The Daily Briefing Wednesday, August 15, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Will Raiders LB KHALIL MACK end up in Green Bay?  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

As Khalil Mack continues his lengthy holdout, there’s increasing talk that the Raiders could trade him. If they do, the Packers appear to be the leading candidates to acquire him.

 

The sports book Bovada is taking odds on which team Mack will play for after the October 30 trade deadline, and the Packers, at 11-4 odds, are the favorites. They’re followed by the Bills at 7-1, the Cowboys, Colts and Jets at 8-1, Washington at 9-1 and the Steelers at 12-1.

 

There’s no doubt that Mack is a player who would help the Packers’ defense, but there are reasons to think a trade could be a long shot. It would take a lot to pry Mack away from the Raiders, and just how much are the Packers willing to give up? The Packers have two first-round picks in the 2019 NFL draft, their own and the one they acquired in a draft-day trade with the Saints. Would they give up both first-round picks for Mack? That seems doubtful, but it’s probably what the Raiders would want if they’re going to trade him.

 

And then there’s the issue of the enormous cap hit Mack will have. No team is going to trade for Mack without getting him to agree to a long-term contract, and Mack isn’t going to sign for anything less than an enormous payday, perhaps rivaling whatever Aaron Donald and the Rams agree to for the biggest payday for a defensive player in NFL history. It may be hard to convince a team to give up a fortune in draft picks for the right to pay Mack a fortune in cash. It would be especially tough for the Packers, who are negotiating what may end up being the biggest contract in NFL history with Aaron Rodgers, to also manage to fit the biggest defensive player’s contract in NFL history under their salary cap, and still build a deep roster elsewhere.

 

That’s why the safest bet is that that Mack will remain a Raider. Those odds are 3-2.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Eric Adelson of YahooSports.com visits the psyche of CB MARCUS WILLIAMS.

 

Williams addressed the Minneapolis Miracle in a short news conference, saying he had already moved on, and it’s clear to his teammates that he has.

 

“That play was one of the very few mistakes last year,” says receiver Michael Thomas. “We always knew the potential he has.”

 

And that makes sense. A miracle play, by definition, is extremely rare. The chances that Williams arrives early to a key situation again is high, and the chances he errs again are low.

 

“He’s one in a million in terms of kids that come into your program,” Scalley says. “Shows up early, stays late. Then for people to question him? All they see is No. 43 missing a play. I know where his heart is.”

 

Scalley went to New Orleans over the summer to grab a meal with his former player. He knew by then there weren’t any lingering effects from last season. Williams had already posted a motivational workout video on his Twitter feed, which starts with the play and then fades to him waking up before dawn to work out.

 

Marcus Williams

@MarcusWilliams

 Turning my NIGHTMARE into my MOTIVATION‼️‼️‼️ #motivation #mentality #grind

 

Nobody wants to see a Miracle happen to a favorite player, but if it has to happen, you want it to happen to someone who can come back to work without baggage. Someone who has already bounced back from a wretched first-year game. Someone who doesn’t wallow.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

RASHAAD PENNY, the Seahawks prized rookie running back is out for 3-4 weeks with a hand injury.  Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times:

 

Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks’ first pick in the 2018 NFL draft, suffered a hand injury that includes a broken finger in practice on Monday, multiple sources told the Seattle Times.

 

It was later reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league’s official flagship network, that Penny flew to Philadelphia Tuesday night to have surgery to repair the broken finger and that he will be out 3-4 weeks. That would mean he might be able to return for the regular season opener on Sept. 9 at Denver but would likely miss the remainder of the preseason. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is expected to meet the media on Wednesday and clarify the injury.

 

Penny was the 27th overall pick out of San Diego State and represented only the third time Seattle has drafted a tailback in the first round, the others being Curt Warner and Shaun Alexander. Penny left Monday’s practice midway through. The Seahawks did not practice Tuesday but will be back on the field Wednesday.

 

Penny had 16 yards on eight carries in his NFL preseason debut Thursday in a 19-17 loss to the Colts working as the number two tailback behind second-year player Chris Carson.

 

With Penny out, the Seahawks will need others to step into the backup role behind Carson.

 

Mike Davis, who was Seattle’s leading rusher as a running back last year with 240 yards, has been listed as the number three tailback behind Carson and Penny.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

GM John Elway, unafraid to change direction if needed, signals the end is coming for QB PAXTON LYNCH.  The AP:

 

The Denver Broncos might not be done shuffling backup quarterbacks.

 

General manager John Elway said Tuesday that he might still sign a veteran to back up starting QB Case Keenum if he doesn’t feel Chad Kelly can win games in a pinch.

 

“I’m not going to tell you we’re definitely going to stand pat, but I’m not telling you we’re going (in) that direction, either,” Elway told 103.5 The Fox radio station in Denver.

 

The Broncos promoted Kelly over former first-round pick Paxton Lynch this week following their contrasting performances in training camp and in the preseason opener last weekend, when Lynch threw for just 24 yards over seven series with the second string. Kelly had a pair of touchdowns in mop-up duty against the Minnesota Vikings.

 

“We’ve got to have confidence that that guy that’s going to be the backup can play and win football games,” Elway said. “And so that’s why we’re still in that process of trying to see if we’ve got that guy behind Case.

 

“Even though Chad played very well on Saturday night — we’ll see how he does this week — but if something were to happen to Case, can he come in and continue to win football games for us?” Elway said. “That’s the big part of the evaluation process and that’s still going on.”

 

Kelly will get plenty of work with the second stringers as the Broncos host the Chicago Bears for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday before their preseason game Saturday night in Denver.

 

Kelly, whose uncle in NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, threw for 97 touchdowns and 29 interceptions during a collegiate career that began at Clemson (2012-13), continued at East Mississippi Junior College (2014) and finished at Ole Miss (2015-16).

 

Elway selected him with the final pick of the 2017 NFL draft, but Kelly missed his rookie season while recovering from wrist and knee injuries, watching as the Broncos rolled through quarterbacks Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Lynch during a 5-11 season.

 

Osweiler wasn’t re-signed in the offseason and Siemian was traded after Keenum’s arrival in March, when Elway declared the backup job up for grabs.

 

Kelly had a solid offseason and consistently outplayed Lynch, the former Memphis QB whom Elway moved up to draft in the first round in 2016 following Peyton Manning’s retirement.

 

Kelly completed 14 of 21 passes for 177 yards, two TDs and an interception against the Vikings while the crowd serenaded him with chants of “Kelly! Kelly!”

 

“He’s had a great camp, he’s a competitive guy, he comes out and he works hard. He wants to be good,” Elway said. “And so, he’s the type of guy that you love to have on your football team. So, he did a great job the other night and we’ll see how he does this week.”

 

Coach Vance Joseph said Tuesday that Lynch was mad and miffed over the switch .

 

“He is upset. He didn’t like it. He wants to know why,” Joseph said. “And he has to play better. It’s as simple as that. It’s a competition. It’s the league. Everyone’s doing this. No one’s not playing their best players.

