’s time to start thinking about just how far the Ravens might be able to go this season  if he doesn’t.

 

To quote Harbaugh, I say “take the over” on that as well.

 

Jackson has 86 rushes after 7 games which is on a pace for 190.

 

Put another way, he has been rushing about 12 times per game and to get to 140 carries and beat Newton, he would need just 6 carries per game in the final 9 contests.

 

But the thing is – his passing number project to 310 of 491, 3,771 yards, 39 TDs and 18 INTs.  So that’s awfully prolific through the air – before you even add in 1,317 rush yards.  He is 16th in the NFL in pass yards and 6th in pass yards.

 

 

CLEVELAND

The Browns are sniffing around T NATE SOLDER.  Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com with a Tweet:

 

@JasonLaCanfora

If the Browns are unable to pry Trent Williams out of Washington, the other LT I hear they are interested in is Nate Solder. They’ve already done a lot of business with the NYG, it’s worth noting.

 

More from Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com:

 

Multiple league sources have told Yahoo Sports that Dorsey has spent weeks reaching out to a swath of teams about acquiring offensive line help before the deadline — including three from the NFC East: the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. The sources said Dorsey is concentrating his efforts on starting-caliber offensive tackles while lining up backup options if the Redskins ultimately refuse to part ways with seven-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams.

 

With the trade deadline set at 4 p.m. ET on Oct. 29, it appears Dorsey’s preferred target is still Williams, although league sources said the Redskins have given no indication they’re trading him in spite of his refusal to report to the team.

 

What is stopping a deal for Redskins’ Trent Williams?

 

“Dorsey has been trying to get Williams for basically six weeks,” one league source said. “But [Redskins president] Bruce Allen just refuses to trade him. It’s all Bruce. He won’t do it.”

 

Another source said the Redskins haven’t had a meaningful dialogue with Williams’ representatives in “more than a month” — adding: “It’s to the point of being a personal thing now between Trent and Bruce. I don’t think Bruce is going to back down from it now. It might just have to play itself out because it’s not like Dan [Snyder] is going to intervene the way Shad Khan did with the [Jalen] Ramsey deal. Bruce is more likely to tell Dan what to do in this situation than the other way around.”

 

One thing that appears certain is that Williams would be the priciest tackle on the trade market, likely requiring a first-round pick despite being 31 and seeking a top-end contract extension wherever he lands. The Browns have draft capital to offer and the salary cap space to get an extension in place. Not to mention the need, with the line in front of Mayfield badly requiring a top-caliber anchor, which Williams would certainly be.

 

Other options include Giants, Eagles

If Allen’s “no trade” stance doesn’t change for the Redskins, Dorsey could end up making a push for Nate Solder from the New York Giants as his second option. Dorsey and Giants general manager Dave Gettleman have the working relationship to get a deal done quickly and Solder might benefit from a fresh start in Cleveland after not living up to the lucrative deal he signed in New York. Solder would also come at a cheaper price, too.

 

If that doesn’t come together? Option No. 3 for Dorsey would be more of a bargain move for depth and flexibility — targeting one of the Eagles’ offensive tackles. Specifically backup Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who has starting experience at tackle and also the flexibility to play guard if needed. Vaitai is in the last year of his rookie deal and has been the odd man out in an offensive tackle quartet that includes top-end starters Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, as well as rookie Andre Dillard.

 

– – –

Freddie Kitchens admits the NFL can buy his silence.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The NFL has made it clear that coaches and players will be fined for comments that criticize officials. Browns coach Freddie Kitchens will be keeping his mouth shut, for a very specific and basic reason.

 

“I like money so I am not going to complain about the officials,” Kitchens told reporters on Wednesday. “If [players] want to give their money to the league, they can do it. I do not know. I do not know how to answer that. It does not matter to me either way. I would like for them to keep their money, but I also like our guys to be passionate about what they are doing. They have a decision to make, I guess.”

 

Quarterback Baker Mayfield made the decision to speak after a Week Six loss to the Seahawks. He received a $12,500 fine.