 

“And it’s really more about Chad. Chad has competed and Chad’s played well. Because if Chad’s not playing well, (Lynch) is still a 2. So, it’s really more about what Chad has done from the spring to now.”

 

 

THE RAIDERS

For some thoughts on holdout LB KHALIL MACK, see GREEN BAY.

– – –

More news of T DONALD PENN who seems to have lost his left tackle spot to the rookie T KOLTON MILLER.  Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com:

 

The day after agreeing to a restructured contract, three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn was activated from the physically unable to perform list and moved to a new position with the Oakland Raiders — right tackle.

 

The move could also portend first-round draft pick Kolton Miller winning the starting left tackle job.

 

“They talked to me about it, about trying it out, seeing what it would do, seeing how I would feel over there and I told them, ‘I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win, and if you guys feel that’s going to be in the best interest of the team, I’ll do it,'” Penn said Tuesday, following his first training camp practice.

 

“Today felt kind of awkward and rusty, but I need time to develop. I don’t know if that’s going to be a permanent thing or not yet, but it is something we’re testing out and I told them I’m all for it. We’ve got a young kid over there [Miller] that’s doing a lot of good things.”

 

Penn, who received a two-year, $21 million extension after a 26-day holdout last year, reportedly took a small pay cut this year to get some guaranteed money next season.

 

Per ESPN Stats & Information, Penn was due base salaries of $6 million in each of the next two seasons, with a guaranteed $3 million this season and a $300,000 workout bonus based on six weigh-ins, with $50,000 per weigh-in.

 

And under the parameters of said contract, he was due a $1 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year in 2019 and the remaining $5 million of his salary became fully guaranteed if he had 75 percent playing time in 2018.

 

Penn, who had been rehabbing from Lisfranc surgery on his right foot in December that ended his consecutive starts streak at 170, said the Raiders mentioned the possibility of a position switch to him during “negotiations with the contract stuff” over the past week.

 

“And then this morning, they told me that they wanted me to try it out today and see how it goes,” Penn said. “I told them I was going to give my best effort and go out there and try to be Donald Penn over there.”

 

The only other time Penn played right tackle was in an emergency situation in the 2016 season opener at New Orleans, after Menelik Watson and Vadal Alexander were lost to injury.

 

Per Pro Football Focus, Penn played 24 snaps at right tackle that day and in 18 pass-block snaps there, he did not allow a quarterback pressure.

 

“It was tough,” Penn said. “I’m glad we won. I was out there battling, holding on for dear life. It was tough.”

 

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said it was strange seeing the protector of his blind side now lined up in front of him.

 

“It was a little different, but that’s why you have good players,” Carr said Tuesday. “That’s why you add good players to your team, so when things happen you can put guys in different spots.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Apparently WR DEZ BRYANT finally answered the phone.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on his impending visit to the Browns:

 

Hue Jackson said Tuesday that when receiver Dez Bryant visits on Thursday, both sides have to have a comfort level for a deal to get done.

 

“It’s not just a given,” said Jackson. “You have to work through whatever conversations we have and feel good about it.”

 

Jackson said doesn’t have a previous relationship with Bryant, but that the organization has done its homework on him. Bryant is also represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, same as Jackson.

 

“You have open and very candid conversations about what your locker room is, how your team is run, how we go about doing things and see if it fits,” said Jackson. “The player has to be honest, and we have to be honest with what our expectations are. You just lay it out. That’s the only way that you can do it at this time.”

 

Bryant will make his visit the day before the Browns host the Bills Friday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, which is an off-day for the players.

 

He’s one of several receivers that Browns GM John Dorsey is bringing in this week, a mix of veterans and young players, to possibly bolster the position. He’s said he likes the fiery Bryant, and views him as a competitive, passionate player.

 

“I’d be open to anything if it’s proper,” Dorsey said Thursday. “I’m just going to measure that on a case-by-case basis and see what happens when the guys come in next week.”

 

Dorsey is doing his due diligence on receivers in the aftermath of the Corey Coleman trade and with the uncertainty surrounding the return of Josh Gordon. Cleveland.com asked Dorsey Thursday if Gordon is still set to return soon from his health sabbatical, and the GM said, “We’ll see when he gets here.”

 

The Browns also have to take it day-by-day with Antonio Callaway, who was cited Aug. 5 for marijuana possession and was already in Stage 1 of the NFL’s substance abuse program.

 

Callaway said the weed wasn’t his, and Dorsey believes he hasn’t used, but the Browns must still proceed with caution when it comes to the rookie wideout. Callaway also suffered a minor rib injury in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Giants.

 

A league source told cleveland.com that Bryant may have been inspired to make the visit after watching the premiere episode of Hard Knocks. He tweeted that Jarvis Landry’s stirring speech about toughness and turning things around gave him chills.

– – –

The second episode of “Hard Knocks” revealed that WR COREY COLEMAN wanted out of Cleveland.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com with the review:

 

Coleman and Antonio Callaway stole the second episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns on HBO on Tuesday night. Another receiver, Jarvis Landry, starred in the first episode with an impassioned speech in the receivers room.

 

The second episode opens at Coleman’s apartment with the former first-round pick showing off his thousand pair of sneakers. He was traded hours later but not before scenes of General Manager John Dorsey, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley questioning Coleman’s pride, effort and attention to detail.

 

“It looks like he’s running 5 miles per hour,” Haley tells Dorsey after practice.

 

After the Browns replaced Coleman with rookie Antonio Callaway in the starting lineup, Coleman confronted Jackson in Jackson’s office.

 

“Why am I running second team?” Coleman asked. “That s— is crazy to me.”

 

Jackson told Coleman to go ask Haley.

 

“If y’all don’t want me to play, why don’t y’all just trade me?” Coleman responded.

 

And so, they did the next day, getting a 2020 seventh-round pick for Coleman. “You know what that’s like? That’s like saying, ‘Here,’” Emmanuel Ogbah said in the defensive line meeting room when he learned the compensation.

 

Much of the rest of the episode revolves around Callaway and his citation for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license, which he didn’t reveal to anyone in the organization. It’s obvious during practice the day after the traffic stop that Callaway had something on his mind. Jackson asked Callaway, “What’s wrong?” and Haley asked him, “Are you all right?”

 

Once the media reported the story, Callaway had a meeting with Dorsey and Jackson in Dorsey’s office. They told Callaway how disappointed they were in him and then asked Callaway for his explanation. The receiver blamed his younger brother for the roach being in the car.

 

“I mean, we’re dealing with something that all of this can be prevented,” Jackson lectured Callaway. “You check your car, first of all. You know your history. You can’t take a chance. You can’t put first yourself in this situation. You can’t put us in this situation. Now listen. You’ve got talent, but talent ain’t everything I’m looking for. I want you to become a man and responsible and accountable to John and me, this organization and your teammates or else I wouldn’t keep you on the team. I’m just being very honest with you. OK? If s— comes up, you have my number. You’ve got John’s number. You call us ASAP. That’s what I expect from you from here on in.