 

“As long as those guys are not hurting the team, it does not matter,” Kitchens said regarding concerns that comments from players about officials or the league could put a target on the Browns. “My concern is the team, and I do not want them hurting their team with comments. . . . As far as comments about officials and stuff like that, I am going to stay away from that because I can’t control the officials. I am not in their meetings. I am not in their pregame deals and all that kind of stuff. I just want to control our team from the standpoint of putting them in the best positon to win.”

 

That hasn’t happened enough for the Browns under Kitchens’ leadership, with a record of 2-4. The biggest chalenge of the year comes on Sunday, when the Browns visit the 7-0 Patriots.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Kyle Crabbs of TheDraftNetwork.com on the challenges facing the Texans after the season:

 

On June 7th, the Texans fired Brian Gaine. It was a surprising move, given Gaine had only recently taken control of the position and if the team was willing to ride it out with him making decisions in the draft, one would assume they’d be willing to let him see the season through. Not the case — and now we can see exactly why. Houston flirted with New England Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio in the aftermath of firing Gaine but were strong-armed by the New England Patriots to cease their courtship. Caserio is widely considered one of the more promising potential general managers across the NFL landscape — and Bill Belichick wasn’t willing to let him walk out the door. Caserio is likely to be back in the conversation with Houston next winter when his contract expires, but boy does the landscape for Houston look significantly different.

 

The Texans did what any logical team would do on the heels of being told to kick rocks by New England — they didn’t hire a general manager and effectively left Bill O’Brien in charge of personnel. And the firestorm of draft pick trading that we’ve seen yet is about as aggressive as a push away from building via the draft as we’ve seen in recent memory, especially since the implementation of the new rookie wage scale. O’Brien has told Tytus Howard and Lonnie Johnson exactly what he thinks of them by doubling down on players at their position over the past two months — and spending crazy draft picks to do so. O’Brien traded his 2020 1st and his 2021 1st and 2nd to the Miami Dolphins for left tackle Laremy Tunsil. There’s no shame in being bumped from the line-up by a player like Tunsil, but the depths O’Brien was willing to go to grab him isn’t exactly an inspiring endorsement for Howard’s ability to fill the void as a 1st-round pick by a “win-now” team. The team traded a conditional 3rd/4th round pick to Cleveland for RB Duke Johnson — who is 3 games away from the required 10 games of action needed to qualify the Browns for a 3rd-round pick as compensation. And just yesterday we saw the Texans flip a 3rd-round pick for CB Gareon Conley — a much less costly purchase but another move that further amplifies the dilemma the Texans’ new general manager — Nick Caserio or otherwise — will face.

 

The Texans have angled themselves as such that they’ve living for the moment and they don’t really care what the long-term implications are. But they should, because they’ve put their next general manager in quite the pickle. Whoever comes into the Houston Texans’ front office this offseason is going to be charged with further building this team but must do without:

 

A 1st-round pick in 2020 or 2021

A 2nd-round pick in 2021

A 3rd-round pick in 2020

 

And while the Texans do have salary cap space on their side (they’re projected to own over $89M in 2020 salary cap space), the aggressive mentality put forth by Houston’s “management” this fall has rapidly accelerated their spending window for second (or in one player’s case, third) contracts. Houston will — in the next 18 months or so — be required to pay out contracts to:

 

QB Deshaun Watson (estimated market value somewhere around $32M per season)

OT Laremy Tunsil (estimated market value is right around $16M per season)

WR Will Fuller

OLB Whitney Mercilus

ILB Zach Cunningham

 

And many other less accomplished, less expensive players…including whichever of Gaine’s one-year holdovers the team deems has earned a long-term contract. It’s reasonable to consider that signing Watson, Tunsil, Mercilus, Cunningham and Fuller could cost the Texans around an average of $70-75M against the cap, leaving Houston with around $15-20M at their disposal to cover resigning all other talents across their roster, building up weak areas on the roster and trying to target the right pieces to add to the puzzle and win a Super Bowl.

 

Oh, right. And newly acquired Gareon Conley is on the rookie pay scale and is due for a 5th-year club option in 2021, which figures to be right around $10M in guaranteed salary for the 2021 NFL season, too.