 

“I believe you, but if I’m wrong on this one, then I’m going to have your ass.”

 

Callaway briefly apologized in a team meeting, and then Jackson repeated a Cliff’s Notes version of his lecture to the team.

 

As punishment, Callaway played every snap of the preseason opener. He caught three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with more:

 

The most important interaction happens early in the episode, when Callaway is pulled over by police.

 

“Antonio,” the officer says in the portion of the video generated in connection with the stop, “I do smell a little bit of weed in the car. Were you smoking earlier or anything like that?”

 

Callaway then trots out the “my car just got shipped up here” defense, a far more specific (and somewhat less implausible) version of “the weed wasn’t mine.” But here’s the flaw in his argument, one that isn’t addressed at all during a Hard Knocks episode that focuses on whether Callaway tells the team the truth about not knowing that marijuana was in the car: If the police officer smelled it, Callaway should have smelled it, too.

 

Unlike tobacco, marijuana has a distinct, pervasive odor (or so they say). Callaway, barring an olfactory deficiency, would have smelled it from inside the car, especially if the officer smelled it from outside the car.

 

And let’s rewind to the moment the car arrived from Florida. The moment Callaway opened the door for the first time, that dank, skunky, nasty smell would have smacked him in the face (or so they say).

 

The episode includes coach Hue Jackson on multiple occasions making it clear that he believes Callaway, but that “if I’m wrong on this one, I’m gonna have your ass.”

 

“I think he’s telling me the truth,” Jackson says. “He knows if he’s lying to me, then I’m done. . . . Everybody gets one Mulligan. And it better be a Mulligan when you’re telling the f–king truth. If it’s not, then I’m done with you.”

 

The editing of the episode doesn’t make it entirely clear whether the truth on which Jackson relies is that it wasn’t Callaway’s weed or that Callaway didn’t know the weed was in the car. Regardless, if he’s lying as to the latter point (and, again, unless he’s hard of smelling, he is), he’s lying as to the former point.

 

That said, who cares if Callaway was smoking weed? The NFL shouldn’t. The problem for Callaway is that the NFL does, and that the deeper issue here isn’t weed but trust. Based on the reality that there’s no way he didn’t know weed was in the car, the team’s current trust in him may be misplaced.

 

 

PITTSBURGH

QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER is concussed. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com:

 

– Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in the concussion protocol after sustaining a hit early in Tuesday’s practice.

 

Coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement that team doctors are evaluating the six-time Pro Bowler.

 

Teammates huddled in concern as Roethlisberger fell to the turf at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert said Roethlisberger was rolling to the right side on a goal-line play and ran into Gilbert and linebacker Keion Adams.

 

Roethlisberger got up on his own accord and talked with teammates and trainers, who eventually walked him out of the stadium. He appeared to leave the premises in a car.

 

Center Maurkice Pouncey said Roethlisberger told him “he was fine, he was good,” and reserve quarterback Mason Rudolph said the quarterback appeared in good spirits after the play.

 

“It happened so fast. I saw his head whip back,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got to see the film to see what happened. That’s my guy. No one wants to see anything happen to him, especially in a practice like this, coming to work and going and not tackling.”

 

Roethlisberger, 36, was last in the protocol in 2015 after taking a hit from then-Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett. Roethlisberger was vocal last offseason that long-term brain health would be a factor in how long he plays. Roethlisberger said this offseason that he’s eyeing three to five more seasons.

 

Earlier in the day, Tomlin praised Roethlisberger’s training camp performance.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

DE J.J. WATT wants you to know he is doing just fine.  Aaron Wilson in the Houston Chronicle:

 

When the Texans’ defense lines up against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, star defensive end J.J. Watt expects to be chasing around quarterback Tom Brady.

 

The Texans are being cautious with Watt’s workload as far as preseason games.

 

However, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year expressed confidence in his availability for the season opener.

 

“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt,” Watt said.

 

Watt has been limited to 23 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in eight games combined over the past two seasons due to serious injuries.

 

He suffered a gruesome broken leg last season. He underwent a pair of surgeries to repair a herniated disk two years ago.

 

Watt emphasized that his health is encouraging.

 

“I feel great,” he said. “I love being on the field. I had a great workout.”

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

As JALEN RAMSEY sits out the week for “conduct unbecoming”, the Jaguars CB offers opinions, some negatively candid, on a host of QBs including one he’s never played against (we should mention that he actually did this GQ interview with Clay Skipper before he was suspended:

 

he tells me that this year’s NFL Draft “was a little off.”

 

GQ: How so?

Jalen Ramsey: If all those teams were wanting [Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 overall pick] Baker [Mayfield] so bad—Baker compares better with Lamar [Jackson] than any of those other quarterbacks. So if they want that type of quarterback—confident, get out the pocket, throw on the run, big plays, charisma—then yeah, I understand Baker going number one. But if all the other people were competing and wanting Baker, too, then why wasn’t Lamar the second quarterback chosen? Instead of at the end of the first round.

 

I think [Buffalo Bills draft pick Josh] Allen is trash. I don’t care what nobody say. He’s trash. And it’s gonna show too. That’s a stupid draft pick to me. We play them this year, and I’m excited as hell. I hope he’s their starting quarterback. He played at Wyoming. Every time they played a big school—like, they played Iowa State, which is not a big school in my opinion because I went to Florida State, and he threw five interceptions, and they lost by a couple touchdowns or something like that. He never beat a big school. If you look at his games against big schools, it was always hella interceptions, hella turnovers. It’s like: Yo, if you’re this good, why couldn’t you do better? He fits that mold, he’s a big, tall quarterback. Big arm, supposedly. I don’t see it, personally.

 

[Ed’s Note: While at Wyoming, Josh Allen never played Iowa State, though, as a junior last year, he did lose to Iowa 24-3. He threw two interceptions, and only six all season. He threw five interceptions once, against Nebraska during his sophomore year.]

 

I would’ve picked [Lamar Jackson] earlier than 32. I think he’s gonna do a good job. Especially with the [Baltimore Ravens’] offensive coordinator—he likes running quarterbacks, likes that read option. And just being honest about it, [Joe] Flacco sucks. I played him two years in a row. He sucks.

 

“God didn’t make me to be on this Earth by myself. Somebody gonna like me. So if a couple people don’t like me, I’m not tripping. I am good.”

 

Who are the quarterbacks, in your opinion, who don’t suck?

Aaron Rodgers does not. Tom Brady doesn’t. I gotta think now, about all the teams… I think Marcus Mariota is a great quarterback for their team. I think Tyrod Taylor is actually a better quarterback than he gets credit for, because he does not make mistakes. He’s honestly a Marcus Mariota type player, where he manages a game really well, always has them at least in position to be in the game late in the game. He just doesn’t have turnovers that often. That’s really all you need, especially if you get a good defense.

 

Are you sold on the Jimmy Garoppolo hype?

I don’t know yet. Just cause when they beat us, his hype picked up. They were like, “He beat the number one defense.” It was all schemes. He didn’t beat us. It wasn’t like he diced us up. It was literally all schemes. They were doing flat routes to the wide open fullback, and he’s running for 20 yards down the field four times during the game… So he didn’t really dice us up. It was their fullback and their tight end on over routes. But if you know how to work within your scheme then it means your good. I guess you could say he’s good.

 

I gotta go down the list of NFL teams, if y’all wanna make sure I’m hitting all the good quarterbacks….

 

[At this point, Ramsey has his phone out, scrolling through names.]

 

Deshaun Watson, he’ll be the league MVP in a couple years. One hundred percent. There’s not even a debate about that. Him and Carson Wentz, for every year starting now until five to ten years, it’s gonna be them two. They’re that good.

 

Jared Goff, he’s average to above average. He reminds me of Jimmy Garoppolo a little bit. Year one, he wasn’t good. He wasn’t even good enough to earn his own starting role. Like, if you the number one pick, you expected to start now. Period. He wasn’t ready to do that. He wasn’t able to do that. Then when he did get in, he didn’t really do that good. But in his second year, they got a new offensive coordinator. Your offensive coordinator is just your brainiac. When we played them, it felt like his offensive coordinator was drawing up perfect plays and then he was hitting the open man. For what his team ask him to do, yeah, he’s good.

 

Dak Prescott, he’s good. He’s alright. He’s okay. I’ll put it that way. [Ezekiel Elliott] runs that team though. Everything runs around Zeke.

 

What about Kirk Cousins?

I think he’s good. I think he’s a winner. He’s a hell of a competitor. Coming off the play action, he’s the best quarterback in the league. Play action passing, he’s a hell of a quarterback. Derek Carr, I think he’s good. Eli [Manning]… It’s not really Eli. I think it’s Odell [Beckham, Jr.]. I won’t say Eli’s good, I’ll say Odell’s good. And their connection is good. I think Russell [Wilson] is good. I think he’s just a really good leader too. Big Ben [Roethlisberger], I think he’s decent at best… It’s not Big Ben, it’s [Antonio Brown]. Big Ben slings the ball a lot of the time. He just slings it, and his receivers go get it. He has a strong arm, but he ain’t all that. I played him twice last year, and he really disappointed me. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame and all that.

 

What about your boy Blake Bortles?

Blake do what he gotta do… I think in crunch time moments, like last year’s playoff game—not as a team, because we would have trusted him—but I think as an organization, we should have trusted him more to keep throwing it. We kinda got complacent and conservative. And I think that’s why we lost. We started running it on first and second down, throwing it on third down, every single time we were out there. [The Patriots] caught on to that.

 

How much trouble do you give him in practice?

We never go against him unless it’s training camp. We never go against them in practice, during the season.

 

They go against the two’s?

Yeah, scout team. Plus we don’t wanna hurt his confidence. That’ll probably hurt his confidence.

 

Nick Foles?

He won them a Super Bowl so he’s good enough to do that. He had a hella good team, too, though. But as long as you can do what the team asks you to do, then you’re straight. Like people say Blake sucks, but he took us to the AFC Championship game off strictly doing what was just asked of him: not turning the ball over, running Leonard [Fournette] to death, letting the defense get some turnovers, and putting us in a good field position to capitalize on.

 

That was what we asked him to do. Playoff Blake is good. People can say whatever but playoff Blake is good. I think that’s how it is with a lot of teams: as long as you do what that team is asking you to do, and you do it well with the rest of the team, then you can be considered good—or at least not bad. You not a bad quarterback if you do what your team asks of you. Matthew Stafford, I think he’s straight. I don’t think he the best quarterback out there. But he do what he gotta do.

 

Drew Brees. I’m a fan of Drew Brees. I think Drew Brees really good, even at this age. He still runs. Everything. Andrew Luck—I don’t really think he’s that good. Him and T.Y. [Hilton] had a connection in the past that made him stand out a little bit more, but I don’t think he’s good. Who’s the Miami quarterback?

 

Ryan Tannehill. I don’t know much about him. I haven’t heard the greatest of stuff about him but I don’t know him personally so I can’t tell you. I don’t watch their games either. Philip Rivers, I think he’s pretty good. What’s the Atlanta quarterback’s name?

 

Matt Ryan. I think Matt Ryan’s overrated. You can’t tell me you win MVP two years ago, and then last year, you a complete bust, and you still got Julio Jones? There’s no way that should ever happen. I don’t care. You know what that tells me? That tells me [Offensive Coordinator Kyle] Shanahan left, went to San Francisco, got Garoppolo, made Garoppolo this big thing. And now Garoppolo is a big name—and now [Matt Ryan] has this bad year? Alright, well, was it really you, or was it your coach? He was doing what was asked of him and it was making him look really, really good.

 

You know that if that were to go in GQ and Matt Ryan would read it, it would make bulletin board material, right? That doesn’t bother you?

 

I don’t play them this year anyway… Nah, it just makes me wonder though.

 

“The culture in Jacksonville needs to change a little bit. We need to have that young juice, that fire, that we don’t care what other people think, we go and get it.”

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

Oh, boy.  GM Brandon Beane may one day regret coming down so hard on the side of RB LeSEAN McCOY in his dispute with his beaten-up and robbed ex-girlfriend Delicia Cordon.  Jason Owens of YahooSports.com:

 

On Friday, LeSean McCoy’s ex-girlfriend filed a lawsuit against the Buffalo Bills running back seeking damages for a home invasion, burglary and assault that she didn’t directly name him in, but held him responsible for.

 

The lawsuit filed by Delicia Cordon claims that McCoy and his friend Tamarcus Porter are “liable for the assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress” she says she suffered during a July 10 home invasion at a Georgia home the couple shared.

 

In the suit, Cordon also accuses McCoy of abusing his son and beating his dog throughout their relationship.

 

“Anything can become a distraction if you let it, but to this point, LeSean has done a great job, his teammates have done a great job,” he said. “Other than when this little thing came up yesterday, nobody’s talked about it. The focus here has been on football. And I expect that to continue as long as it’s an open investigation.”

 

The “little thing,” of course, is the lawsuit. And Beane’s response falls in line with the Bills’ ongoing approach of staying out of the discipline business as long as there are no criminal charges.

 

McCoy not facing any criminal charges

The incident became public on July 10 when a friend of Cordon’s created an Instagram post blaming McCoy for the alleged invasion that left her battered and bloodied and robbed of jewelry that McCoy had given her.

 

McCoy said he was out of town on July 10 and has denied the allegations. Police called the incident a “targeted” home invasion at the time, but have had little to say publicly since the initial investigation. No charges have been filed, and McCoy has not been named as a suspect.

 

Bills co-owner Kim Pegula expressed surprise last week that there wasn’t more information from authorities on the case.