 

You’re asking a general manager to step in and build upon the foundation the Texans have set with a hand tied behind their back — and you’re also putting a lot of pressure on the coaching staff to develop the players brought into the fray before this drastic shift in philosophy has put the Texans into the pressure cooker.

 

The only way this philosophy works is if you’re willing to use players as tokens both ways — trading players for picks and picks for players. Houston’s sure as hell nailed down the trading picks for players piece of the puzzle. But the one opportunity thus far afforded by the Texans to flip a player for a pick was botched. Horrendously. The Texans traded OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2020 3rd-round pick (presumably the one already traded for CB Gareon Conley) and two linebackers: Jacob Martin and Barkevious Mingo. Mingo has played 1 defensive snap this season and Martin has logged 3 tackles thus far on the year. The team’s best, most available asset gone with a whimper and the Texans still facing the deficit of just two top-100 picks in the next two years of the NFL Draft.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

Practice is starting now for QB NICK FOLES.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Nick Foles is taking a step toward his return.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Foles will be back at Jaguars practice, working on a limited basis as he recovers from a collarbone injury.

 

Foles has been out since Week 1 after breaking his collarbone after just 10 plays.

 

The 30-year-old quarterback was placed on injured reserve and is eligible to return to the field in Week 11. The plan is to elevate Foles to the active roster that week, Rapoport added. Getting back on the practice field is the first stage in that return becoming a reality.

 

The question for the Jags is whether Foles will immediately replace Gardner Minshew in the starting lineup if he’s healthy for Week 11. The rookie has played well in relief, becoming the first player with 10-plus passing TDs and two or fewer INTs in his first seven career games since 1950, per NFL Research, and ranks fifth in the NFL with a 10-2 TD-INT ratio.

 

Jacksonville signed Foles to a big-money deal this offseason only to watch Minshew Mania captivate the nation.

 

The question about whether to hand the keys back to Foles will come in a few weeks. Getting the veteran QB back at practice is just the first step in that decision coming to a head.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots are dominating with a lame-duck QB.  Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:

 

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged the uncertainty of his future with the franchise as he is in the final year of his contract, putting a positive spin on a situation he’s never experienced before.

 

“I think that’s the great part for me — I don’t know. I think that’s been a unique situation that I’ve been in,” Brady said Wednesday morning in his weekly appearance on sports radio WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

 

“I think when you commit to a team for a certain amount of years, you kind of feel like your responsibility is to always fulfill the contract. For me, it’s been good because I’m just taking it day by day and I’m enjoying what I have. I don’t know what the future holds, and the great part is, for me, football at this point is all borrowed time.

 

“I never expected to play 20 years. I’m playing on a great team. It’s just been an incredible 20 years of my life — to play for Mr. Kraft, and Jonathan, and the Kraft family, and for Coach Belichick, and to have so much success is a dream come true.”

 

Brady, 42, was asked about his status two days after his uncertain future was discussed on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown.

 

Brady and his wife, Gisele Bundchen, recently listed their Massachusetts home for sale. At the same time, Brady recently opened a new TB12 Sports Therapy Center in Boston.

 

“One day I’ll wake up and feel like that will be enough. When that day comes, that day comes. I don’t know if it will be after this year. I don’t know if it will be five years from now. But I don’t have to determine those things right now either,” Brady said on the radio show. “That’s kind of a good part where I’m at. So I think just taking advantage of the opportunity that I have this year and do the very best I can do. Those decisions come at the more appropriate times.”

 

Brady, who has previously said he hopes to play until he’s 45, agreed to a revamped contract in August. The contract included voidable years in 2020 and 2021, which means he will become a free agent after the 2019 season unless the sides strike an extension.

 

In the radio interview, Brady was asked if he had anything to add to his prior remarks about his cameo appearance in the Netflix series “Living With Yourself,” as he had expressed disgust with those who viewed it as an attack on Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

 

In Brady’s cameo, he is seen walking out of the Top Happy Spa, which is located in a strip mall. In February, Kraft was charged with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution at a day spa in a Florida strip mall.