 

“Like we’ve said, it’s an investigation that’s going to be ongoing,” Pegula told The Athletic. “Actually, I’m surprised we really haven’t heard anything more from it, but it’s kind of out of our hands right now.”

 

 

MIAMI

Bad news for folks who have to make notes between plays.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com on the up-tempo Dolphins:

 

The Dolphins are hoping the Schwartz will be with them this year. And that has nothing to do with Jim, or Mitchell.

 

When quarterback Ryan Tannehill was discussing the tempo the Dolphins were practicing at this summer, he made reference to the movie Spaceballs, which premiered the year before he was born.

 

“I think we have a few different tempos we can play at,” Tannehill said. “We can go in the huddle. We can play on the ball at a normal speed. Or we can go at what we call ‘ludicrous speed,’ where we really press the tempo. I think that’s really going to help us more than it has in the past. Change those tempos up.”

 

While any quarterback who is conversant in Mel Brooks shows great intelligence and obvious leadership skills, the football application is a valid one.

 

After coach Adam Gase’s third training camp, they’re working at a faster pace, which means Tannehill is in command of his surroundings. (Kicking a rookie out of the huddle for a missed assignment is another example.)

 

“There’s just a better feel. With Ryan, this is his third year in the offense,” Gase said. “He’s at mentally, a different level. He’s able to really help so many guys out. I think just a couple of the moving pieces we’ve had, those guys have done a good job picking it up. This, offensively, is not too far off from what Danny [Amendola] has already done.

– – –

WR DAVANTE PARKER busted a finger.

 

An offseason of struggles got worse for DeVante Parker.  NFL.com:

 

The Miami Dolphins receiver suffered a broken middle finger, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

 

Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post first reported the injury on Tuesday.

 

The wideout is week-to-week and hopes to be ready for the season opener, per Rapoport.

 

The injury is another blow to the former first-round pick who enters a pivotal season under coach Adam Gase. The Dolphins picked up his fifth-year option earlier this offseason, but it is guaranteed for injury only.

 

After the Dolphins traded Jarvis Landry earlier in the year, the hope was Parker could leap into a go-to role. The 6-foot-3 receiver, however, has reportedly struggled throughout training camp. Parker did not corral a pass in his 10 snaps in Miami’s preseason opener.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

Redskins CB JOSH NORMAN heaps some praise on Jets savior QB SAM DARNOLD.  John Keim of ESPN.com:

 

Washington Redskins corner Josh Norman wasn’t prepared to like New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. After three days of joint practice sessions, Norman felt he didn’t have a choice.

 

Darnold, the third overall pick in the draft, worked against the Redskins’ No. 1 defense during practices.

 

“Someone asked me about him the other day, and I was like, yeah, whatever, he’s just a guy,” Norman said. “Then you go out here and see him making these throws and you’re like, all right. That’s not so much a college-level throw. He’s putting them on the money.”

 

Darnold is competing against Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job. Both worked against the Redskins’ defense in various situations, from full-team work to 7-on-7s and one-on-ones. But even if Bridgewater ends up starting, Darnold is the Jets’ future.

 

Norman said he was impressed that Darnold didn’t make mistakes and was accurate.

 

“It’s like, dang,” Norman said. “You get rookies in here, and you try to mess them with a little bit and bait them a little bit into thinking they’re throwing a route, and you can make a play and he’s not having it. It’s so crazy to see that at an early age. Dak [Prescott] has that; Carson [Wentz] has that. So it’s like, man, they must come in here not wanting to screw it up, and he’s so far impressed me and I didn’t want him to. I wanted to break all rookies. He’s been doing a great job.”

 

Norman said that on one play Tuesday, he tried to fool Darnold into a throw, playing a little tighter on an underneath route, knowing another receiver was just a little behind him.

 

“I gave him some cheese,” Norman said. “He held it, and he was going to throw it, and he pulled it back and I jumped back real fast, and I was like, you little devil. OK, I see you working really good right now. I couldn’t bait him like I wanted to, and he saw it and he read it out, and he read it out like a vet. You tip your hat to a guy like that, learning at an early age when guys are messing with him and when they’re not. It’s pretty awesome.”

– – –

WR TERRELLE PRYOR has not gotten off to a smooth start with the Jets.  Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

 

Terrelle Pryor is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

 

One day after the Jets wideout revealed to reporters that he broke his ankle in May, Gang Green coach Todd Bowles made it clear Pryor spoke out of turn.

 

“I feel he should keep his mouth shut and leave the injuries to me,” Bowles announced Tuesday, per Neil Best of Newsday.

 

The rebuke of Pryor came after the 6-foot-6 receiver struggled in a scrimmage against his former team, the Redskins.

 

At the end of the above clip, Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger is seen approaching Pryor and unfurling a fake swing at his former teammate.

 

One gets the sense Pryor was less than adored during his run with the ‘Skins. After a promising 1,000-yard season with the Browns in 2016, he landed with a thud in Washington, catching just 20 passes last season while dealing with ligament damage in his right ankle, a setback that landed him on injured reserve in November.

 

Pryor revealed Monday that he underwent a pair of offseason surgeries, saying, per The Washington Post: “One was the foot, one was the ankle. I tore three ligaments in my ankle — my foot — and then I broke my ankle in May.”

 

On Tuesday, Pryor was less effusive:

 

@TandlerNBCS

 Terrelle Pryor’s only comment to DC media today: “I’m ready to get the f— out of here.”

 

If healthy, he’s in position to help the Jets, but Pryor is hardly the lead guy for New York. Stringing together a few big preseason performances would help — as would staying off the head coach’s radar.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

THE PERFECT ROSTER

ESPN.com asked Bill Barnwell to construct the perfect 53-man roster – and it must be salary cap compliant and with players from teams around the NFL.  His effort left $14 million on the table.

 

THE PERFECT 53-MAN ROSTER

Antonio Brown. Gronk. Aaron Donald. Von Miller. All on the same team? Yeah, we did it. Forget last year’s squad — this is the best NFL roster money can buy under the salary cap.

 

In our efforts to try to build a perfect team under the $177 million salary cap while also maintaining some semblance of realism, we’ve upped the difficulty level from last year’s exercise.

 

1 Team restraints

We’ll need at least one player — but no more than three — from each of the 32 NFL teams. No stocking up on playoff rosters.

 

2 Finances

Each player’s cost is determined by his current cap number after any restructuring but without any cap acceleration for the acquisition.

 

3 Team composition

Our team starts with 32 picks from the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 drafts, with one player from each round, plus an undrafted free agent. You can try choosing between Todd Gurley and Marcus Peters. (We didn’t choose either.) Throw in a 2014 first-rounder playing out his fifth-year option and fill out the rest of the roster with 20 players on veteran contracts.

 

4 Special teams

As tempting as it is to fill a team with big-play threats and situational contributors, real teams fill out the back of their rosters with players who contribute on special teams. Our team will do the same.

 

5 Scheme

As was the case last year, we’ll build an offense that fits within Josh McDaniels’ system with the New England Patriots, meaning versatile receivers and running backs who can create mismatches in the passing game. On D, we’ll build to suit Jim Schwartz’s units, most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles, meaning pressure with our front four while dropping seven into coverage.

 

OFFENSECAN ANY D STOP THIS COLLECTION OF TALENT?

In the modern NFL, everyone who touches the ball needs to be an excellent receiver with a chance of making things happen after the catch. Our offense is built that way, with running backs who are a threat to embarrass linebackers, tight ends who can run over safeties and wideouts capable of both getting open in the tightest of windows and torching cornerbacks over the top. Our offensive line is mobile enough to routinely get to the second level on run-pass options and screens and big enough to bulldoze defensive linemen one-on-one. And the guys throwing them the football have a bit of a healthy rivalry going. Should make for some fun practices.

 

QUARTERBACK TOTAL SPENT: $8.7M

 

Carson Wentz, PHI

$7.28M

Madden rating: 86

 

Dak Prescott, DAL

$725K

Madden rating: 82

 

Brandon Weeden, HOU

$720K

Madden rating: 62

 

An MVP-caliber season from Wentz on a rookie deal gets him onto this roster, ACL injury or no ACL injury. He should have plenty of time to throw behind our offensive line, and having Prescott as a fallback plan shouldn’t be much of a drop-off. (Or is it the other way around?) The skill sets of these quarterbacks open up the playbook and allow us to torment opposing defensive coordinators with the threat of RPOs, all while combining to make about one-third of Kirk Cousins’ 2018 salary. Weeden is essentially a glorified coach as the third-string passer, but that’s what people said about our third-stringer last year, Case Keenum, who proved everybody wrong in Minnesota.

 

RUNNING BACK TOTAL SPENT: $4.9M

 

David Johnson, ARI

$2.07M

Madden rating: 93

 

Jordan Howard, CHI

$692K

Madden rating: 85

 

Alvin Kamara, NO

$878K

Madden rating: 88

 

Chase Edmonds, ARI

$593K

Madden rating: 71

 

FB Derek Watt, LAC

$662K

Madden rating: 66

Imagine being able to rotate a Johnson for a fresh Howard, or splitting out Johnson on one side and Kamara on the other and daring teams to try to play man coverage with their linebackers and safeties. These guys aren’t bad between the tackles, either, as Howard is just the 20th back since the merger to rack up 1,100 rushing yards or more in each of his first two seasons. Watt is not a bad receiver in his own right, although it’ll be tough for him to get touches with the weapons we have. Heck, it might be tough for Kamara to see the ball more than a few times per game, and he’s the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

 

WIDE RECEIVER TOTAL SPENT: $18.8M

 

Antonio Brown, PIT

$7.96M

Madden rating: 99

 

Adam Thielen, MIN

$6.1M

Madden rating: 88

 

Tyrell Williams, LAC

$2.91M

Madden rating: 82

 

Josh Gordon, CLE

$790K

Madden rating: 82

 

Keelan Cole, JAC

$556K

Madden rating: 79

 

Saeed Blacknall, OAK

$480K

Madden rating: NA

 

Our starters were Nos. 2 (Brown) and 7 (Thielen) in yards per route run last season, a testament to how they kept producing despite steady attention from defenses. Thielen’s four-year, $19.2 million extension is one of the best veteran contracts in the league. You know them. The other guys are good, too. Gordon led the league in receiving yards in 2013 and was on pace for nearly an 1,100-yard campaign last season after playing in five games post-suspension. Cole was eighth in receiving yards over the second half of the season. Williams is a big-play machine with 15 receptions of 30-plus yards over the past two years, which is tied for seventh in the league.

 

TIGHT END TOTAL SPENT: $16.5M

 

Rob Gronkowski, NE

$10.91M

Madden rating: 99

 

Zach Ertz, PHI

$4.94M

Madden rating: 91

 

George Kittle, SF

$630K

Madden rating: 77

 

Think we could do something with Gronk and Ertz? Their twin abilities as both blockers and receivers free us to run the ball when we have a numbers advantage in the box, or motion them out and isolate mismatches if we don’t. The fact that we have two Pro Bowl-caliber tight ends also allows us to limit their snaps, which could be the difference in keeping them both healthy as the season goes along. Kittle also is a promising prospect, though he had the highest drop rate among tight ends (7.9 percent) last season. He’ll learn a thing or two here.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE TOTAL SPENT: $35.8M

 

Nate Solder, NYG

$10M

Madden rating: 83

 

Quenton Nelson, IND

$4.34M

Madden rating: 83

 

Travis Frederick, DAL

$6.28M

Madden rating: 96

 

Brandon Scherff, WAS

$6.75M

Madden rating: 90

 

Lane Johnson, PHI

$4.98M

Madden rating: 91

 

Trent Brown, NE

$1.91M

Madden rating: 82

 

Dion Dawkins, BUF

$951K

Madden rating: 77

 

Chase Roullier, WAS

$592K

Madden rating: 68

 

Our line is simultaneously athletic and vicious, especially on the interior, where Nelson was our first-round pick from this year’s draft. We have former Patriots left tackle Solder in the lineup and likely replacement Brown as our swing tackle, in part because he might be the only starter left standing from the final round of the 2015 draft. We have plenty of flexibility. Scherff was a college tackle. Dawkins was a college tackle who will start at left tackle for the Bills, but he still might profile best in the long run at guard. Roullier was a college guard before becoming Washington’s starting center.

 

DEFENSE – WITH SPEED AND VERSATILITY, THIS D WOULD DOMINATE

The only way to stop modern passing attacks is to have a rotation of pass-rushers who can quickly win one-on-one matchups. We need cover linebackers with the range to scare quarterbacks from throwing over the middle of the field. In the secondary, we’re building around cornerbacks who are capable of playing both outside and in the slot. Our safeties need to be versatile enough to play in the box and drop into center field, so they can disguise their intentions before the snap and create takeaways after it. A hoss or two who can stand up their blocker in running situations and some special-teams wizardry wouldn’t hurt, either.

 

DEFENSIVE END TOTAL SPENT: $17.95M

 

Von Miller, DEN

$10.13M

Madden rating: 99

 

Danielle Hunter, MIN

$5.06M

Madden rating: 84

 

Trey Flowers, NE

$2.05M

Madden rating: 86

 

Rasheem Green, SEA

$708K

Madden rating: 70

 

That’ll play. Miller leads the league in sacks over the past four seasons (48.5). The Broncos were nice enough to restructure his deal for us. Hunter was originally going to make this team as a player on a rookie contract, but with a cap figure of just over $5 million, the 2015 third-rounder is still a bargain. Flowers is quietly turning into a superstar; while he racked up 6.5 sacks during the regular season, it included 25 quarterback knockdowns, which is in line with the typical production of an 11-sack player. He added nine knockdowns during the postseason, three more than any other player.