 

“I think I answered last week and I think it’s about publicity. I think the particular show got a lot of publicity, and I’m not going to give them any more than what they’ve already gotten,” he said. “But everyone knows, again, how I feel about Mr. Kraft and how much he’s been one of the most important people in my life. We have a relationship that is incredibly important to me. He’s been a part of the biggest moments in my life, and a lot of the biggest decisions in my life. I have nothing but true love and respect for him.

 

“He does so much to help people out in our community, and other communities, and it’s just a real blessing to have him in my life, and to play for him for 20 years, and to work for his team, has really been a dream come true.”

 

Mike Reiss has a long piece with quotes on Bill Belichick closing in on his 300th NFL victory.  Excerpts below:

 

When the New England Patriots honored Rodney Harrison at halftime of their Week 6 home game, the former safety reflected on when he signed a free-agent contract with the team in 2003, crediting Bill Belichick as the catalyst.

 

“I’d like to thank the greatest coach to ever coach in the National Football League,” Harrison said. “Coach Bill, you believed in me when everybody else turned their back on me. I love you, Coach, and I appreciate you.”

 

Such examples of Belichick seeing things others don’t and putting the pieces in place both personnel-wise and scheme-wise over his 25-year tenure as an NFL head coach have him on the cusp of an impressive milestone.

 

With a victory against the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), Belichick will notch his 300th victory as a head coach (268 in the regular season, 31 in the playoffs). Only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) have more.

 

That Belichick can hit the 300 mark against the franchise that gave him his first head-coaching job in 1991 reflects how dominant of a run he’s had in New England. Of his 299 victories, 37 came with the Browns over five seasons.

 

“His time in Cleveland wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone tried to portray it,” said Charlie Weis, who first met Belichick when they were assistants together with the Giants and later became his offensive coordinator with the Patriots. “He gets there, they make the playoffs, beat us [in New England], and then his last year is going OK and the owner dodges out of town. They didn’t throw in the towel because of Belichick but because they were moving out of town.

 

“But I think he learned through that experience. Everyone goes through the first experience, and there are things where you say, ‘Why did I do that?’ Because he’s so smart, he was able to pick that all up.”

 

“The things he has been able to do over the last 20 years will never be done again. Never. He’s one of the last old-school guys. All those old-school coaches from back in the day, they’re gone. His ability to have guys buy in every single year — there’s nobody else that can do that, especially today.”

 

As Belichick’s victories and hardware continue to pile up, here’s a look at some of his most impressive accomplishments, with thoughts from those who know him best about the secrets to his sustained excellence.

 

The victories

 

Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, who is now an analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America,” on the difficulty of reaching 300 victories: “As a coach, I know how hard it is to win 10 games in a year. That was always kind of a milestone, to say, ‘We’ll get in the playoffs if we win 10.’ When you think of 10 for 30 years, it’s hard to believe. Just a fantastic accomplishment.”

 

Matthew Slater, the current Patriots special-teams captain on Belichick’s passion: “There are a thousand things that make him a top coach, but the thing that really stands out to me is his love for the game of football. I think that fuels everything he does. It’s football around the clock with him.

 

“He’s constantly thinking of ways to make this football team better. His ability to prepare is second to none. There are certain things that maybe you’ve never even thought about that he’s making sure to cover with our football team each and every day. Obviously when you’ve done it as long as he has, there’s a list of things that make him special. It’s an honor to play for Coach.”

 

He is the only NFL coach to lead his team to 10 consecutive division titles. He’s won a record 16 overall.

 

Rob Ninkovich, the former Patriots outside linebacker and defensive end (2009-16), now a football analyst at ESPN, on the consistency of Belichick’s approach: “You always know what to expect. That’s the one thing he tries to explain to us — you have to be consistent and it starts with every single day, putting in work to where you’re building something. When you’re starting out in [the] offseason, and you’re starting out in OTAs and minicamp, you’re building from the ground up. You start the new season and everyone is at the same point. And every single nail that you put into that building process is going to make you stronger as the season progresses. That’s the consistency of every day that he stresses, and that has helped that streak [of division titles]. He has set the example of consistency for the players, and in return, the players are consistently preparing and getting themselves ready to be the best team they can be, not just in one season but multiple seasons.”