 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE TOTAL SPENT: $19.3M

 

Aaron Donald, LAR

$6.89M

Madden rating: 99

 

Mike Daniels, GB

$9.84M

Madden rating: 91

 

Michael Pierce, BAL

$633K

Madden rating: 87

 

Grady Jarrett, ATL

$1.97M

Madden rating: 86

 

This is the most stacked position on our roster and a spot in which we might legitimately have four Pro Bowlers. Donald has taken J.J. Watt’s spot as the most impactful defender in football, and we have three wildly underrated tackles to play alongside him. Daniels finally made the Pro Bowl last season, and Jarrett is likely on his way after continuing to improve upon an excellent 2016 postseason. No defensive tackle made more tackles for loss in the running game than Jarrett’s 10. When we need a traditional nose tackle in run situations, we’ll bring on the 340-pound Pierce, who somehow went undrafted in 2016.

 

LINEBACKER TOTAL SPENT: $13M

 

Telvin Smith, JAC

$5.81M

Madden rating: 90

 

Deion Jones, ATL

$1.24M

Madden rating: 90

 

Zach Brown, WAS

$2.95M

Madden rating: 88

 

Anthony Chickillo, PIT

$1.91M

Madden rating: 68

 

Shaquem Griffin, SEA

$559K

Madden rating: 72

 

Travin Howard, LAR

$503K

Madden rating: 62

 

Our goal here is to find linebackers who can take on blockers in the run game and drop into coverage on passing downs. Smith and Jones are two of the fastest linebackers in the game, and they’ll start when we have five defensive backs on the field in our sub-package. The league doesn’t seem to value Brown, but he has been an excellent run defender on early downs and isn’t much of a liability in coverage. Chickillo, Griffin and Howard are here for special-teams duties.

 

CORNERBACK TOTAL SPENT: $20.1M

 

Casey Hayward, LAC

$6.83M

Madden rating: 91

 

Darius Slay, DET

$6.13M

Madden rating: 91

 

Marshon Lattimore, NO

$3.49M

Madden rating: 90

 

Patrick Robinson, NO

$2.25M

Madden rating: 83

 

M.J. Stewart, TB

$924K

Madden rating: 73

 

Parry Nickerson, NYJ

$524K

Madden rating: 69

 

It’s good that we’ll be ahead and spending most of our time in the nickel, because how do you bench one of these cornerbacks? Hayward is tied with Marcus Peters for the most interceptions (11) over the past two seasons. Slay led the league with eight interceptions last season and was the lead corner on a team that posted the third-best DVOA against No. 1 wideouts last season. Lattimore fixed the Saints’ defense, which seemed like an impossible task before 2017. If anyone needs a breather, Robinson was one of the best slot corners in the league last season, and Stewart, our second-round pick, might be able to play any position in the secondary.

 

SAFETY TOTAL SPENT: $9.2M

 

Reshad Jones, MIA

$4.91M

Madden rating: 91

 

Landon Collins, NYG

$1.95M

Madden rating: 88

 

Kevin Byard, TEN

$1.01M

Madden rating: 89

 

Eddie Jackson, CHI

$721K

Madden rating: 80

 

Clayton Fejedelem, CIN

$646K

Madden rating: 67

 

We go four-deep with starters here. The Dolphins restructured Jones’ deal, turning an untenable $14 million cap figure into a far more palatable $4.9 million hold. Good for us. Collins, who will be an unrestricted free agent in March, slipped a bit last season and didn’t stuff the stat sheet as much as he did in 2016; but his athleticism and knack for finding the ball is still a bargain for less than $2 million. Byard’s eight interceptions last season overstated his impact, but he rounded into a fine center fielder and has the ball skills to catch whatever mistakes a quarterback’s going to offer up. And Jackson, Collins’ former teammate at Alabama, can sub in for Byard while serving as our punt returner.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS – A SPECIAL GROUP OF SPECIALISTS

Our coverage units are a little younger than those of most teams, but we’ve got a good leader in Clayton Fejedelem. It would hardly be a surprise if Shaquem Griffin made his largest impact as a rookie on special teams too. Our specialists include arguably the best pound-for-pound player in football, as Johnny Hekker is both an excellent punter and an annual threat on trick plays. Harrison Butker was part of the third-best kicking game in the league as a rookie in Kansas City, while J.J. Jansen has been consistently anonymous for a decade with Carolina, which is a good thing for long-snappers.

 

SPECIALISTS TOTAL SPENT: $4.3M

 

Harrison Butker, KC

$555K

Madden rating: 80

 

Johnny Hekker, LAR

$2.68M

Madden rating: 86

 

J.J. Jansen, CAR

$1.06M

Madden rating: 47

 

 

ANTHEM

Tim Dahlberg of the AP tries to figure out how the NFL can get out of its anthem mess.  He thinks it involves forcing two teams to employ Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid.

 

The players kneel. The president tweets.

 

And the great divide over protests during the national anthem at NFL games grows even wider.

 

So far the players — at least a handful of them — aren’t backing down. A few took a knee in the first weekend of exhibition games, at least two raised a fist during the anthem, and several stayed in the locker room as their way of making a statement.

 

The NFL reacted by doing nothing, at least publicly. The league’s hastily adopted new policy on protests during the anthem is on hold while it holds talks with the players’ union on an issue that figures to grow more contentious with every game.

 

That didn’t stop President Donald Trump from weighing in on Twitter, calling for any player who doesn’t stand during the national anthem to be suspended without pay.

 

For Trump, it’s an issue that resonates with his base. For the protesting players, it’s an issue of social injustice that needs to be raised.

 

The divide is not only splitting the country, but splintering the NFL.

 

“I think there are a lot of people that are supportive of the players and then there are a couple of people that have been very vocal against it,” said Duane Brown, one of three Seahawks who protested. “Those people have power. We’ll see what happens.”

 

What has happened so far is that the protests that began with Colin Kaepernick taking a knee before a 49ers game two seasons ago show no signs of disappearing entirely. If anything, the first preseason games show that while most teams fell in line with the desires of their management, there are some players who aren’t going to back down.

 

And that could cause major problems not only for protesting players but a league trying to keep its dominant place in American sports.

 

“The NFL is caught, they can’t really win either way,” said Eric Schiffer, the CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, a Los Angeles-based brand and crisis management firm. “They’ve now come to the conclusion they were alienating conservatives and attempted to mitigate it. But they have only so much they are able to do without alienating the core of their product, which is the players.”

 

The fact the protests have been turned into something they were never intended to be is a big reason why a resolution will be so difficult. Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice against minorities, but Trump and others have portrayed it instead as a protest against the anthem itself and the country it stands for.

 

Still, an NFL spokesman said the league and the players’ union are involved in “constructive” talks to resolve the issue. But they’re in a battle with time, with the start of the regular season just a few weeks away.

 

They might want to start with one of the few good suggestions offered publicly so far. It came from Kenny Stills, the Miami wide receiver who took a knee during the national anthem in the Dolphins first preseason game.

 

Give Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid jobs, Stills said, and let players know you’re serious.