 

Dungy: “I first got to know Bill when I played for the Giants for about two months, and he was the special-teams coach for Ray Perkins. That’s where I first got to meet him and see how meticulous he was, very detail-oriented, and what a teacher he was on technique. Usually when you rise up the ranks — become a coordinator and then a head coach — you start thinking more big picture, X’s and O’s, and controlling the team. But you can see from watching his teams play that he still has that attention to detail as a head coach.”

 

The postseason wins

 

Dungy, on Belichick’s game plans: “He has the great ability, and his teams had it, to have a completely different game plan. When we played them in the playoffs, that was one thing we always talked about with our players. We said, ‘We’re going to have to adjust after the first quarter. We’re going to show you some things we think they’re going to do, but they probably aren’t going to do these.’ They might have been four wide receivers the whole playoffs, but then they come in against you with three tight ends and pound the ball, because they think that’s your weakness. Or vice versa. You saw [Monday night], a ton of these all-out blitzes. They may play next week and not blitz at all. To me, that’s kind of the genius of Bill Belichick — to not only be able to come up with those plans but to be able to execute them when they change week in and week out.”

 

Ninkovich, on an example of how Belichick’s postseason experience manifests itself: “Before we played Seattle for the Super Bowl [in the 2014 season], he was talking to the team. He said: ‘If at any point in this game you start to think beyond the next play, if you start to think about after the game, if you look at the score and think about what could possibly be if we win this game, stop and go right back to where you’re at and focus on the play that you’re about to play. Every single play is a new play and an opportunity to execute and do your job. Because if you don’t do that, and your mind starts to wander from what the task is at hand, you’re not going to be able to execute.’

 

“That really resonated with me, because in 2011 when we lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl, I can remember looking at the scoreboard and thinking, ‘We’re going to do this! We’re going to win!’ And we lost. So when he said that before the Seattle game, I was like, ‘I remember doing that in the Super Bowl, because it’s so hard not to look at the score and think about the outcome.’ So for him to say that, that made a big impact for me as a player.”

 

Brady, on how Belichick’s sustained success doesn’t surprise him: “His consistency, dependability, all of those things we talk about in a great player, it’s the same thing in a great coach. His dependability, what he brings to work every day and his commitment to our team, I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that as a player.”

 

Weis, on how Belichick doesn’t allow for selfishness: “He’s better than anyone I’ve ever seen who has been able to get people to check their egos at the door. This is an ego-driven business now. For example, assistant coaches always bitch about the head coach. ‘Can you believe he’s doing this? Can you believe he’s doing that?’ He doesn’t tolerate that. He’d let anyone go if he felt they weren’t on board. I think that’s what separates him. He’s Steady Eddy. He makes every decision with a stern, full-speed-ahead approach. You know what you’re getting and you know what the response is going to be. When a young player does something, the players don’t have to wonder what’s going to happen. They already can hear the answer and response before he even opens his mouth.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

GREG OLSEN

Joseph Person of The Athletic on Greg Olsen’s bye week broadcast gig last week:

 

Working as a guest analyst alongside veteran play-by-play man Kenny Albert, Olsen offered viewers insights into schemes and tendencies, questioned Giants coach Pat Shurmur’s fourth-quarter game management and had warmed up to the telestrator by the end of the Cardinals’ 27-21 victory.

 

The online reviews of Olsen were overwhelmingly positive. So were those popping up on Albert’s cell phone during the game.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that many texts or tweets during the game about an analyst that I was working with. And it was 99 percent positive,” Albert said later. “I got a text from somebody who’s been a TV producer and director for 30 years in New York, and he wrote to me that Greg’s the best analyst he’s heard in a long time.”

 

FOX officials and Olsen’s media rep agreed to let The Athletic ride shotgun for Olsen’s second stint in the booth. (He also was a guest analyst for a Vikings-Rams game during the Panthers’ bye week in 2017.)