 

“You can’t say as a league you support the players and their protests and then blackball the players who initially started the protests,” Stills said. “To come to the drawing board and talk about solutions, we need to start there as a league, and then we can start drawing up other solutions to some of these other problems.”

 

Employing Kaepernick and Reid shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Both are NFL players at the highest level, and both seem to have been blackballed from the league — at least unofficially — because of their protests.

 

Offer them up to every team in the league. Waive any salary cap to do it, and there should be some takers.

 

If no team bites, assign them through a lottery.

 

After that, it gets easier. Offer players something in exchange for not protesting during the anthem — perhaps a 30-second commercial spot to highlight social injustice at halftime of every nationally televised game.

 

The guess is players would respond favorably, partly because they have little alternative. By now they surely understand that their original cause has been hijacked and that they — along with the NFL — are in no-win situations.

 

Their points can still be made, and perhaps find a more receptive audience.

 

And, just maybe, the tweets will stop.

 

The DB would think that one of the reasons at least Kaepernick remains unemployed is that owners have found out how their specific fans and sponsors would react if he was employed.  The marketplace of fans and sponsors, far different from the media marketplace the AP inhabits, has a strong preference not to see him employed by their specific team.

 

And what team would like to be told that Kaepernick has to be their third QB, out of the blue with no training camp and possibly no affinity for the team’s system.

 

We think Reid is more of a plug and play type – and we think he will be signed.

– – –

Tony Dungy would offer a platform to the protestors to get them away from the Anthem.  George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:

 

As the NFL anthem controversy continues with its divisive rhetoric, former NFL coach Tony Dungy has a simple fix:

 

Give players a voice.

 

He has a very practical way to do that. We connected recently in Tampa, where Dungy and his wife Lauren were at a book signing at Barnes & Noble promoting a new series of children’s books they co-authored. The conversation dovetailed into the NFL, where Dungy earned a stout reputation — and a Super Bowl title — coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs and the Indianapolis Colts.

 

Here’s my question and Dungy’s thoughtful — and practical — answer:

 

If you were coaching today how would you deal with the 53 men in your locker room with so much going on from a social and political perspective?

 

Dungy: “I’ve always tried to pull my teams together. And the championship teams are together. They don’t agree on anything but they work together, they have common goals and common thoughts. In terms of what’s going on now, I stressed to my teams that we wanted to be part of the community, we wanted to be active, we wanted to be involved, and so when you have guys that do that are doing tremendous things in the community and building relationships and bonding with people and encouraging young people. When they see things that are going wrong, you can’t say, ‘well, don’t talk about that’ or ‘don’t raise that issue’

 

I would applaud these guys in their efforts to make a difference, and that’s the thing that I see differently than many people. I don’t look at these guys as being negative. And it’s not negative toward the flag or negative toward law enforcement or military. They’re trying to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice, and they’re trying to make their communities better.

 

The one thing I would do is ask, ‘What is the best way to get your message across? What’s the most effective way to tell your story?’ If I were still coaching today, I would have a team meeting, the first meeting of the year, and say, ‘I know you guys have some concerns. We’ve demonstrated during the national anthem. But I propose a better way. Let me give you 15 minutes of my weekly press conference when you have all the media here. You can sit down and talk about your concerns. What you see are the problems and the solutions. Things you would like to see done. Let’s articulate that at my press conference. Your voice can be heard. And then you won’t have to take those three minutes when maybe there is some confusion on what the message is and what you’re trying to get across.’

 

That’s the way the league, the owners the coaches the players can work together and be constructive in making a difference.They have a platform. The league should give time better ways to do that, not just say ‘don’t do it here,’ but what are the alternatives?

 

Excellent. Is anybody listening out there. Perhaps NFL commissioner Roger Goodell?

 

 

 

FEARED RECEIVERS

NFL.com asks some of its experts who the most feared receiver is in the NFL.  The answers:

 

Shaun O’Hara: Don’t overcomplicate this: It’s Antonio Brown

 

There are several wide receivers out there who have phenomenal skills. Yet, the one thing defenders fear is speed, so I’ve got to give this one to Antonio Brown. He puts his lightning speed on display weekly with quickness off the line and great acceleration to blow the top off the defense. He’s like the Energizer Bunny — he doesn’t get tired.

 

* * * * *

 

David Carr: Speed demon Tyreek Hill can burn any defensive back

 

There are two guys who are absolute monsters when they get behind the defense — Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill. If I had to pick the one who I’d fear most — other than receivers who would drop my passes (took this one a little too literally …) — it would be Hill. The Chiefs do so many different things with him at the line of scrimmage and he’s really come into his own as a No. 1 receiver. The speedster also led the league in catches that were at least 40 yards (with nine) in 2017. I bet he’ll keep that kind of production up with a gunslinger like Patrick Mahomes under center.

 

* * * * *

 

Elliot Harrison: Odell Beckham Jr., Travis Kelce have rare attributes at their respective positions

 

In order to respect the changing nature of the game, I’m gonna go with a wide receiver and a tight end. Odell Beckham Jr. is not the most complete receiver in the game, but he’s the scariest. As if his skill set isn’t impressive enough, he can go get any football, has the numbers to back it up and has been a prolific scorer since entering the NFL. That’s something you couldn’t always say about Calvin Johnson, and it has been an issue for Julio Jones and the Falcons’ offense as of late.

 

As for tight end, Travis Kelce is a mismatch problem for every defensive coordinator. As is Rob Gronkowski; however, for all Gronk’s greatness (and I think he’s a Hall of Famer already), availability is a question at this stage of his career. Kelce is scary for inside linebackers who are asked to get out in space. He’s scary for safeties who aren’t the best cover guys. And I think we can all agree: He’s scary for his employers. OK, that’s a pot shot.

 

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Akbar Gbaja-Biamila: When he actually gets on the field, Josh Gordon terrorizes defenses

 

I’m going with Josh Gordon — if he’s on the field come September. He missed the entire 2015 and ’16 seasons, but came back more cut and stronger (if that’s possible) than he was at the time of his initial suspension. At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Gordon is so physically imposing and can beat any defender.

 

All that said, if Gordon’s not back on the field, I have to say Antonio Brown is the most feared. He catches everything thrown his way and runs the cleanest routes of any receiver right now. When Big Ben heaves the ball his way, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind who’s coming down with it.

 

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James Jones: Rob Gronkowski is the unstoppable force

 

It hurts to say this, as a wideout myself, but I gotta say Gronk. The Patriots tight end is a man among boys with a physique that makes it nearly impossible for any defender — cornerback, safety or linebacker — to bring him down. If Gronk’s healthy, there isn’t anyone who can who can stop him.

 

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Marcas Grant: Are we seriously even pondering this question?

 

I’m not sure how the answer can be anyone other than Antonio Brown. He’s been the league’s best receiver over the past few seasons … and it really hasn’t been debatable. When you can miss two games and still be nearly 100 yards better than the next closest pass catcher in the league, I think we can put the argument to rest.

 

As a sign of how many great receivers there are, no votes for JULIO JONES.