 

A behind-the-scenes look at Olsen’s day:

 

Olsen arrived at MetLife Stadium on Sunday morning about 2½ hours before kickoff. He spent most of the week in New York, going through a round of media appearances, touring the city and taking his wife, Kara, and their three children to “Aladdin” on Broadway.

 

Olsen grew up in north Jersey and his high school team was supposed to play a state championship game in the old Meadowlands Stadium. But a snowstorm postponed the game, which was later played at Olsen’s school.

 

Olsen’s game prep began last week, the day after the Panthers returned from London.

 

 “From Monday on, Greg was so invested in it. I could tell that he studied and watched film and studied both teams,” Albert said. “Obviously, he played Arizona last month, so that kind of gave him a big advantage with them, having already studied them that week. But I could just tell how into it he was.”

– – –

Olsen stood throughout the first quarter, rocking on his feet and occasionally tapping a pen on the desktop that held his notes, handwritten neatly in a Manila folder. But he and Albert sat for the final three quarters after someone brought them high-top chairs.

 

Olsen’s family sat in a suite two spots down from the FOX booth. Several times during the game, Olsen would smile at Kara or his kids through the glass. At one point, Jon Beason, Olsen’s teammate in Carolina and at the University of Miami, showed up in the adjacent suite and held up his fist.

 

 

Olsen in the booth with his children, from left: T.J., Talbot and Tate. (Joe Person / The Athletic)

Olsen checked his phone occasionally during timeouts. Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen and ex-Panthers center Ryan Kalil, whose Jets play New England on Monday night at MetLife, were among those who texted him.

 

Olsen leaned on his Carolina connection at different times during the broadcast. He spotlighted Giants offensive tackle Mike Remmers when the ex-Panther picked up a holding penalty that pushed New York out of field-goal range before the half.

 

“One of my all-time favorite teammates. Nobody played harder, prepared harder. He was a huge part of our Super Bowl team back in 2015,” Olsen said. “Tough penalty there, though, getting out of field-goal range.”

 

When FOX later showed a graphic of the Giants’ offensive line, Olsen touched on Giants general manager Dave Gettleman’s roster-building philosophy, telling viewers that Gettleman was known as the “Hogfather” in Carolina due to his affinity for “hog mollies.”

 

“He’s going to build from the line of scrimmage out to the skilled players, on both sides of the ball,” Olsen said, “and you can see that starting take shape here in New York.”

 

There were a few lighter moments during the broadcast.

 

After FOX ran a World Series promo coming out of a timeout, Olsen said he watched Houston’s Game 6 win over the Yankees in the ALCS on his phone because his hotel in Hoboken didn’t have FS1.

 

Albert joked that they’d have to get Olsen a password for the FOX app; Olsen said he already had one.

 

When a couple of players got into it on a Cardinals kickoff in the first quarter, Olsen said for the “first time ever” the officials penalized the instigator and not the player who retaliated.

 

And when Edmonds, who played collegiately at nearby Fordham, zipped in for his third touchdown, Olsen said: “Nice homecoming by Edmonds. He’s gonna be on everyone’s fantasy waiver wire this week.”

 

Olsen’s best work came at the end of the game after the Giants had pulled to within three points, but were undone by some dubious decisions by Shurmur.

 

On third-and-18 from their 30 with three minutes left, the Giants ran a running play for Saquon Barkley that gained 3 yards. Shurmur then went for it on fourth-and-15, and a blitzing Patrick Peterson sacked Jones and forced one of the rookie’s three turnovers.

 

“Tough call there. I think Pat Shurmur would like to have that one back and be more aggressive,” Olsen said after the third-down run.

 

Jones said after the game he checked to a run on third-and-long because the Cardinals were in a zone coverage with two safeties deep.

 

And while Olsen later said that analytics might have influenced Shurmur’s decision to go for the fourth down with 2:35 still left, Olsen still didn’t love the two-play sequence.

 

“If you’re gonna make it four-down territory, you need to be more aggressive on third down to give yourself a chance,” Olsen said on the air. “I don’t know. That’s an interesting one.”

 

With the Cardinals trying to take time off the clock on the ensuing possession, Olsen was in disbelief when Murray ran out of bounds on third down, stopping the clock 20 seconds before the two-minute warning.

 

“Stay in bounds. Oh my God, why would he do that? That’s a huge, huge mistake by a young quarterback. You’ve got to make them get to the two-minute warning. …. It’s, in essence, giving them a timeout.”

 

The Cardinals survived Murray’s gaffe, tacking on a field goal and then getting their eighth sack on Jones on the Giants’ final possession to win their third in a row.

 

For a game between two teams that began the day with losing records and was played in rain that was hard at times, Olsen was pleased that it had an exciting finish and plenty to talk about.

 

“That’s a wrap,” Olsen said and shook hands with Albert.

 

After shooting a short wrapup for FOX’s digital platform, Olsen said he felt more comfortable in the booth Sunday than he did in 2017 when he was part of a three-man team.

 

“I just think there was a familiarity standpoint to being up here before. The first time I did it, everything was a first time,” he said. “Kenny was a great partner. He did so much of the heavy lifting, teed me up for so many easy points that I could make.”

 

Albert was impressed with Olsen’s knowledge of the NFL rulebook and his big-picture view.

 

“Sometimes, players are so one-dimensional, they only really know their position. They only know the game from looking at it from whatever position they played,” Albert said. “But he seemed to have a great grasp on the entire field, not just on the tight end or the quarterback.”

 

Landis, the Fox producer, also believes Olsen is a natural. “I think he has everything you need to be a top-flight analyst, no question,” Landis said before the game.

 

Landis said the key is attacking every game with the same vigor and preparation as Week 1 and doesn’t think that will be a problem for Olsen.

 

“I watch him play all the time,” Landis added. “That’s how he prepares for games.”

 

Albert said he’s worked with more than 200 analysts during his career — and he would put Olsen up there with the best.

 

“I think if he were to retire today and go into this full-time, he’d be right up there with the top guys, I really do,” Albert said. “Just based on what I heard today.”

 

As Olsen walked to the elevator with his family after the game, he wanted to check something on his phone that had come up during the game.

 

Speaking to his 8-year-old son, Olsen said: “No, Chase Edmonds is not available, Tate.”

 

 

HARBAUGH

Running towards the NFL while running away from Ohio State?  Jim Harbaugh fiercely denies the rumors.  Tom VanHareen of ESPN.com:

 

Jim Harbaugh is refuting reports of interest in NFL jobs by sending a letter to parents of current players and commitments that addresses recent rumors of an exit strategy from Michigan.

 

The letter was first reported by The Michigan Insider and was confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday.

 

Harbaugh writes in the letter that recent reports of him pursuing an exit strategy are “total crap,” and that it is “an annual strategy driven by Michigan’s enemies to cause disruption to our program and to negatively recruit.”

 

Harbaugh goes on to write that he doesn’t have an agent or a representative. Reports said his representatives were gauging interest from NFL teams for any head-coaching opportunities.

 

A source close to Michigan said Harbaugh was angry about the reports and that they were “fabricated to hurt in recruiting.”

 

It’s not the first time Harbaugh has reportedly been linked to NFL jobs, and it’s not the first time he has shot down such reports. As early as December 2016, Harbaugh has denied rumors about his interest in returning to the NFL.

 

In 2018, he spoke to ESPN’s Adam Schefter about them resurfacing and the intent to harm his program.

 

“This is a choreographed message that comes up at this time every year before signing day,” Harbaugh told Schefter then. “It’s people spreading messages to further their own personal agenda. But I’m on record right here, right now: I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying at Michigan. We have big plans here, and there’s a lot we want to accomplish.”

 

Michigan is 5-2 this season and still has Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the schedule. The Wolverines are recruiting well, holding on to the No. 8-ranked class in 2020 with eight ESPN 300 commitments.

 

The rumors have not had a major impact on recruiting in the past. A source close to one of Michigan’s ESPN 300 commitments told ESPN that the reports aren’t a concern for the recruit and he understands, even if Harbaugh were to eventually leave, that coaching changes happen.